/ Fear of Falling after Injury and Self hate
so.. Ive been climbing for about 4 years and generally boulder v3-v5 and lead around 6c.
In march this year I was trying a boulder problem indoors (v6), it was on an overhang and I had a heel hook as I went out for the next hold.. heel came off, I swung out and landed on one foot and my ankle gave out, I then fell to my other side with my arm extended and my elbow went with a nice 'POP' no-one thought id inured myself as the fall was pretty standard .. until I stood up and my ankle was so swollen it was hanging over my climbing shoe and my arm at this point had frozen and was aching so bad. I went to the hospital and had X-rays, torn ligament in my ankle and hyperextended my elbow - they thought id torn the ligament too but about 8 weeks after the fall I visited the phisyo and it was actually my nerve that had been crushed slightly (couldn't tense my bicep at all for about 6 weeks)
Eventually I stated doing some easy climbing after 8 weeks - id lost pretty much all of my upper body strength and muscle - it was the worst feeling the world.
Now I'm probably the strongest I've ever been, but the fear of falling off a boulder again is so strong that I cant breathe and honestly want to cry on boulders that should be easy for me. I regularly get to the last move and bail out of fear, often my technique goes out the window and the next thing I know i'm over gripping, arms bent and barley using my feet.
The fact this happens on even easy problems is so frustrating and embarrassing, I just want to be able to climb within my ability, I feel like I cant try hard anymore apart from on lead/toprope. I just get really angry and have developed a hatred for myself, there's just no confidence there and it affects me in all walks of life.
Im currently in bit of a pit and don't know how to get over the fear & hatred i'm feeling towards myself, everyone keeps telling me how strong I am but I cant feel it or even use it, adding to the rage!!
Any advise would be much appreciated, thanks!
Hello. I've also struggled with extreme fear of falling when bouldering. It's the reason why I exclusively rope-climb, but I'm not necessarily suggesting you do this because it seems like you enjoy bouldering.
If you're afraid on easy problems too then it might be worth sticking to stuff that you know is well within your boundary, and push it gradually - if you can't commit to the last move then do everything but, and move on to the next one. It might just take more time than you've given it. Did you find it scary when you very first started? How long did that take to go?
I also sympathise very much with how it's affecting you outside of the climbing wall. At the start of this year I got back into climbing after nearly three years off - a gap caused by injury and PhD-related mental ill-health. In the last three weeks I've repeated that initial injury and I'm really struggling with it. Climbing is all I do and I can't do it, and it's depressing me substantially.
What people often told me when I was struggling to get back into it is that climbing is the thing you do to make yourself happy, and if something is holding you back from that then the most helpful thing you can do is be kind to yourself and know that you're doing your best. You currently can't do what you used to be able to do, or probably could do under different circumstances like on a top-rope, but a mental block is much the same as a physical one, and can similarly be overcome with the right training. Pushing yourself beyond your mental limits too much is going to make things harder for you, much like trying to run a marathon with no training is likely to result in injury. The best thing might be to step back a little and rediscover the joy, which will help you to get back to where you were, or where you know you can be.
It might be that the fear never truly goes away, which is something you will ultimately live with. I keep myself desensitised to fear by frequency of climbing, but I still get scared sometimes. I have another friend who injured himself on a trad climb many years ago and has been exclusively a boulderer ever since - he just doesn't want to get that high off the ground again. Perhaps it is worth adapting your climbing to a style you're more comfortable with, at least in the short-term, and go back to bouldering when your head is stronger.
I hope this is helpful.
Stop being such a wuss.
I hope you find this advise helpful.
I 'd say top roping, will keep you strong and most of all keep you safe, unless you hate it of course.
The fear will go eventually as you become more confident.
Instead of stop being a wuss, "get a grip" might be a better idea.
wow. Thanks for your unkind and sarcastic words.
It used to be called "tough love".
Now its called being a Tw*t
Wowie, you've just single-handedly cured my phobia and general anxieties! Way to go! If only I'd known all my life that that's all it took.
