On fear: in Patagonia
It’s easy to remember the last time I was most afraid for my life, physically and in every way. It was a few years back. Time slowed down for me, of course. I felt the flood of adrenaline with other fear hormones and chemicals surge through my body. My mind thought, I can’t die, here, now, like this. I felt the rocks shift beneath me as I scrambled across them high above the steep waterfall below. I was literally alone but felt abandoned and left behind more than ever - my mind repeating patterns that some minds tend to do. Why had I insisted on going alone, how did I manage to convince my guide to leave me. He apparently thought, or knew, that I was capable yet he knew the terrain and I didn’t. All my life I’d been a great actress - a star performer pretending to never be afraid yet plunging and diving into what scared me, keeping my terror hidden inside. Suddenly the pain in my knees that had slowed me and moved me to tears before fell out of focus as I moved faster than ever courtesy of the adrenaline. My willpower and instinctive, animalistic survival portion of the brain took command and propelled me forward through hours of solitary hiking in the strange, unfamiliar and foreign land of patagonian forest and mountain. I then understood the phrase ‘scare the shit out of you’ because I had literally just experienced it. I ambled into camp hours later that evening looking like I’d seen a ghost and with the look of near death and fright on my face. No explanation or words were ever needed or employed and I never tried to convince anyone to leave me alone again. Perhaps that is what I needed. I’d had to cross what felt like several mile high suspension bridges and climb alone, at last encountering other people at the end. Of course I’d had no apprehension when I was with the group and guide. After recovering, I felt that I’d been a bit dramatic, but not when I was actually experiencing those moments - my fear and panic was a real as it gets. My attitude had been more confident than my actual experience, so my ego was stretched and battered but strengthened in the end, in a good way, to survive. Although I wouldn’t recommend it, this must have been the exact experience I needed, to trust in myself and build my inner strength in both body and mind.