Many years ago as I turned 40, I decided it was about time I took the plunge and did something about a fear of mine. I have had a lifelong fear of heights and suffered from vertigo every time I sat on something no higher that a bar stool.
This unfounded fear had become an anxiety that had paralysed me for too long. So, for no other reason than I wanted to do something to celebrate turning the big Four-Oh, by getting rid of this anxiety, I decided to put my faith into something I had no reason too. Yes… I launched myself off a tiny wooden platform attached to a 100-year-old foot bridge called Skippers, 98m above a pristine shallow river named Shotover.
One beautiful spring day while on holiday in Queenstown New Zealand, I sat watching at ground level as perfectly sane people climbed the 100’s of steps up to the platform to have their legs tied together, and then launch themselves into oblivion with only a miniscule piece of string the size and strength of chewing gum, to uncertain maiming and certain death.
Never the less I somehow found myself joining the lemmings while chanting the mantra “what is the worst
that could happen”.
When I reached the platform, hesitation, common sense and survival instinct kicked in, but I ignored all of it.
“What’s the worst that could happen” played over and over in my now terrified brain as I watched and waited for my turn.
When the assistant said “Five, four, three, two, one, BUNGY”, you were expected to launch — no hesitation — not even for a second. Those people who did hesitate were still there, paralysed with anxiety as the team untied their ankles and they took the walk of shame.
With heads hung low, disappointment and embarrassment etched forever on their faces and in their subconsciousness, they knew just one thing; it’s harder than it looks.
I figured if I was going to do this, then I had to trust that the bungy people would get my weight ratio right and that I would not hit the water break my neck and drown. That the bungy cord would hold and I would not be catapulted into outer space. If I didn’t trust all this, then fool am I to even come this far. Therefore, my strategy was to get up there, and go when the assistant said “Bungy”. No hesitation.
When they called my name, up I went.
They tied my legs together with the bungy cords and attached the long harness. Thankfully I saw that the cords and harness was a smidgen stronger and a tad more reliable than chewing gum.
As I shuffled to the edge and looked down at the glistening blue river a few kilometres below my heart was racing but my mind was screaming. All the reasons and excuses as to why this was a stupid idea had fled. All the ways I could stop, change my mind and do something else had vanished to nothing. Just endless screaming in my head.
Fortunately the part of me that wanted to overcome the anxiety sat quietly watching the whole inner cacophony. Resolution and determination broke through the noise and said, “I am not going to listen to you. I am not going to die. Not today…”
Five, four, three, two, one, BUNGY, and despite the screaming, I launched off the platform, arms spread wide, a perfect swan dive into my anxiety. The screaming didn’t stop until the first bounce — replaced with clear shock and a lung full of surprise.
With the second bounce, I felt the pure exhilaration of the experience and I found myself laughing with the joy of it. An experience that will live within for me to enjoy any time I want… Forever.
How did I overcome my anxiety of heights? I just did it!
Fear is tough, but it isn’t life threatening. Anxiety is.
Let fear become your bungy cord of knowledge that tells you that you have within you all the resources you need to survive. Let a sparkling blue river of a positive outcome be your destination.
I promise you will love the bouncing that comes as your confidence returns and you feel the exhilaration of overcoming the anxiety that is holding you back.
Five, four, three, two, one… BUNGY!
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