That's a bit of bad luck, sorry to hear of it. But at least you're fully physically mended now. A lot of people aren't that lucky after injuries.
To fix the head game you've got to just let go of the grades. Really, it doesn't f*cking matter and it's hopelessly subjective anyway. No one at the wall cares what grade you climb at. Climbing is supposed to be fun, so do it at a level that's still fun for you. And be kind to yourself, you're still recovering.
You need to find yourself a spotter you can trust. A good spotter will ensure safe landings under pretty much any off-balance fall. Choose carefully: a bad spotter might even make things worse. I've seen a few bad indoor accidents, similar to your description, that good spotting would almost certainly have prevented.
When I started bouldeing trustworthy spotting was essential as there were no bouldering mats and no dedicated indoor bouldering walls.
Where you don't have a spotter maybe leave a risky problem to another day. There is nothing wrong in this at all.
You can also practice off-balance technique lower down; so for instance you can be more confident how trustworthy a particular heel hook will be when you need it.
a spotter on anything might be helpful for a bit at least - I spot my boyfriend the few times we've been bouldering because it gives him enough confidence to go for things. He can't do them without me there. Brains are funny things.
Sorry to hear that.
It sounds to me like you're experiencing a cycle of not climbing the grade you want, which makes you frustrated, which makes you stressed, which makes it harder to climb and so on. I'd suggest refocusing your goals away from grades or how 'well' you're climbing and towards having an enjoyable and relaxed time at the wall.
You've describing some high levels of stress in your post. I don't mean to pry but might be worth looking at stress reducing techniques for everyday life.
> You need to find yourself a spotter you can trust. A good spotter will ensure safe landings under pretty much any off-balance fall. Choose carefully: a bad spotter might even make things worse. I've seen a few bad indoor accidents, similar to your description, that good spotting would almost certainly have prevented.
> When I started bouldeing trustworthy spotting was essential as there were no bouldering mats and no dedicated indoor bouldering walls.
> Where you don't have a spotter maybe leave a risky problem to another day. There is nothing wrong in this at all.
> You can also practice off-balance technique lower down; so for instance you can be more confident how trustworthy a particular heel hook will be when you need it.
Good spotters/belayers are worth their weight in gold. I'm still able to climb indoors and outdoors thanks to their occasional assistance.
My only climbing injuries were both from uncontrolled heel hooks indoors that got stuck when I fell. In my opinion, they are very dangerous - avoid heel hooks that could get stuck, especially if tired. Climb with a spotter for the problems you know are dangerous, or just don’t climb them - it’s only temporary plastic blobs!
You need to build your confidence back up. The trick to that is taking it slowly, and not getting ahead of yourself - which it sounds like you are doing. Don’t just climb a route and move on - climb it 4+ times, and slowly in control, downclimb it each time. Try traversing. Try games on the easier routes. Focusing on how scared you are is only going to ingrain that feeling - you must focus on maintaining a feeling of control and then taking the control with you.
I always climb with my boyfriend, who actually got me into climbing and he usually spots me - I was just very unlucky that day. But I think you're right, I will just have to drag him away from his project more often!
Thats pretty much what's happening. Im a self employed jeweller too so this is a particularly stressful time of year. I do a bit of yoga on non climbing days which usually helps, but i'm snuggling to switch off at the moment.
From what you've posted I'm guessing that you climb indoors mostly; bouldering perhaps outside, perhaps not. Problems such as the ones you're experiencing aren't unusual, it's pretty much a built in defence mechanism to stop you hurting yourself. It can be overcome, of course; some help will speed that process along.
