Falling Before Thriving: My Experience with Anxiety

Falling Before Thriving: My Experience with Anxiety

The other day I went bouldering for the first time. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a form of rock climbing performed without a harness. No need to panic, the climbs are usually under 6 metres tall, and there are safety mats underneath. (I may love a bit of a challenge, but I’m not silly!)

If you’re wondering why I’m telling you a random story about rock climbing, it’s because I love a good metaphor.

I’ve always loved to challenge myself, but it has usually been with some degree of a safety net. Whether that’s doing research, being surrounded by family or friends. 

While bouldering wasn’t exactly “scary”, it was something I hadn’t done before. It was something new.

For those who also suffer from anxiety, you’d understand that sometimes new experiences themselves are “scary”. They can be unfamiliar, unplanned and out of your usual comfort zone.

For the everyday person, that might sound ridiculous. But as someone who checks a restaurant's menu before making dinner plans and even Google searches what parking venues have before travelling, a lack of familiarity and control is a big thing.

I recently stumbled across this quote, and it seriously resonated with me.

“Don’t let familiarity and comfort keep you stuck in situations where you know you need better.”

This may apply to so many aspects of life - relationships, your job and so on. But for me, it applied to my life in general. It made me realise that I was becoming a bit of a hermit. Or that I had become too reliant on wrapping myself up in metaphorical bubble wrap to experience new and exciting things.

I would make excuses and look for ways to get out of scenarios I wasn’t comfortable with, where I didn’t have someone to support me, or I couldn’t control all possible variables.

Although I could blame my anxiety, I don’t want to let that label hold me down. I am still responsible for my own actions. I am still responsible for my own choices. And I am still responsible for choosing a path that is best for my mental health and wellbeing.

So back to my rock climbing experience…

Bouldering was kind of liberating. More mentally than physically.

It wasn’t necessarily about facing fear. I’m not scared of heights or anything like that. In fact, I recently went bungee jumping without a second thought!

For me, the scariest thing was being responsible for myself without a safety harness.

It made me realise how strong and capable I really am. Once again, not just physically. I was responsible for each step. Each foot placement, each hand, each grip.

Sometimes it meant I needed to fall. But this didn’t mean giving up.

If I was struggling or stuck in a tricky position, I needed that fall. It was an opportunity to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and rethink how I would move forward. It gave me the chance to honestly reflect on what I had done and ask myself how I could improve next time. And then, it meant getting up and giving it another try.

Although my friends were watching on, offering encouragement and advice, when it came down to it, it was ME climbing that wall. Nobody else could hold me or drag me up there. I had to be my own support person, my own motivation and my own strength. I was responsible for my own journey.

No matter what, I think we should all continue to challenge ourselves. Sometimes it might start with falling, but we’ll soon learn what we’re capable of and how we shouldn’t let fear, comfort and familiarity hold us back.

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