This is a very long, very bouncy swinging bridge. 😳
(over a river, that drops off over a waterfall just to the right)
I know you’ve seen me water skiing, doing the rope swing, sitting on the tops of plunging waterfalls, caving through tight dark spaces underground, floating the gorge, climbing big things, jumping into the river, scaling bluffs, walking with focus & balance across fallen trees over raging rivers, kayaking, etc, but…
I’m claustrophobic, afraid of heights, do NOT like spiders & snakes (at all!), and have a SERIOUS fear of water – to the point that I panic and cannot swim.
That used to be my story, anyway.
My crazy outdoor adventures actually started as a fear-facing exercise…
All of my fears were grounded in very real and very scary personal experiences.
I was afraid of parking lots for example because I was once jerked into the back of a pickup truck on my way to my car.
I was afraid of the city because I’d been repeatedly robbed & threatened.
I was afraid of hotels because I got pulled into the ice cubby & pinned behind the Pepsi machine in a long hallway on my way to my room after speaking at a conference.
I still ask for a room on the main floor or right next to the elevator. I’m all for playing it smart and playing it safe as a woman traveling alone. 😉
For most of my adult life I didn’t know the source of every fear, because I lost my memory in a serious head trauma that also left me mostly deaf at 20 years old.
I lost memories about why I was claustrophobic or afraid of water, or froze up when people became aggressive for example.
Slowly, over time, those memories resurfaced – usually by association to a new or similar experience. It has taken years (decades) to piece together the bits of my story that have made me who I am. The bits I care to know, at least.
Several years ago I had a friend turn on me in a violent manic episode out of the blue. I had a dual response to the situation – one from who I am now, and one from deep rooted fears from a past I couldn’t remember.
It resulted in night terrors, partial memory recalls… and a lot of internal anger & frustration.
I finally had enough!
I did some research, made some phone calls, scheduled an appointment and went to fear counseling. Unfortunately that was totally useless. 🙄
I was tired of living my life AFRAID.
I couldn’t even go for a walk in town anymore because I was haunted by the time I got “stalked” by a man in a truck – that ultimately followed me home.
I realized I was living in fear, always felt like a victim (or potential victim), resented not being able to go do things, always watched my back, etc. It sucked the enjoyment out of life.
Of course I blamed the “bad guys” – because they were very real, and I had reason to be afraid. For a long time it seemed I was a target everywhere I went. It felt very unfair. I’m a nice person and very quiet, never drawing attention or putting myself in compromising situations (intentionally).
In fact, I was very cautious NOT to do things or be places where “bad things might happen.” But they still did.
The day my friend snapped was a turning point.
Not only was that incident traumatic in itself, but it resulted in a great loss and a huge void in my life. One that sucked me in and smothered me with overwhelming feelings & emotions: fear, grief, anger, loss – it became hard to untangle one from the other.
That’s another underlying fear I had and dealt with: people snapping. I was always cautious not to “poke the bear” or provoke an incident or unraveling. Definitely one to “keep the peace” given a choice.
There are reasons for that. And while I don’t take responsibility for other people’s outbursts or the way they handle their emotions – my response and how it affected ME was something I did need to deal with.
I’m all for professional help, and that was where I turned first, I just didn’t end up finding someone that “got it” – and could help me through it all.
Interestingly, a year or so prior to that incident I had hired a dog trainer (a behavior specialist) to help me work with a foster/rescue dane. I worked with two trainers actually, and the one word that kept coming up in training was ALPHA, or “who’s in charge?”
I actually shut down emotionally after those dog training sessions, shut myself in and shut everyone else out, and had to accept the fact that nothing at all was wrong with the dog’s behavior, that the dog indeed knew how to be relaxed and happy – and that the aggression and anxiety was a result of MY fear and tension. Or basically, the fact that I was NOT “alpha” – which, as it turns out, is also how “bad guys” (subconsciously) target their victims.
Fear is in your body language, it’s in the way you carry yourself, and it can be sensed by dogs and humans alike. It invites bad behavior – and trouble.
You’re either playing offense or defense. You’re either creating the situation or a victim/bystander in situations created by others.
I had a total meltdown when I saw my otherwise unruly and aggressive great dane trot beside a trainer in total submission. It was like two completely different dogs.
The trainer turned to me (shock and disbelief written all over my face, I’m sure) and said, “See? I’m not here to train your dog. I’m here to train you.”
* mind blown *
I struggled with the dog training. It felt like it meant I had to change everything that I am – that who I was, was a problem. I honestly thought I was a nice, funny, easy going, wonderful person. 😛
I actually got a large dog for protection, you know: so I could get out and start walking again, and feel safe. Now I had to change my entire personality and way of being?
Yes, as a matter of fact.