The first, which can be done indoors or outside, is to train by traversing. Go left, go right, vary the holds you use from the recognisable to the frankly optimistic, just don't go upwards much. Do it till your arms ache and your fingers ache so much you find it difficult to do your shoelaces up afterwards. It'll keep things toned and do wonders for your finger strength and foot placement. Eventually, and only you will know when that is, you'll want to vary things by including a few bits at a higher level; maybe just a couple or three moves in a traversing sequence at first, maybe a little more. Don't rush it, the feeling of it being okay to do will come back when it wants to, which isn't necessarily when you'd like it to. Indoor walls or many outdoor crags are fine for this; if you're anywhere close by, Pex Hill Quarry is a superb spot for this on a summer's evening.
The second is an outdoors thing and depends on you having access to hills or open country at least, and that's just to play around on rocks, enjoying scrambling up, over and around them. Going up the north ridge of Tryfan is ideal, a route that can be varied at will so that you won't ever go the same way twice and which allows you to play on rough rocks so that the memory of why you enjoy such things comes flooding back. If you can't get to the hills, improvise with what's around you; walls, ladders, whatever you can find.
The fear and loathing you describe will go as you recall why you started doing this and the simple pleasure that you get from physical problem-solving and moving over things using your hands and feet. It just takes time, and it won't be rushed.
you're absolutely right, I go though phases of not caring - as after all they're plastic blobs! but then something ignites and its the end of the world if I cant climb something.
i'm terrible at comparing myself to others, which I feel is a big thing that I need to stop doing and like you say, just work on getting comfortable again.
If you're going to be a dick, at least get it right.
Its funny because I never actually chose to start climbing, I was just a skier before I met my boyfriend and he got me into it. I'ts never been natural for me as I don't like heights.
I really enjoy scrambling and Moutaneering though - but we've not been out to the mountains in ages, perhaps I need a little outdoor therapy to put things into perspective and to enjoy the motions of climbing.
I took a near ground fall from Wombat at the Roaches and for quite a while it shook me up completely I couldn't lead without having a near panic attack, what helped was to change what and how I climbed. I seconded much harder stuff , top roped and climbed stuff I could enjoy . Gradually my focus came back and the fear of lead climbing left me ... now my problems are of the being fat and weak variety (why is cheese so tasty) not the psychological.
Tonnes of mileage at whatever grade you don't feel scared on to gain confidence. (may need to shelve the ego for a while for this but I doubt anyone except you is bothered by what grades you are climbing at the wall)
Practice some controlled falls from different angles to gain confidence in landing and being spotted.
No reason why you shouldn't get back to how you were before and then exceed it, sometimes it just takes time and the desire to want it.
Outdoor therapy should help. The joy of easy movement over rocks and hills is always a pleasure,
> * Advice.
> If you're going to be a dick, at least get it right.
I did try to edit but had a fat finger moment.
> In reply to Rick Graham
> wow. Thanks for your unkind and sarcastic words.
Only the second sentence was intended to be sarcastic but the lack of edit did not help.
I knew that there would be a lot of helpful advice forthcoming. I generally agree with all that has been posted.
Just wanted to give the advice that I have said to myself in similar circumstances.
Works for me .Most of the time.
Try not to beat yourself up if you back off a problem. I still back off boulder problems if I don't like the feel of them or if they're very committing with no escape route and this is 25 years after dislocating my right elbow after falling off a very high heel hook boulder problem with two spotters.
I'm happy to try hard if I know I can jump off in control, if not then I think it's only a bit of plastic that won't be there in a few weeks time. When you've had an injury that's kept you off climbing or bouldering for several months it makes you reflect on how much we take a properly working body for granted and gives you a healthy respect for gravity.
Feeling strong is very helpful and understanding when you can and can't jump off is also useful, doing lots of lower grade mileage can help build confidence and encourage you to try something that feels slightly uncomfortable. But at the end of the day it's your decision about what you do and don't want to climb and don't let yourself be pushed into doing stuff you're not happy with - it's you that suffers the consequences of a fall not the others urging you on.
It takes a brave person to back off in front of others so you should feel positive about knowing your current limits and sticking to them. Forget the grades and enjoy the movement..
