We probably all experience fear to some degree. Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. It seems like a complicated definition. Fear can be great or mild and everywhere in between. In my case, fear can also be irrational. For example, the thought of something being dangerous or threatening, when in reality it is not. Something could happen to any of us at any time. There’s always some inherent risk in simply living our daily lives. However, the festering of fear can be almost suffocating. It has lead me into places where my social life has almost shut down completely. Cerebral palsy can turn into a breeding ground for fear. As a society, we sometimes fear things we don’t recognize, or that make us uncomfortable. It seems to make sense, as knowledge about the things around us seem to help us all feel more comfortable. The challenge of overcoming different types of fear can be both frustrating and rewarding.
Fears can take the fun out of living. One of the biggest fears challenging me is the fear of heights. It has manifested itself in a couple crippling ways throughout my years. The most stifling has been the fear of flying. My fear of flying became such a trial I backed out of family vacations. On one occasion, I was seated on an airplane, just before they closed the door to push away from the gate, panic overwhelmed me, I stood and walked off the airplane. When I got back inside the terminal, some caring personnel attempted to provide comfort in an attempt to have me board the plan. The best effort didn’t succeed and I exited the airport to return home. The fear of flying has not only cost me family trips, but also lead to my absence from a family wedding.
Any fear seems to come with a price. Difficult situations hit a low point brought on by circumstances and sometimes that low point can cause things to change. The fear of flying changed after missing the wedding of my cousin. To this day it pains me that I wasn’t there to witness the wedding. However, with many disappointments in life, something positive can arise. The next destination wedding that came into my life caused me to find a way to attend. The sadness from missing my cousin’s wedding lead to finding the solutions and courage to overcome one of my most challenging fears. It did work, but getting on an airplane continues to cause anxiety. An airplane is usually a confined space with little room to manipulate anything. Similar to sitting around a crowded dinner table, my arms seem to have difficulty performing even simple physical tasks. The idea of moving around while boarding and disembarking the aircraft can cause enough strife, let alone if there were ever an emergency. I often feel uneasy wondering how my body would respond to such an emergency.
As strength improves through training, so does the confidence about those uneasy situations. Slowly with time my movements become more fluid. I gain better control over my body and a clearer understanding of my body in spaces. It reduces those anxious feeling in tight quarters, but doesn’t erase them. The assistance of medication while flying is still a large contributor to success. The combination allows me to look the fear of flying in the face. Finding ways to overcome one fear can lead to taking on another fear. As flying becomes more comfortable partly due to physical strength, my attention over the last years turns to a fear on the ski slopes. Like boarding an airplane, getting onto a chairlift has caused enough panic to halt my joy of downhill skiing.
Riding a chairlift has been nerve-wracking since I was young. There becomes a sense of isolation hanging that far above the snow. An overwhelming fear for me is becoming stranded high above the earth. Though people get stuck on chairlifts and rescued almost yearly, I wonder if cerebral palsy would make the process more complicated? Whatever physical maneuver someone would need me to do in order to disembark the chair could become complicated. Just as physical strength helps my feelings in an airplane, it also helps the feelings of safety when riding a chair. As control over my body improves through training, the concern over my capability of performing physical tasks in case of emergency also improves. Though it seems rare to be lowered from a chairlift, knowing I improve the body control I may need to do it reduces anxiety. With the thought of riding a chairlift causing this much angst, you may be thinking the solution could be to simply stop skiing.
Just as I have attempted to solve my fear of flying by not flying, I have spent years solving my fear of chairlifts by not skiing. The problem becomes, just stopping doesn’t seem to be the best way to deal with fear. Along with the simple joy of skiing and the athletic challenge it provides, downhill skiing is also incredibly beneficial for cerebral palsy. Skiing places me on a relatively steep hill and demands I find a way down trying not to hurt myself. I’ve found it requires things cerebral palsy attempts to take away like balance and the awareness of body position. The sport demands my strength and balance in order to constantly change body positions I maneuver my way down the slope. Improvement in these areas only helps the way I manage my body positioning moving through each day. Not only is there an accomplishment in concurring a fear each time I load onto a chairlift, but also achievement of improving CP symptomatology every time I complete a ski run. There seems to be a double reward in tackling my fear of the ski lift.
Cerebral palsy seems to add anxiety and fear to my life. Though my fears of being on an airplane or chairlift seem irrational, they still exist. The likelihood of serious injury while flying or sitting on a chairlift are minuet, but the anxiety remains each time. Maybe we all have some fears, which logic would refute as not making sense. They still remain for many of us, but the courage to challenge those internal feelings is exciting. The sense of accomplishment from taking on one fear leads me to take on another and another until maybe I’ll concur them all. Cerebral palsy can make simple things like going to the grocery store fraught with fear. The fear of shaking while I’m checking out at the register, not being able to place the credit card into the slot. Or maybe being looked at strangely and judged for a disability I can’t control. Whatever the fear may be, rational or irrational, disability or not, it seems the only way to succeed is to challenge the fear head on. Otherwise, I’ve found that fear can start stripping away the things that bring us the most joy.