Here was the moment I realised I was still controlled by fear.
Anyone will tell you that anxiety, in the right time, place and context is necessary. I will be the first to say that my anxiety is still something I feel is very much needed within my life. Unlike before, anxiety is now a passing acquaintance I see every now and again and greet with a humble smile. Anxiety used to be my best friend, but the kind of best friend you hated having around. The toxic friendship that was just nothing but a burden on every occasion. The one that brought you down and you didn’t even realise they did – until you saw that they got all the opportunities that you couldn’t get, because they got there first.
As I said, I wouldn’t invite anxiety into every party, but as a passing friend you see on the other side of the street, I’m happy to give a subtle wave. When in Australia, just being in a different country thousands of miles away from home – anxiety and fear was an everyday occurrence. One that I could manage, but was very real. An opportunity came up (in fact many an opportunity came up – but this was the biggest…). ‘Why aren’t you going skydiving?’ this question was posed by a long blonde haired man in a Aussie travel agents. The question baffled me. ‘Why would I go skydiving? It’s terrifying and I wouldn’t enjoy it for one second’.
To cut a long story short, 34 minutes later… – ‘so that’s two people skydiving booked – you’ll have a great time’.
The next 24 hours I cried, I was shaking and there was no element of excitement, just fear. Anxiety just didn’t leave my side. ‘What on earth am I doing?’. I couldn’t get the fear outside my head.
Fast forward to the morning of the skydive. 5am wake up, I couldn’t feel a thing. I felt completely numb. I can comfortably say I know the difference between general anxiety and fear. This was fear. Beyond the point of thinking I can do this and jumping to the idea that this is too much for me.
Nevertheless, in silence (as when I am so overwhelmed by anxiety my default tends to go muted and submissive to socialising) Lydia and I layered up and left our hostel. Waiting for the pick up van, I secretly thought of any which way the van could be delayed. Stuck in traffic? It was 5am, maybe not. A small crash but not so bad the driver is okay but the van is damaged beyond repair? Martha don’t be silly. I think the reality hit me most when Lydia and I got to the centre and posted everywhere were posters and videos of people falling from the sky. I tapped Lydia on the shoulder and a whimper of a voice pierced out…
‘I can’t do this’.
The words of admitting that something can beat me. I completely surrendered. I felt weaker from giving in. the defeat of knowing that an emotion stopped me from doing a crazy exciting adventure had won.
‘Are you sure’Lydia giving me hope and encouragement but I knew I had let my anxiety bucket fill up and overspill. The mess was everywhere and I needed to clean it up in order to enjoy the rest of the day. So I watched Lydia get dressed in her skydiving gear and see her get whisked away into the sky, I was left on the ground and now anxiety had turned like bad milk which was now a feeling of guilt and regret. Sadly, the pair emotions of anxiety to guilt is a combination I know well. In fact, so well that I try to avoid them as much as possible. I can pre-empt the forthcoming guilty wave that I know leaves me feeling worse than the quick, sharp sour taste of a anxiety crash. Guilt is longevity for me. Rather than anxiety being just a painful stab but heals up as soon as it passes. The moment I wiped away guilt was when I watched my brave, strong, courageous cousin float down with the biggest smile on her face as she lands and hugs her instructor with some much adrenaline that she is bouncing around like a new born puppy.
Right, I want that.I want thatfeeling. I threw down my guilt and anxiety and it was immediately replaced with guts and determination. Emotions and actions that again, have only come with time. I spoke to every single receptionist at the centre for reassurance, for support, for distraction until I remembered that this was it. My name was called.
It was actually called which means they are expecting me to jump.
Imagine a thermostat bubbling higher and higher at a rapid pace that it eventually cracks the glass because the pressure is bursting and can’t be kept inside. That was me. The anxiety bubbled outside and I started to spouts tears of apprehension, fear and most importantly, my own proudness. This was happening. Crawling into the tiny plane and take off meant that the only way down was the way I wanted to avoid.
The scenic flight was incredible and sort of distracted me from what I was about to do after – I tried to be mindful of the moment. Views will forever stick in my memory bank. For that I am grateful for.
The door lifted up.
‘ wow, that’s noisy’
‘Oh wait, I’ve never been in a plane with the door open’
‘Oh we are here now?’
‘I’m not ready yet….’
Let’s be honest here, you’re never really ready to jump out a plane. So I was relieved that someone dragged me to the edge. Otherwise I would still be up there.
This was the dreaded moment, it’s so weird, you can imagine the scene of something in your head a million times but when you are ACTUALLY experiencing the event, you become so much more in focus. The wind was restless. I was jerked towards the edge, my legs felt numb again, my head felt empty. And from being solid to then completely weightless in a matter of milliseconds.
The rush was flooding in from every sense. THIS WAS HAPPENING. I was shouting, swearing, screaming, breathless, headless, empty but also so full.
I was feeling full of happiness. Anxiety cannot be in the same room as happiness. Mentally impossible (maybe). I was in a state of complete happiness.
I was alive.
Although there is much more to tell you, this is about anxiety and fear. The two, were, going to stop me from doing something that was completely mind-blowingly crazy but I NEED things like that in my life. Not all the time, but bad mental health happens a lot for people because they get trapped in the cycle of anxiety clogging the chain and you never overcome it to reach the next phase, that kick-ass ‘I CAN DO ANYTHING’ PHASE, that once you experience, the feeling becomes stronger and stronger each time.
A by – product of having anxiety, and overthrowing it, is being prouder of yourself for every achievement you do. Of course, you don’t need anxiety to feel proud but it sure as hell taste even sweater when you know you didn’t just get there the easy way.
Soloman, you very much peer pressured me into it all. I didn’t even think I was going to jump on this holiday. But It all started with you being a fab salesman, and selling a dream that I didn’t even need as a reality, but so thankful it was.
Receptionist with dark hair and big brown eyes, you became my big cheerleader when I had given up on jumping. You took the tiny bit of wishful thinking and made me go get what I deep down wanted to do. – you should get a raise!
Luke, my instructor. You may not have completely understood my fears but we did it together and made me feel like I was the first and only person to ever jump. Thanks for taking care of me in the biggest moments.
Lydia, no one else I know would have wanted to do this. But without you jeering me on, I would never ever ever have booked to do skydiving (after all I just wanted to hang glide?!?).