Last week I was introduced to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Not really what I should be doing or how it will help me, but the idea that I should be exposing myself to my fears. I know that they will be more to come on this, such as how to deal with fears and emotions. But for now I was just told to expose myself. So I wrote a very fast, back-of-envelope list of what scares me. This way I will have an idea of what to expose myself to. I know the more I think about it the longer the list will get but for now top of the list was rock climbing. You may think, when a person has so many fears, as I do, that being able to climb up a rock face would be the last thing to focus on being able to do. But I strangely ,desperately want to be able to do this. This is possibly because I have gone through life naturally attracting rock climbers as friends.
I have no idea how I do this, I always explain; I am scared of everything and heights are a nightmare. Yet, just as I think I’m safe and I have a none climber friend, nope, they climb 5.11a’s after they warmed up. You could say I would like to climb due to a strange peer pressure. But no one is making me and its me that seems to magnetize to climbers. I guess it just means I really wish I could climb. When I see what people can do, the strength, concentration and endurance – its the most mentally and physically changing thing I can think of.
Sadly, I climb like this.
I am rather short and stumpy, with arms that reach nowhere and hands so small a pint glass can defeat me. I remember when I’m climbing all the deficiencies of my body. This makes me think I will fall, inevitably die and take others with me. We will all end in a huge over dramatic explosion at the bottom of a mountain. No one will find our bodies so our chard remains will be eaten by wolves. I understand this is wildly inaccurate, I don’t even climb in areas populated by wolves, I most climb indoors. The rational me knows all this and when I see my friends get on a rope solving these inverted puzzles, I think ‘that looks so much fun. I bet I could do that.’ So I tie in on a rope, approach the wall, put my hands on the start hold and look up. Then it hits me ‘What am I doing??? Why would I leave the floor??? Its totally safe on the floor, lots of nice padding and absolutely no wolves. What if wolves come in while I’m climbing?’. But I have to do what I fear and so I start to climb.
I used to think some of the easier climbs are boring, but if I can get to the top its an achievement. However, I start reading this book written specifically for climbers, The Rock Warrior’s Way by Arno Ilgner. A sensible explanation showed me attaching achievement to getting to the top and only the top was one of my problems. I would maybe get tired or be pushing myself on a climb that was very difficult to me and not be able to finish a climb. I would look at what I had just failed and see what everyone else could do, then feel like a total failure. I would then get on another climb knowing I was a failure. I naturally have a negative attitude, but this was getting worse then ever. Frustration was high and my mood low. This not only stopped climbing from being possible for me, it increased my fear as I knew I would fail and fall. This just got into a horrific cycle. After reading the book (OK, OK, I haven’t finished it yet), I learned I should move what my achievement is. I thought about what I could feel was an achievement and realized just getting on the wall was my achievement.
As climbing is top of my list, it seems I have made it a priority for leaving fear and finding life. As such I have been trying over the last week to expose myself to climbing. I have to remember just going to the wall is a big breakthrough for me. But when I get on the wall and slowly move up, its hard to remember I accomplished something. My hand sweat and my legs shake, I grip so tightly I start to rip skin from my hands, my breathing quickens and my general ability to act like a normal rational person is gone. I fine that though I can have a conversation with someone and possibly seem completely coherent, there is a total disconnect between brain and limbs. I know I just have to move my leg but my leg wont move. The fear has set in and that’s the end of it.
So that’s where I’m at. I have started to try with the things I fear, not just run and hide. I hope after a couple more session with my therapist I will have an idea of copying strategies. Its all rather exciting to think I may be on the road to being fixed.