The results were instant and dramatic. If I took off on a walk with a F**K YOU attitude, my dog trotted along happily by my side. If I took off on a walk to just enjoy the day or clear my mind, or when I was sad or bothered, my dog pulled relentlessly and misbehaved – and acted scarily aggressive toward anything and anyone. It was like night and day.
I can’t say that this was the first time I was taught this life lesson. It came in another form more than ten years before when working with a life coach.
The man said to me, “You are exactly where you want to be in your life.” To which I replied, “I most certainly am NOT.” He said, “Yes – you are. Because you made every single decision up to this point that got you exactly where you are now.”
After which I fired him. 🙂
It took me months to sort out why that ticked me off so much, and what it really meant (to/for me personally). I argued it over and over in my head, and defended myself and all of those choices/actions. They weren’t mine after all. My life was the way it was at that point due to OTHER people’s choices and actions, over which I had NO control.
People make decisions that affect you. They make choices that totally blow your life apart. That’s real stuff. We’ve all experienced it.
But what I did (finally) realize from that one session was this: I had not been proactively making new choices, or been deliberate in taking specific actions toward specific goals. I had been living as a victim of choices made by others – and had accepted that as my fate.
“That’s just how it is, I had no choice or say in the matter.”
True enough, but I realized that from that point forward I could START making my own choices and taking deliberate actions, I could start blazing a trail instead of just following one already created for me.
And so I did. That’s how I got out of a deep financial and emotional pit that nearly sucked me in and swallowed me whole – and moved on to create a life and home I was proud to raise my children in.
Fast forward to this incident with my friend’s irrational & scary explosion (or rewind, because I’m telling this in all kinds of wrong order)… and I had another, a third total meltdown.
Life is like that. If you don’t TOTALLY get a lesson the first time, it’ll just keep throwing it at you over and over until you DO. 😛
I went through all sorts of emotions over that, but the ANGER part made the “f**k you attitude” a lot easier for a nice girl like me to pull off.
I ordered a concert ticket, drove to Nashville, parked in the BIGGEST parking lot I could find in downtown Nashville (which cost me about $50, lol), walked through the city to the concert venue – to hear them sing a song titled: AFRAID. After which I walked back through the city alone, and stayed in a hostel (instead of a Hilton) for the first time in my super-cautious life.
Nothing bad happened to me that night.
I was not afraid. In fact I had one of those “I dare you” attitudes exuding from my very core and beaming out of my eyes. And I had FUN, a truly enjoyable night out in the city – alone, dark streets, weirdos, big parking lots and all.
After a therapy-failure, I figured facing my fears head on and tackling them one at a time was the best way to get out of the “dark hole for victims” I found myself in yet again – so I could move forward, and move on to happier times and more FUN and better life experiences.
It was NOT my fault my friend snapped. I do not blame myself or take any responsibility for that. I want to be clear on that here in case it was misunderstood (or more likely, I didn’t tell it right).
What I did was take responsibility for was my usual response, and for how I chose to live my life NEXT – from that point forward.
I listed out my fears. All of them, in no particular order. I did not bother examining the reason behind them, what happened to me as a child, and had no interest in delving into all that.
I simply chose to accept what my fears were, and decided I wanted to FEEL them full on and see what they were all about.
Small dark spaces… I know now why I am so claustrophobic. *shudder* I’m not that small child anymore, so that part doesn’t matter.
I’ve explored known caves and curious openings alike, crawling underground and into tight crevices and dark holes. Sometimes with sheer excitement, other times taking deep breaths and forcing myself forward.
I’ve sat on the edge of bluffs that drop off hundreds of feet, climbed tall things, done night hikes in the dark, grabbed the rope swing and soared off the bluff and dropped into the river below.
I even went swimming in the lake where I skied. That’s something I wouldn’t normally do. I like being on a ski, I like being in the boat, I like being on the bank – I do NOT like being submerged in the water. 😛 But I did it, and just took deep calming breaths and focused on the cold water and the warm sun (and anything except the prehistoric sea creature that might eat me at any second, lol).
Just last week I crossed this river below Cane Creek Falls, carefully making my way across slippery rocks in fast-moving water. I don’t mind to tell you that I’m sure something AWFUL lives deep down in that hole below the falls. 🤣 Not to mention the more real fear of falling and breaking a leg (or my head) down in a gorge like that!
I crossed that river (which other people do all the time without a second thought, I know) because I wanted to see Rockhouse Falls from the other side of it. And so I did.
I won’t say that I have this “alpha” thing all figured out, or that I’ve totally mastered fear in my life.
I think in many ways that fear is a GOOD thing, or at least a healthy respect for nature and danger and such.
But living IN fear, or being “a victim of circustance” vs creating a life you ENJOY, those are things that create (and invite) their own problems.
