I have long had a phobia of crossing bridges that are over water. Usually, just in a car. Something about the idea of being trapped in the car if the bridge collapsed into water made it more terrifying to me. I have made real progress in dealing with this fear though, and have progressed to the point where I can drive over and look out over smaller bridges. You will not find me heading to Key West or checking out the Golden Gate Bridge though. But I have assumed that this fear of bridges was simply about driving over them. I hadn't figured on being afraid to walk across some.
This past weekend we found a state park in our area that has lots of wonderful hiking trails down by a river. We took the kids out for a little hike and came to a suspension bridge. Steve wore Ana in the carrier and walked out with Gabe as I followed shortly after holding Addie's hand. I got as far as seeing the water below the bridge when I stopped. Had to stop. A wave of anxiety hit me and I told Steve I had to turn around. I apologized to the people behind us, who were very polite, and came off the bridge. Steve wanted to help me conquer this fear and encouraged me to try again. I asked to go first, so that I wouldn't see the bridge swaying as he walked, grabbed Addie's hand and started out again.
At first, I told myself, "Just look at the bridge, just look at the bridge."
But as the bridge swayed and dipped with every step I soon found myself saying, "anywhere but the bridge. anywhere but the bridge!"
My eyes shot out to the trees beside us and I tried to focus on them, but even they were swaying in the wind. I finally focused my eyes on the unmoving bridge anchors at the end and, taking very small steps and deep breaths, made it all the way across. I sat down on a bench, feeling slightly dizzy, my body buzzing from adrenaline or fear, and on the verge of tears. The feeling passed quickly though as we continued our hike. Of course we had to cross the bridge again to get back out, but I did better that time.
The rest of the day I felt good. Really good. Empowered, even. I hadn't expected to conquer a fear that day, especially one I didn't even know I had. A small accomplishment, but having that knowledge that you can do something you thought you couldn't... priceless.