Are you getting excited for ski season? Making sure you have your skates sharpened? Sad that you put your road bike away for the season? Ran a great sprint on the treadmill this morning? I can say no to all of the above. While I enjoy swimming, running, walking everywhere, I have fears that prevent me from doing some of these commonplace activities. I read about A Single Pill That May Be The Key To Overcoming Many Paralyzing Fears and thought hmm, and then, no, just the thought of trying it still makes me feel anxious. Not very badass of me!
The old adage “it’s as easy as riding a bike” doesn’t help me. I learned how to ride a bike when I was a kid, but my mother was fearful of us riding adult bikes on the road, so once we outgrew our kid-sized bikes, I never rode a bike again – until I was about 25 and tried with an old roommate. I had been gifted a new bike for my 25th birthday because of all the great bike paths in my new area. Colleen patiently tried to help me get comfortable on the bike, but I couldn’t get myself to feel comfortable riding it a couple feet, never mind turning with it. Plus, I felt really silly at that age, wobbly in the parking lot. So, if I cycle, it involves a spinning studio and a stationary bike.
New activities usually went something like this when I was young. I’d put on skates and wobble to the boards. Cry and exclaim that I didn’t like it and my parents would sigh and just say “oh well, she doesn’t do stuff like this” and I’d go get some hot chocolate.
I entertained the idea of learning to skate as an adult. I figured I’d have more tenacity and confidence to put the effort in, since I was now a runner… My friend Karen had signed up for “learn to skate for adults” through the City of Toronto and I showed up for the first lesson. Unfortunately, we somehow got the start time wrong and we showed up about 15 minutes late, thinking we were early. That didn’t help my anxiety. I still had to get the borrowed skates I had on me sharpened, attempt to stand in them, and make my way to a scary location covered with ice. I started walking across pavement to the other side of the rink. There was a “railing-less bridge” I found myself on midway. Cue my brain instructing my legs to freeze. Karen tried to encourage me but when my brain is in that state, I can’t really focus on anything but the fright. I told Karen to go on ahead and I stood there trying to will myself to move forward. Eventually I gave up, sat down, took the skates off and went back to the changeroom. I went to watch the lessons and admired some of the adults who seemed equally nervous, who were actually standing on the ice. At the end of the lesson, the teacher encouraged me to come back next week, but I knew I wasn’t going to.
When I first started running, I mostly ran outside, however, I would occasionally run on a treadmill at the gym. I was never one of those people who could hop on and off while it was moving quickly, but I was fine. Until at some point, something was triggered in my head and I started involuntarily jumping on to the non-moving sides of the treadmill as soon as it gained any amount of speed. Even more embarrassingly, I was supposed to go for a stress test a couple years ago. It wasn’t a real health scare, more being extra careful about some pains I was having, given my family history. I warned the receptionist when booking that I had a problem with treadmills. She said to come anyway. I watched as seniors routinely went about the business of getting hooked up to the treadmill. I spoke to the nurse when it was my time and she assured me it would be OK and we should try it out. It was an old clunky treadmill with no sides…and I couldn’t do it. All hooked up and nowhere to go, embarrassment and all, I couldn’t make my legs stay on the treadmill.
Some fears have had a greater impact on me. I got my driver’s license when I was 17 and drove perfectly fine for many years. I was never a “weaver” and pretty much stuck close to the speed limits. But at some point in my early 30s, I was driving on a highway. It was free-flowing, light traffic, and something in my brain triggered a panic attack. I had this feeling of doom about this open space, moving at a great speed, and no where to easily get off. I started avoiding highways. Not the best decision. Because that meant just the thought of going on the “on ramp” gave me a sense of panic. I tried unsuccessfully to get on a highway several years later. In the meantime, I still drove in the city, without issue. Made for interesting weekend commutes, when I met my now husband, who lived in Guelph when we met. At first, I tried the “long way” on the backroads, but quickly realized my anxiety levels were better served by me taking the train to Guelph (or using “Uber Gavin”).
In the gym, my fear of heights has prevented me from properly learning how to do a “pull up”. I just don’t want to hang from the height required. I’ve tried alternatives, and it frustrates me because I have decent upper body strength, but I have just shelved the idea for now.
As much as there’s a part of me that would like to conquer some of these things and be a more fierce version of myself, I am mostly OK with focusing on the things I CAN do, and not the things I can’t.
Do you have fears? Related to activity? Have you figured out ways to conquer them? Happy not to? Let me know!