I still get that tickle in my tummy when I’m on high things looking down. I still respect “hikers rules” and get on my butt or on my stomach to inch toward the edge. I’m not a daredevil risk taker (er, not ALL the time, lol). I do use caution and common sense.
But I’m also out there living more, moving more, experiencing more – and resenting less. I feel more happy and more FREE and less afraid and held back.
Maybe you’re one of those natural Alpha’s that can’t relate to what it’s like to be in my shoes. Maybe you KNOW your demons and remember them well, and have to deal with all of that first.
I feel grateful in so many ways for the car accident that stole my memory.
I talked about that here:
For me though, this has been a LONG journey of change, a BIG life lesson I’m still working on, but also one with SO many rewards.
Two years ago I swam across a freezing and swift river with strong undercurrents. I swam across that river and back again, just because. It was absolutely exhilarating!! I haven’t done that since I was a child, that I can remember anyway.
I’ve blazed trails where you really shouldn’t, and experienced absolutely amazing views – and a serious sense of achievement and personal strength.
But where it’s most helped me in life, the most practical application I should say, is in relationships – personal and professional alike.
I am now fulling capable of SAYING NO if whatever it is isn’t in line with the path I’m on – or the decisions I’ve already made. Before I would easily agree to whatever, keeping things easy, going with the flow (someone else’s flow or needs).
The best lesson of all for me personally though has been the ability to recognize FEAR, in all it’s forms. Including fear of success, and fear of failure too, and being able to face those head on.
I used to be more likely to give in to the emotions or feelings without even questioning whether they were truly rational – or serving me in any way at all.
Take fear of success for example. For years I would derail myself every single time I got within 10 or 15 pounds of my weight loss goal. It was total self-sabotage, but I would name it anything but that.
I might call it a much needed break or a reward or disguise it any other way than actually SAYING that I was afraid of “life on the other side of that number” – because it sounded silly. Because it WAS silly. It was a totally irrational fear.
Probably not unlike my fear of water since I’m a healthy adult perfectly capable of swimming. 😛
Facing my fears, and having to FEEL them and even NAME them, has helped me dramatically in choosing whether to respect them (ie don’t stick your head in the oven) or whether to challenge them.
I used to “fill the void” (with food, binge eating), now I force myself to FEEL the void and make rational decisions and take deliberate actions instead of getting sucked into the dark hole and letting my emotions have complete control.
I went low carb 8 years ago just to lose weight…
My weight loss journey has since changed: into a quest to become the happiest, healthiest version of myself, in every possible way.
Do you know why?
Because as I lost weight, I discovered the pounds weren’t my only problem – and losing them wasn’t the total solution.
So long as I thought that way (and I did, for a long time) they just kept coming and going. I wish I had recorded how many times I lost and gained the same 20 pounds over those first few years. I probably lost thousands of pounds over a 4 year period, lol.
I had all kinds of fears wrapped up in that too, like I said. Fear of success, as silly as it sounds, is a very real thing.
Would you still like me if I achieved my goals, lost all of my weight and got in amazing shape?
Who would I be if I weren’t struggling, or weren’t on this diet, or constantly striving toward these goals? (I had no idea.)
There was also the fear of not being accepted or loved, because somehow I subconsciously knew or felt that this man in my life preferred larger women, although that wasn’t confirmed until years later. Yes, the same one that snapped…
Life is a twisted mess of emotions and questions and uncertainty and feelings that don’t always make any sense. Or that we don’t take the time to unravel and make sense of – not that we always should. I mean, who’s got time for all that?!
I say: pick what’s important to you, and make that your focus and your goal.
For me, that’s feeling strong – inside and out, emotionally AND physically.
I still have a healthy fear of spiders, snakes, heights, water and all those things. I still have a healthy fear of heartache and loss too.
And also when I go off on a ramble (like this one) that I think may not make any sense at all, or have any real point – there’s that fear of hitting the publish button. 😏
I usually just do it anyway: play hard, love hard, work hard, challenge yourself, test your limits, smile bigger, try harder – live your life to the absolute fullest.
What’s the worst that could happen? 😉
In closing, because I really must get back to work, and definitely make some dinner, I hope this piece at least encourages you to examine your feelings & emotions more closely – and to challenge things you accept as “truths” – because you may just find you (too) are holding yourself back, or allowing yourself to get derailed from the life you REALLY want to be living.
Imagine your “ideal life” and your “ideal self” for a second.
If you weren’t able to blame ANYONE else, and you had to take TOTAL responsibility for where you are right now and where you go next, how would that change your thought process – or your daily actions?
What’s stopping you from having what you want, being how you want to be, being healthier, being happier, making this change or that one in your life?
Rock the boat!
p.s. My post on MCT Oil is coming out next, so stay tuned! In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at my MCT Product Comparison Spreadsheet if you’re curious. 😉
Netrition – The Internet’s Premier Nutrition Superstore!