Fear is a unique beast. What causes mental and physical anguish for one person can have quite a different effect on someone else. But it puzzled Ryan that the thing he was afraid of was also something that seemed to call to him. It was a contradiction that grew stronger as he got older.

He knew that a fear of heights was common enough. Most people understood, even if they didn’t have an issue with being any distance above the ground. It perplexed him that it wasn’t always this way: as a child, he’d loved climbing trees and going on rides that swooped you up to a ridiculous height before plunging you back to earth. There wasn’t a single instance that he could think of where there had been a chance of falling, but somehow this fear had evolved over time until he found himself having physical reactions which escalated as he got older.

He’d developed strategies as it was hard to entirely avoid heights. Trips to the nearby shopping centre had to be negotiated, and whilst he tried to arrange ground floor accommodation when he was travelling, it wasn’t always possible. And Ryan had worked out that he could cope with flying if he was in a middle row wearing headphones and an eye mask. These tactics helped with managing everyday situations that were hard to avoid.

But in his dreams, Ryan was a hang glider. The dreams were so vivid that they felt real: he was soaring across the landscape, the tug of thermal updrafts lifting him into the sky. There was no fear in his dreams, only a sense of awe and wonder.

This sense of freedom filtered into Ryan’s everyday life. He found out all he could about acrophobia and sought professional help to develop strategies to cope with situations that triggered his anxiety. This included building on the relaxation techniques that he’d been developing over the years, and his friends and family supported him as he began to spend time watching hang gliders and learning about this incredible sport. There was a gradual unfurling of the tension within him, and when he was ready, he went on a short tandem ride. It was terrifying and exhilarating and he could hardly believe that he was doing what he’d dreamed of for so long. There was still fear, but it was no longer in control of him. It was Ryan’s time to fly.

I’m participating in this blogging challenge for the month of January, which supports starting the year on the “write” track. You can find other posts with #bloganuary and join in the challenge.

Photo: hang glider near Bald Hill, Stanwell Park