March 12, 2021

Facing My Fear of Heights: Rappelling Down a Tower


When I was 40, I was a Life Insurance Salesperson and a member of the Alliston Chamber of Commerce.  That year, the Chamber organized an event for the members that took place in Base Borden, Ontario, and included activities like riding in Army tanks and shooting rifles at the target range.  But, as a former Infantry Soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces Primary Reserve, all of this was old news to me.  Instead, the most exhilarating activity that I participated in was getting to rappel down a tower.

I’ll tell you right now: I’m absolutely terrified of heights.  I’m not sure how tall the tower was, but it certainly wasn’t small.  That and I happened to choose the tallest one of the options I was given.  Nonetheless, fear had never stopped me from accomplishing a goal, and I wanted to start off my 40th year with a bang.

The activity began with the soldiers showing us how to strap ourselves in safely.  As I was trying my best to pay attention, the terror slowly built up inside me, bit by bit.  I was sure that an anxiety attack would come at any moment.

The soldiers gave us the choice of hooking ourselves in or having one of them do it for us.  Out of an abundance of caution, and rightfully so, I opted to get help.  As the soldier explained what he was doing, all I could think of were the worst-case scenarios.

I held my breath as I put on the gloves that he gave me.  It gave me a lump in my throat and I coughed nervously to try to make it go away.  I also had a horrible pain in the pit of my stomach.  As I thought of death and dismemberment, the alarm bells of my fight or flight system were screaming for me to run.  But, I had to keep it together.  I had to face my fear.

After I leaned back and slowly started to go down the tower, the anxiety started to subside.  Every foot felt smoother and smoother, and I began to build confidence.  As I got nearer to the ground, I could honestly say that I was having fun!  I could do it; no, I was doing it!

As soon as my feet hit the ground, I had decided that I wanted to do it again, but this time, I would rappel down the second tallest tower.  During the attempt, I made a point not to get too carried away and took my time to avoid any chance of injury.

Finally, after my second success, I decided that I would further challenge myself and face the tallest tower once again.  Now, having gained some experience, I faced this challenge full of confidence.  In fact, I was so confident that I made my way to the bottom much faster.

With my feet safely on the ground and three rappels under my belt, I could honestly say to myself that I had not only faced my fear of heights, but completely conquered it.  I thought: If I can rappel down a tower, I can do anything!  It gave me a real confidence boost that is hard to describe.  You could say it was a sort of fear busting skill that I had acquired.  And not only that, but the confidence remained with me for the following years.  The experience was truly empowering.

Was there a time when you faced one of your biggest fears?  What did you do and how did it go?  Let me know on Facebook or in the comment section below!

- Johanne Levesque