> i'm terrible at comparing myself to others, which I feel is a big thing that I need to stop doing and like you say, just work on getting comfortable again.
I'd look at this a bit more, to be honest
After I broke my leg I went back ice climbing even to the spot where I fell, bit nervous at times but got on with it. It was a few years later, I was climbing in Norway and there was not much in so we were just top roping up and down this big lump of ice. After about the 4th or 5th time I started really relaxing into it and was really dancing up the pillar and at that point I felt this stress drop off my shoulders. It was quite dramatic and I realized I'd been carrying it round without even being aware of it for the last few years of climbing. It was a shock and made me really feel for people who have PTSD.
Be kind to yourself, don't worry about grades and just enjoy yourself. Worrying about grades or average speeds or targets can ruin the fun of things and make it harder to recover from things too.
Plenty of good climbing advice above, but I think it's also worth looking at how you react to these issues. I've got the odd brain tangle going on and have been doing some CBT type stuff, it kind of makes you look at how you react to circumstance.. for example, you lost your confidence climbing, your brain seems to have taken that thought and turbo charged it into self loathing, thinking you're terrible etc.
Having another look at your loss of confidence with a different perspective, all it means is you've developed a bit of a fear of falling, nothing more. It doesn't mean you're a bad person, you don't need to hate yourself for having this feeling.
Once you can rationalise your feelings a bit better, just as others have said, train your brain slowly to not feel the fear of falling by getting on easy safe stuff etc.
There's a good podcast by a guy called the blind boy, he's done a few shows on psychotherapy which are better at exposing it all than me (he's a bit sweaty mind).
Sorry to hear this, must be very frustrating.
If you've got the means, I'd go talk to an expert about it and get it resolved the right way asap.
I'd highly recommend Rebecca Williams of Smart Climbing on North Wales. She does skype chats and all sort of performance coaching, is a consultant psychologist, and really good at helping folks with issues of the mind.
A lot of bouldering walls nowadays are pretty high, so it's totally understandable to be nervous at the top, particularly as you've already been injured from a bad fall. Maybe try going up to the top on easier climbs and practicing jumping off to get a feel for it, and gradually build up the height where you're comfortable trying hard and falling. Also for now maybe stay away from high heel/toe moves at the top of the wall as these are always high risk even with indoor matting!
It's never fun when people say you're strong but you feel like you're rubbish. Sometime's you need to just take a step back and remember that everyone has off-days and areas in their climbing that they're weaker in, and for some this is mental rather than physical. It's something you can work on with time. Also no-one's ever actually thinking that you're somehow weak for being scared, we've all been there at some point. (If they are thinking this then they've probably got a few insecurities of their own). The good news is that you can still lead and top-rope, so i'd say make sure you keep doing those regularly to keep up your love for climbing and not have it turn into something you dread doing. Bouldering is only one aspect of the sport after all. As for the comparing yourself to others thing, again most people do that to some extent, but it can be very destructive if you let it take over. Everyone is different, and we all progress at different rates. Hard as it can feel, learning to let go of making comparisons with other people will make you much happier in your own climbing, and is really worth trying to focus on.
Also, as people have already said, a spotter that you trust will help loads. From my own experience I know that I wouldn't have gone near some boulders i've done outside without someone I completely trusted spotting me. It can make a massive difference to your confidence.
Hope this helps!
A lot of good advice from people, with a daft comment thrown in, pretty normal for UKC .
First, sorry to hear about your accident, I have twisted an ankle from a fall, and twice popped a finger pulley, and being injured sucks.
I agree with the spotter comments, and I will often get others to spot me if I am doing a move I am unsure about.
I think it takes time to get the confidence back up, and this is part of the natural cycle of your mind wanting to protect you from danger. I have had similar feelings with mountain bike crashes as well. I know your experience may be very different, but I have always found that the fear settles down after a while.
