Many years ago, just before 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 paralysed me for too long. So, for no other reason than I wanted to do something to celebrate turning the big 4-0 by getting rid of this fear, I decided to put my faith into something I had no reason too. Yep – I launched myself off a platform attached to a 100-year-old foot bridge called Skippers, 98 metres above a pristine shallow river named Shotover.
One beautiful spring day while on holiday in Queenstown NZ, I sat watching at ground level as perfectly sane people climbed the 100s of steps up to the platform to have their legs tied together, and then launch themselves into oblivion with only a minuscule piece of string the size and strength of chewing gum to uncertain maiming or possibly death.
Nevertheless I finally 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 launched. No hesitation – not even for a second. Those people who did hesitate were still there, paralysed with fear as the team untied their ankles. Five, ten, twenty minutes later they took the walk of shame. With heads hung low, fear and embarrassment etched forever on their faces and in their subconsciousness, they knew one thing; it’s harder than it looks. But what the hell they muttered – at least they were alive!
I figured if I was going to do this, then I had to trust that the bungy people would get my weight ratio right; 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 ‘next’, 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 hundreds of kilometres below, my heart was racing and my mind was screaming so loud there was no room for anything else. 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. But the part of me that wanted to overcome the fear, 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! Despite the screaming, I launched off the platform, arms spread wide, a perfect swan dive into my fear. 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 fear of heights? I just did it.
Fear is tough. But it isn’t life threatening. Let trust in your own body to survive and the knowledge that you have within you, all the resources you need, be your bungy cord. Let the sparkling blue river of a successful outcome be your destination. I promise you will love the bouncing that comes as your confidence returns and you feel the exhilaration as you overcome any fear that is holding you back. Five, four, three, two, one…… BUNGY.
Have you ever faced your biggest fears? What happened and how did you deal with it? Tell us all about it!