Go Ape, Trent Park - An Anxiety Sufferer's POV.

Back in May, I embarked on a day trip to 'Go Ape' at Trent Park, near London. I had a truly enjoyable time accomplishing something I wasn't convinced I would be able to do. My battle with anxiety isn't something I've shared on this blog, but I think my experience at Go Ape is worth writing about because it offered a great opportunity to confront some of that anxiety in a really fun, relaxed, environment.

What is Go Ape?

At Trent Park, Go Ape's Tree-Top adventure involves navigating yourself around a set of 5 tree-top courses. Think - childhood adventure playground/obstacle course beyond your wildest dreams. The first course is relatively close to the ground; it's supervised by instructors who demonstrate how everything works and they stick around to ensure you know how to use your safety equipment correctly - you alone are responsible for attaching your harness to the course and making sure that you always stay attached! The supervision tapers off as you progress around the course; they're still there, but watch from afar (you have a whistle in your harness if you really need help) meaning you can progress at your own pace, which was rather nice!

Each part of the course starts with a rope ladder to get you up to the crossings ...

Go Ape Trent Park

Then you endeavour to get yourself between trees via a multitude of different crossings, from tunnels ...

Go Ape Trent Park

... to simply pulling yourself along wires ...

Go Ape Trent Park

Then, each part of the course ends with a zip wire to take you back to the ground (most probably with a thud - it's quite difficult to land on your feet!) - one of them even has a skateboard to stand on!

Go Ape Trent Park

Two of the courses also contain 'Tarzan Swings' which involve jumping/swinging off of a platform towards a cargo net!

Why Did I Do Go Ape?

1) I've known about it for a while, it's always looked super fun and something I'd love to be able to do (but never thought I would ever have the nerve to).
2) I had a few weeks where I felt totally and utterly trapped by my anxiety; then I had a sudden (unexpected) urge to get out and do something that really scared me. I really wanted to be able to do something that made me very anxious.
3) It's a pretty safe environment to be exposed to some risk and learn how to deal with how I feel when presented with risk/'danger'.
4) I liked the idea of having/learning to trust myself to get round the course safely.
I was really quite surprised at how well I coped with it all. In the past, my anxiety has led to an endless cycle of avoidance.

How Did I Find The Go Ape Experience?

Before hand, my fear of social situations meant that I was anxious about arriving and signing in, being up in the trees with a group of people that I didn't know (bar one, I did take a friend!), holding people up and letting down my companion if ultimately I couldn't do any of it. I was anxious there would be nowhere to leave our bags (there is), I was anxious I'd have to leave my camera on the ground leading to it being stolen (it's fine to take them in the trees). I was anxious about plummeting to my death (my mindset often lingers around the idea that if something 'could' happen, it's definitely going to happen to me) and whether I was physically capable of doing some of the obstacles. A lot of my anxiety also stems around being put in situations where I think I'm going to feel scared - the cliche of being fearful of one's own fear - I was definitely freaking out about how much it was going to scare me. 

I almost didn't go, staying at home seemed MUCH safer. But, I'm finally getting to the point where I know I will feel a lot worse (in terms of disappointment in myself and regret) if I don't do things; my desire to participate has started to overpower the anxiety. That's nice to know - if I want to do something, I can, even if I do feel anxious. 

Although my heart was in my mouth every time I stepped off a platform, I genuinely enjoyed the experience. The zip wires were definitely the best part - I felt a lot more free zooming towards the ground than I have for a long time! It unleashed my inner child, possibly for the first time in my life - I was an anxious child, so would normally have been the one watching from the ground. 

Having said that, I didn't do the larger of the two Tarzan swings, there is an alternative route which definitely looked a lot more appealing. I'd pushed myself far enough for the day - but looking back, it was my anxiety holding me back at that point.

Overall, I'm incredibly glad I went for it. It's helped me a lot of times since - if my anxiety is playing up I can have a firm talk with myself along the lines of... 'if you can step off a tree at 16 metres you can do this ...'. There was the added bonus of surprising a few doubters too!

You can find out more about Go Ape via their website. I really like the look of their new Zip Trekking Adventure at Grizedale Forest!