I always thought I had a fear of heights.
I hate ladders. (I don’t even like standing on chairs.) Rickety platforms make me nervous. Glass elevators freak me out. Sometimes I need to mentally prepare myself to cross bridges.
So I have no idea what made me sign up for a zip lining tour in Costa Rica.
The preparations on the ground weren’t scary, because...well, we were still on the ground. I let them cinch me into the safety harness. I accepted my braking gloves and my yellow helmet. I even signed the liability waiver without having a panic attack.
The climb to the top was slow and hot, and when we reached the first summit, I was sweat-soaked and winded. My harness was too tight. My carabiner clips were too heavy. My braking gloves smelled awful and made my hands damp.
I wanted shade and a water bottle and a nap.
The guides communicated mostly through gestures, so my husband (the zip lining pro) translated for me: Let yourself go. Don't let yourself get stuck.
Then one of the guides zoomed across the metal cables to the other side and left us all standing there, staring in horror at the gorge below.
I babbled nervously about my dislike of heights, and then one of my friends said, "I'm not afraid of heights. I'm afraid of falling."
Her words struck me like a gong.
I hate ladders and chairs because they can tip over. I hate rickety platforms because of their potential to break. I hate glass elevators because glass is fragile. I hate bridges because sometimes, in freak accidents, they collapse.
I realized that I, too, was not afraid of heights, but of falling.
I am afraid of any situation where the rug is suddenly pulled out from under and I have no idea where or how I’ll land.
Our guide let everything go when he zipped across those cables. He was not thinking about the potential catastrophes. He just trusted the equipment and enjoyed the ride.
I had to be shoved off that first platform.
That single carabiner clip that had seemed so heavy and obtrusive on the climb up and now felt as flimsy as a paperclip. I wanted to squeeze the break, to slow down, to stop, but I couldn't, because being stuck in the middle of the line would leave me dangling like fish bait over the a tank of sharks.
I wanted to break, to slow down, to stop, but I didn't.
I kept going, and I flew all the way to the end of the line. After the second run, I developed a tenuous trust in the equipment, and by the third, I found the courage to look around me, to see the beautiful river that rushed through the red gorge.
By the fifth run, my fear was gone, and I felt like I was flying.
Basically, the last decade of my life has been a crash course (full disclosure: pun absolutely intended) in dealing with this fear. Epilepsy has been like this. I was shoved into it, and I have become so terrified of what might befall me that I clutched the brake and let myself get stuck in the middle, paralyzed, too terrified to just let go.
Like the rigging, the harness, and the carabiner clip, I have to trust my medications. I have to trust in my self care. I have to know and trust my limitations, even if that means not having a job right now. And I have to trust that there is a plan for this, that I am hooked onto something greater than myself, something that holds me up and leads me somewhere good.
With a little trust, I will make it to the other side of this gorge.
With a little faith, I can learn to fly.