My favorite part of the circus as a child were the Trapeze Artists. Stary-eyed and mesmerized, I remember being in awe of their beauty, grace, and royal presence as they soared above the crowd, their humble subjects applauding below, as they sparkled spectacularly with every flip, leap and swoosh…
Fast forward and insert years of layered experiences, I somehow gained an intense fear of heights, also known as “Acrophobia,” to my dismay and despite my adoration for the sky. So when the opportunity of taking a trapeze class presented itself, I was both excited to live out my cirque du soleil fantasy and shamefully frightened.
My trip to Santa Barbara was booked and there was no going back. As the time crept closer and closer, the anticipation made itself annoyingly comfortable in my body no matter how many times I told myself, “get a grip, you’re going to be fine and you know you’ll end up having fun.”
Now, if you have a serious phobia, you know self-talk can only chit-chat for so long before that anxiety gets the best of you and shuts that down. Luckily, I was going on this experience with my very supportive friend who by the way, has no fear of heights whatsoever. Her encouragement kept me from turning the car around or finding a diversion as I kept suggesting other activities during the scheduled time of our fly lessons.
Game-face on and internal pep-talk on repeat, I headed to the rig, only to be greeted by the most warm-welcoming humans that walk the face of this earth – the SBTC team.
I immediately blurt out “I’m so freakin’ scared!!”
I apparently needed to get the angst out on the table ASAP.
The instructor Shane looked at me straight in the eyes with his calm gaze and said, “we got you Kim, everything is going to be alright, I promise.”
I could literally feel the tears start to rise and the emotional battle to keep them down began. I took a deep breath and started listening to directions. I probably absorbed about 20% of it, but just kept watching the SBTC Team’s reassuring gestures and instruction as I obsessively kept fixating on the trapeze rig about 15 feet ahead of me.
Before I knew it, I was being gently ushered to the ladder. Every “OMG-expletive” running through my head, heart pounding out of my chest. It took me what felt like an hour to climb up that ladder. Step. By. Step. The tears starting to well up as I got higher and higher. The craziest thing was, my body was shaking, like uncontrollably. All the fear had made its way to surface level and it was on deck, waiting to rupture.
I reached the last rung and slowly lifted my head, only to be met by the most encouraging smile. It’s like sunshine greeted me. Spencer reached his hand out and said, “I got you”. I reluctantly climbed onto the platform and took a moment to get my bearings.
“Holy sh*t I’m really doing this!”
In that moment, some tears broke free and gravity got the best of them. Fear was starting to exit my body.
The cheers and words of encouragement chanted from below. I was on stage and my crowd was waiting. My sweaty, shaky palm reluctantly reached out to grab the bar. And then the other hand slowly followed. I was extended on the edge of the platform and it was my time to shine. I leapt off with a scream as I started swaying through the air. My terror quickly turned into excitement.
“I did it! I’m doing it! YAYAYAY!”
I awkwardly dropped into the net and just laid there collecting myself, laughing with both the residual fear and overwhelming happiness. It was like a “laugh-cry” – huge mixture of emotions.
I took a few body rolls and crawled to the ladder to get down where Efe was waiting to greet me with a proud smile. Still shaken and trying to make sense of what happened, I made my way off the rig where I was met with applause. A huge wave of self-assurance rushed over me.
As I looked at my Fly High Tribe and soaked in their cheery faces, I said to myself: “Kim, you did it! You’re a bad ass and you conquered your fears”
I TOOK MY POWER BACK.
No longer would I allow that fear to paralyze me because I was able to move through it and come out ok on the other side.
Am I still scared? – yes, but I know that will ease up and I am in control. I am now the Ring Master of that fear.
Did I try flying again? – yes, I gathered myself and flew for a second time that day (they lovingly nudged me, and I am so grateful they did.)
Did it feel less scary the 2nd time? – yes and the second time only took me 30 minutes to get up the ladder (I joke) and I again let out a scream upon take off, but this time, it was the sound of joy!
I’m beyond thankful for this experience. For the crew, for the opportunity, for myself to trust my desire rather than submitting to my fears. This feeling is something I will take with me forever. When I get hit with doubt and anxiety, I can circle back to my time in the sky and know that I have the courage to stand in my power. If I can face the deep-rooted fear of heights and literally rise above it, I can most certainly go after and take on whatever challenge or desire comes my way.
Former Gal with Acrophobia / Current Queen of Courage
P.S. Special thank you again the incredible SBTC Team. Every single one of you made it a point to personally connect with me and made me feel so safe. Beyond grateful for all of you!