(image from www.zazzle.co.uk)
Getting over a fear, in general, is probably one of the toughest things to do. About midway through 2012, I was working on a v9 highball (Filter, Great Barrington, MA) became pumped at the top and came off the problem. Upon coming down, I missed the pad and my left legged slid down a rock and rolled my right ankle with all my weight (instant numbness!). I didn't immediately look down at my legs, mostly in fear that I would see one of them at a wrong angle. Panicking, I started feeling my legs frantically making sure no bones were out of place. With relief everything was where it should be...except my heart which was up in my throat from the adrenaline rush! I was lucky enough to make it out on my own weight back to my car to get home. The next few days were not so lucky due to the excruciating pain. Crutches became my closest friend after that.
An X-ray later showed no damage to anything in my ankle (damn lucky!), only a sprain. The only thing I could think of was getting back on the wall climbing again. So I decided to get on the net and find some rehab workouts. I did ankle ABC's, range-of-motion exercises, and stretches all throughout the week after I took the fall. I still managed to work out at the climbing gym doing pullups and finger board workouts. The Friday after the fall I was able to walk full weight on my ankle and able to run up and down stairs with ease.
Determination or Stupidity?
I made the trip back up to Barrington that weekend to try the problem again. My ankle still was not 100% but I decided to give it a try anyway. Upon getting to the warm up spots, I noticed a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I normally didn't have. I warmed up but still felt a nagging anxiety biting at my ear. Upon getting to Filter my heart was racing and my hands were sweating. I started the problem with relative ease but when I would get to the jug crux, my muscles seemed to not work right, almost unwillingly. I couldn't do it, the fear was paralyzing me. I packed up my things and walked out. It was probably for the better though, with my ankle not being fully healed yet. The next couple of days I knew I had to find a way to get rid of the fear.
Back on the Horse
I started at the gym that week determined to shake the fear. I got on some boulder problems but still felt the anxiety and fear. This kept going throughout the week. Fortunately though, my ankle was back at 100% after all the rehabbing I did for it. I figured the only way to get rid of the fear was to conquer the problem that gave me the fear. 2 weeks had gone by and I was back at Filter again, this time with a resolve that wouldn't waiver. I got back on Filter and worked up to the jug crux. At this point I was having flashbacks and premonitions of falling at the same time. As I worked to the left of the jug crux to the top my heart was racing, my muscles trembling. When I got to the top and hoisted myself over I sat up at the top for a few minutes admiring the view with a feeling of my confidence being given back to me. Happy for the ascent, I swore never to climb that problem again!
I felt normal again. I wasn't afraid anymore when I was at the gym or on the boulders. I had my confidence back to keep trying highballs and hard problems. The weight off my shoulders was gone and I was ready to move forward. I learned some valuable lessons from all of this: One, always have the end in mind, don't climb a route that you can't climb in your head first; Two, fears can be shed if you work at it; Three, don't show your wife a video of you getting hurt and expect to get sympathy, it won't happen.
Below is the video of the fall and the send! Enjoy the video, it made it onto Climberism online magazine due to my fail!