Fear Living & Good Mental Health @ 16,000 Feet.

 “Named must be your fear before banish it you can. When we call out our fears directly, they become less of an ominous force”. Yoda Star Wars.

By Ben C Vidgen.

I recently jumped with the guys from Abel Tasman Sky Dive whose recent 100 jumps fund raiser has raised thousands for mental health. The publicity stunt raises a good question concerning the nature of anxiety in regards to perceived anxiety and the demon we make in our own heads. In reality as far as the Abel Sky Dive experience goes Sky diving not as scary as you might think (well its scary in the right places) as the staff at Abel Tasman make the event relatively stress free with a check in, equipment fit and safety brief that assures you all along the way your dealing with highly competent and well trained crew at all times.

Preparation prevent needless worry. Life lesson #1.

The Motueka based outfit offer a variety of jumps ranging from 9000 to 20,000 feet including solo jump options are on offer with a variety of pricing options (see their website) all done with a carbon neutral footprint. I decide to opt for a tandem jump at 16,000 with my guide Paddy and camera man Jake doing a great job at soothing nerves and highlighting the fun of the experience.

Fear share is fear halved Life lesson#2.

It takes about fifteen minutes to reach the jump point during which you have time to comprehend the lunacy of permitting your self to be thrown out of perfectly good airplane, check out the looks of apprehension on new jumpers faces, and the share body shaking joy (akin to a fox terrier which has just seen a rabbit go down a hole) of veterans about to do it again. Over half way up the light goes green (and for some reason image of paratroopers being shot at from below in a Bridge Too Far leaps into my mouth) for a crew of sports jumpers who will leap first. The door of the Cessna comes up letting in a howl of wind and pure adrenalin as you look out the gaping door from the corner of one eye (as the other eye look every where but out). PHOP suddenly the jumpers are gone.

HOLYHORSES&@# what have I let my self into.

Face your fears and then kick em squarely in the bollocks any way. Life Lesson #3

The plane continues to climb and the door comes down as your heart beat calms down. You look out the window and can see the width and breath of Able Tasman with it sparking beaches, clear sand, blue water, and farmlands below.

Life continues even where your scared so why waste energy and instead enjoy the journey Life Lesson 4

The light comes back on and paddy get you to move down the plane to be near the door that once more is gaping wide leaving you feel vulnerable and not so full of the bravado you began this adventure on.

You make the point to follow Paddy’s instruction to get your feet behind you and while focusing on this you fail to notice Paddy has expertly lined you up for your juuuuuuump.

For a tenth of a second your falling your gut sink into your balls and you feel as your heart will explode.

PHUMF!! the chute deploys which in your concentration of how your going to handle falling you had not considered as suddenly the panic that comes from shooting up rapidly instead of falling.

What get us usually is not the fear we anticipate but the fears we did not see coming Life Lesson#5.

And now comes the pleasant bit as paddy steers you down and you able to enjoy the view in-between return to heart in your mouth moments s Paddy steers the chute and you have moment where it feels like your free falling again. Paddy offer me the ‘steering wheel’. I opt to pass and leave control at several thousand feet still above the ground out of hands of the dyslexic. The ground rush up but the landing is surprisingly easy and in shot time your on the ground sharing stories with fellow jumpers and those about to jump.

Anticipated fear in hindsight is usually bigger than the actual fear reviewed in hindsight. Life Lesson #6

I jumped at the offer to jump out of an air plane at 16,000 in part becuase it seemed like a cool thig to do. But mostly I wanted to the opportunity to face something I feared and do it anyway.

The sense of well being confidence and calm it brought me after wards were for me confirmation that nothing can be worse for your mental health than to live with fear or worry. Leaving me to conclude post jump this was not so much a case of ticking my ‘bucket list’ of things I want to do before I die. Rather it was affirmation to my intention to make sure I lived now and did not miss out on living becuase I was to afraid of dying.

As Han Christian Anderson once said “enjoy life there will plenty of time to be dead latter on”. No activity whether it be taking a shower, skydiving or even indoor skydiving has a 100% safety record. There is a risk in everything we do! I think were becoming increasingly a risk adverse society and yet were no safer and our mental health is now more at risk than ever before. And yet as the great Elenore Roosevelt advised “You gain strengthcourage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.

Fear is not only good (when faced) but ultimately it essential to our mental health and wellbeing.


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