Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rock Climbing Despite Being Spastic and Afraid of Heights

10-0119 Ralph Stover State Park 03Image by clocksforseeing via Flickr
I did all kinds of stuff to overcome fear as a young adult.  One of them was rock climbing.  How I did it with the amount of Motor Apraxia (really lousy coordination and physical skills) and Visual problems, I'll never know.
I remember rock climbing in college with a bunch of friends. We were part of an outdoor club that did many activities, one of which was rock climbing. I really never liked rock climbing but I did it to be part of the group. Why didn't I like rock climbing? It was hard on the body. My arms ached and ached and ached. As did my shoulders my calves and my thighs. I'm scared of heights and even though I was well harnessed to the climbing ropes I was afraid of falling. Going up the wall and figuring out the strategies to get me to the top was brutal. You put your fingers on very small protrusions or crevices. You put your toes or feet on very very small supports an expected this to support your body weight. The rocks hurt my hands. When I slipped and fell, I scraped the rocks tearing skin off and drawing blood. I learned quickly not to look down because it would frighten me even more. I remember the pit feeling in my stomach as I stared at the earth. I could only feel better by concentrating on the wall and where I could go next. When I fell, the rope would jerk into my chest and pull into my groin.

At the beginning, it was hard to read the wall. I couldn't understand the mapping of the crevices and ledges. I couldn't trace a route to the top that would support my weight and would be within my reach every step of the way. Often times, I would back myself into a corner and then have to crawl back down to a lower ledge and plot a new course.

It was a great relief to get to the top. The ordeal was over.
Rappelling was much easier once I got going. Although the beginning was also quite scary. There are two types of rappelling. The first most common type begins by leaning backwards; the second, by leaning forwards. I felt like I was throwing my life away as I tilted into position. I can feel the vertigo in my stomach and the shaking in my hands and legs and the sweatiness in my palms. After I got used to breaking myself by throwing my hand behind my back, I did enjoy jumping down the wall. But leaning back into position was always tough. Using the second technique, leaning forward, was always tough. Because I had to look down. Looking down was scary. Although I did manage to train myself not to look straight down. Going forward with like running straight down the cliff and throwing myself off it.
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