Face Your Fear and Do It Anyway!

I am currently on a cycle of Sleep, Eat, Gym, Work, Study, Repeat.  No fun, need fun! It’s that crazy time of year when all my assignments for my studies are due and all I’m doing is working on getting them in on time and as I work full-time that leaves night-time and weekends with just the added pressure of getting everything done and up to date by the time I leave for my trip!

I had to miss hiking yesterday, and it was a nice long one and we had the most gorgeous Autumn day here in Cape Town. But I remind myself of my long-term goal and why I am doing this. I push forward as I listen to the laughter of children playing outside. I hate having to be confined to the four walls of my study but I know in the end this will all be worth it.

Yesterday Emma’s older sister, Tracy, jumped out of a plane (with a parachute)!  Now this is not something she would normally do.  Like me, she was raising funds for Cystic Fibrosis and hence jumping out a plane!  She managed to raise a whopping £1,594.64 for Cystic Fibrosis. Well done Tracy, what an amazing achievement!  In the run up to the big day she had been quite nervous and at times, like me, wondering what on earth she was doing but she said from the moment she arrived at the airfield the nervousness just evaporated and excitement took over! She said it was an amazing experience and would go up again in a heartbeat!

I image that is what it is going to be like climbing Kilimanjaro. The nerves are going to come soon and although I already have days where I wonder what on earth I am doing, I know once my feet touch down on Tanzanian soil, the heart of Africa, and I get my first glimpse of Kilimanjaro, my fear too will just evaporate and I believe I will stand there in awe at what lies before me.  Well that is the plan anyway!

So often in life fear stops us from pushing forward. Afraid of the unknown we shy back and watch others do what we only wish we could do.  I’ve done it countless times, being afraid of doing something but 3 ½ years ago when the back tyre on my car burst and my car was elevated into the air and then proceeded to roll five times, first rolling nose to tail and then sideways four more times. I remember each roll in vivid detail and I can still feel the sand and the glass graze the side of my face as I rolled. That day I got firsthand experience at how quickly life can be taken.  To this day I still don’t know how or why I managed to walk away from that but every day I am grateful for the second chance at life.  I still have the photos of my car lying there, far down that steep embankment on the other side of the road. I hardly ever look at them because sometimes when I do, it’s too overwhelming. Naturally, after the accident I had not only physical wounds to heal, I also had the psychological ones to heal.  When I was eventually able to drive again, it must have been about my third day driving, I was on my way to work when I had my first panic attack ever. I was in the far left hand lane slowing down as I came up to a set of traffic lights getting ready to turn left but I had cars all around me and suddenly the fear came out of nowhere, without warning, and gripped every inch of my body, my arms stiffened on the steering wheel as if I was holding on for dear life. It was the most terrifying feeling and I was petrified something was going to happen to my car, causing me to crash in to one of the cars driving around me. It was that very moment I knew I needed to do something to overcome the fear that in that moment completely consumed me and I had to do it before it debilitated my life. I knew one thing for sure; I wasn’t going to let fear stop me living my life. After doing some research I discovered a technique called EMDR, originally from America, I found a practitioner in Cape Town who specialized in it and made an appointment.  It was the best decision I ever made. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) works with trauma and helps you process the trauma by reliving it (which is what we do with a trauma anyway when certain things trigger memories of the event).  After a trauma it is like the memory is stuck in your brain and hasn’t been filed away properly and in the end this EMDR process helps you “file” it away as a distant memory rather than as a constant recurring event.  According to Francine Shapiro’s theory, when a traumatic or distressing experience occurs, it may overwhelm usual cognitive and neurological coping mechanisms. The memory and associated stimuli of the event are inadequately processed, and are dysfunctionally stored in an isolated memory network.

I had this amazing treatment done three times and although it’s hard because it takes you right back to that moment of the trauma and it is like it is happening all over again, it helped me process the event and file it away and now instead of physically smelling, hearing and feeling everything that happened in those terrifying moments, I just remember the events without the actual sensations taking over my body.

For a long while afterward and even still today, whenever I am about to take a long road trip, I still get nervous and recall moments of that almost fatal day but I never let it stop me. I get in my car and I drive, facing the fear as it comes up. About a year and a half after the accident I got a tattoo on the inside of my left wrist which says in Chinese “Life Without Regret”.  It reminders me to live without regret everyday, to try everything I can at least once and it reminds me to push through the fear and it reminds me that my best life is on the other side of my fear. I really do believe nothing is impossible!  It took me a while to find a tattoo artist who would do it the size I wanted as most wouldn’t consider doing it so small and as delicately as I wanted it.  But eventually I found someone who was willing to put the time and effort into doing it how I wanted it. I booked an appointment for the 24th.  The day rolled around and that morning I woke up and headed to the tattoo parlour. My mind wasn’t really on anything else except getting my next tattoo. I was excited and I knew it was going to be beautiful.  It didn’t take too long and once it was done I was thrilled with what the artist had done. It was exactly what I had envisioned, if not even better. Sitting in the car I took a moment to admire my new work of art and then it hit me. I couldn’t have gotten this tattoo, which is my reminder to live, on a more special day. It was something right up until the day before I had known what that day was but for some reason up until that moment in the car looking at my new tattoo I hadn’t yet made the connection between what I was doing and the meaning behind it and the fact that I was doing it on Emma’s birthday! (If you reading this blog for the first time and wondering who Emma is, check out this page A Girl Named Emma)

I hadn’t planned on doing this on her birthday and although every year for the week before her birthday I am aware it’s coming up because it’s a day I celebrate her life every year. But when I had made the appointment and we had just said Saturday the 24th and not Saturday, 24th of July! I hadn’t made the connection until that moment. It was so fitting. My best friend had taught me how to not let anything stop you from living, she taught me how not to be afraid of things you couldn’t change and there on her birthday I had just gotten a tattoo reminding me to push past the fear and live my best life.

The reason I had gotten the tattoo on my wrist was because of my fear since the accident of driving at faster speeds on highways and when I was doing long distance trips – I wanted a constant reminder to not let fear stop me from doing anything. Now while I drive even without taking my eyes off the road I can see the tattoo on the inside of my wrist, reminding that my greatest life lies on the other side of my fear and all I have to do it keep moving forward.  I look at it often, it reminds me of Emma. It reminds me of that day I survived and how I got a second chance at life. It often pushes me on.

We can’t let fear stand in our way no matter how big or small it might be. The difference between playing it safe and taking that risk, even if it ends in utter disaster, is that you would have taken that step, you have tried.  Never stop daring to reach for something you believe in.

“When you put your faith in a dream that is bigger than yourself there is always provision.  There are always miracles.  There are endless open doors.

But if you never try, you will never know.

And you will never live your dream.

You will always be hiding in the shadow of your fear.

Step out.

Be bold.

Take the risk.

Face your fear.

Make your dream happen.”

~ All pics from Tumblr ~

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Stop the fear: It’s time to land «

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