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7 September 2016

on facing fears

fears are wholly irrational; they're unpleasant emotions caused by the belief that something is dangerous, might cause pain, or is a threat to your personal safety. a lot of the time, fear is a seriously silly thing. i suppose really, it's anxiety about the unknown. and anxiety is something i am pretty familiar with. this week though, it was put to the test. 

firstly, that pesky blood test i've been putting off for months happened. fear fact: i am terrified of pain - especially the pin-prick, typically-nothing pain associated with needles. ok yeah, i have tattoos; the first time i almost bailed, and i had to seriously psych myself into making the appointment, and then leave an extra hour before the appointment for the inevitability that i would try and back out. i did try. but i still went, and faced my fear, and although it wasn't the most awesome, pain-free experience of my life, i'm so glad i did it - and again since, because i adore lady d and i can't imagine her not being on my arm.

but medical needles? nope. i've not had some of my high school vaccinations because of the fear. always figured that if i was unlucky enough to contract something later on, that i'd already be in pain and i'd probably choose a needle then. you know, as a last resort. because of that fear, my last immunisation was against hpv (which... well, doesn't always work) when i was in my early twenties, so it's been a really long time. it's what's been stopping me from donating blood; i'd love to be able to do that, but the fear takes over and so i just never have. so the thought of a blood test was just too much, but after a second doctor suggested it would be a good idea, i figured it had to happen. i gave myself a deadline to make the appointment, and literally made the appointment at the last minute. i panicked and over-thought about the appointment, and then when i went, it was literally all over in seconds. literally, twelve seconds. i counted.

that was monday, and i got to work all proud and elated and brave, and thought "i can do anything! i am woman, hear me roar!" which was funny, because i was heading to event later that night that basically aimed to put me face-to-face with my biggest and most irrational fear: heights. i was invited by attraction tix to head up to the arcelor mittal orbit at stratford to take in the incredible 360 views, and then ride carsten holler's "the slide" down to the bottom. when i read the email - and said yes, i had no idea how tall it was. and then that day, feeling all brave and courageous, i did my research. better late than never, some might say, but genuinely i think it did me more harm than good.

it's the world's tallest, and at 178m, the longest tunnel slide; at 115m tall, it's taller than the statue of liberty, and almost as tall as the freaken pyramids. parts of the tunnel are made from transparent materials so you can take in the sights of stratford's olympic park as you speed down the slide at top speeds of 15mph, and others are totally enclosed so you're thrust into darkness, before being thrust back into light. for forty seconds, give or take. in that time, visitors circle the arcelor mittal orbit twelve times; weaving and looping through the iconic structure's twists and turns. i read all of this just before heading out to the event. that was my first mistake.

walking over to the structure from stratford is easy, because you can see it looming in the distance from over a mile away. the closer i got, the more panicked i became. i met up with the pr girls and a the staff at the slide about if they'd been down it before, really wanting some honest feedback. all i got from everyone was that it was "fun" and "not at all scary". well. at that point i was sure they were all lying, but i was determined to face another of my fears, and so i got in the elevator that goes up more than 30 floors in about 30 seconds, donned the safety gear required to slide, and waited my turn. before me were about ten or so other bloggers - including angela, erin and roma (nice to see some friendly faces!), and we all stood in line, watching others go ahead of us, waiting impatiently for it to be our turn, and cringing at every scream that came out of the next victim being pushed through the mouth of the slide, and into the dark and winding tunnel.

then it was my turn. i hesitated; bex was with me, and i think knew i was not coping well. she asked me, "are you sure you want to do this?" and i don't think i answered. i remember roma saying "what's the worst than can happen?" and me thinking, well... death would suck. i remember getting into the sack, nodding along to the safety instructions - heart pounding through my chest, taking a big, deep breath, then whispering "oh. my. god" as i was pushed over the threshold.

what came next was a blur. i was thrown from corner to corner, wanting to scream but not being able to, in darkness and then into light. i didn't make a sound; i couldn't - i was too busy hyperventilating to put noises together. i daren't close my eyes, i needed to be able to see where i was - despite the darkness, despite the fear. seconds past, and then it was over. i was at the bottom. apparently i squealed "get me out of here!" before completely avoiding everyone's ready hands asking to be high-fived, walked over to a step, sat down, put my head in my hands, and started sobbing. and shaking. and gasping for air. oh, it was great. so much fun. yeah, it was lots of fun. an arm around me and angela whispering "you're alright, you did it - well done!" reminded me that yeah - i didn't actually die after all, and i had blatantly just done something that had terrified me to my very core.

but i survived. i faced my absolute biggest fear, and i survived. my cries turned to laughs, which turned to something akin to pride, but maybe a little tainted with embarrassment, that soon enough - with enough people reminding me about what courage looks like, turned back to actual pride. twice that day i'd beaten that stupid anxiety goblin who sits there in the background, mocking, taunting, telling me i can't or shouldn't do things, and i'd faced up to my fears and conquered them both. so ha! in your face, anxiety, you arse! 

did i enjoy my time up the arcelor mittal orbit? yes, i definitely did. i love a good view, and you can't really do better than a three-sixty degree one of the most amazing city in the world, can you? did i enjoy my time on the slide? no, no i did not. but, if what i heard was true, most everyone else did. and guess what? now you can ride it too. it's been open to the public for two months now, and according to our host, will be there now for years to come. it's only £15 to get up there as an adult (less as a kid), and that includes the option to slide. you don't have to, if you don't want to, but i can totally recommend that view.

so much so in fact, that i have a £10 voucher to give away to do just that, to the bravest commenter below. simply tell me what the bravest thing you've ever done is and why, and the answer i like the best will win a £10 voucher to use at attraction tix (on anything - not necessarily this!). uk comments only on this one kids, as i don't think you'd have much use with a voucher you can't spend! thanks to attraction tix for the invite, and for the voucher, but thanksnothanks for future slide-related events.

so tell me: what's the bravest thing you've done, and why?

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