I have found that with limit bouldering a lot is in the head game. I do the Dave McLeod thing of flashing a smile before I leave the ground. I also tell myself that it isn't important, and that I have done similar things before so I can do them again. One long term way to help with this is to watch successful videos of yourself climbing, which really aids self confidence.
I also agree with those saying try to forget the grades for a bit and rediscover the fun. Maybe get people involved in games of +2, or create your own crazy traverse and see if anyone else can do it.
Good luck with it all, and feel free to post again in a while telling us how its going and what seems to help.
I had a bad fall near the start of my climbing, I was scared for a long time after. The first time back i could barely tie on, and a week later I was still struggling from halfway up the wall. It was horrible. But back then I was close enough to starting to remember what my life had been like wihtout climbing, i didn't want to go back so I decided to face it. It continued to be horrible, but it got better and better, not every day, but in general.
People who are saying the grade dosn't matter are right, but i found it didn't matter either way. I didn't love climbing easy things, on harder stuff I found I lost myself in the climbing more and sometimes that really helped. Good luck, there are no short cuts it's going to be horrible for a bit, but it's going to be worth it.
> Plenty of good climbing advice above, but I think it's also worth looking at how you react to these issues. I've got the odd brain tangle going on and have been doing some CBT type stuff, it kind of makes you look at how you react to circumstance.. for example, you lost your confidence climbing, your brain seems to have taken that thought and turbo charged it into self loathing, thinking you're terrible etc.
Yes, it might help just to read some of the DIY CBT books out there -- it's so easy to get into these downward spirals where "I'm having a crappy climbing session today" turns into "It's never going to get any better, I've lost all my climbing ability" or "Everyone's probably thinking how pathetic I am" or "This just proves that I'm terrible at everything I do" or whatever flavour of negative thinking your brain prefers.
(With the added bonus, I've found, that if I start getting frustrated and miserable during a climbing session, that *really* makes my climbing ability go to shit, which fuels the spiral even further.)
Just knowing and being able to spot the patterns can help a great deal with stopping the downwards spiral, and CBT's very useful in that regard.
It can help to think of having to rebuild your climbing confidence just like you've rebuilt your physical strength. And it's something that most people who've had a bad accident have to go through.
I'd say: find your comfort zone, where climbing is not stressful and scary for you. That might be very easy bouldering, or hard climbing on traverses, or trying hard on lead/toprope (which you've mentioned you can do), or doing easy stuff outdoors. Let climbing be enjoyable and non-traumatic for a bit! Then gradually start pushing the edges of your comfort zone, just a little bit at a time, so that it feels manageable
Trying to push it too far too soon is going to lead to what you're describing, panic and feeling awful and thus getting more and more traumatized about the whole thing.
Your brain needs to re-learn how to feel comfortable high up on the wall and comfortable with falling off, and for that to happen, you need to keep things feeling pretty comfortable with just a little bit of challenge. As your comfort zone expands -- which it will -- you can do more and more.
Sorry to hear about your accident. I would say your fear of falling now though is completely normal and to be expected.
I had a bouldering accident many years ago and the result was the same. I'd finally got through the hard part of the problem and on easy ground. My spotter stopped spotting since he knew I'd basically done it. Then the lip of an incut fingerhold crumbled and spat me off backwards. I landed on my back and had dislocated my elbow - probably the most painful thing I've ever done. After that, and for a quite a long time I was very paranoid about falling off bouldering from anything more that a few feet up. Fortunately at that time I mostly climbed routes. After a while, not sure how long, I could climb boulders without fear again. Rationally I could see that my fear was unnecessary. But the mind isn't only rational and deep fears like that are there to protect us.
So I would say don't get pissed off or angry or frustrated with yourself. Accept your fear as normal. Instead maybe congratulate yourself when you start to do a little bit better. Maybe spend some time doing routes if that option is possible for you. Or find boulders with the hard bits at the bottom. That's what I've been doing the last few weeks as a result of a dodgy back that gets sore if I lob too much from too high.
I don't know how much you can force the process. For me it just took time. Some years later I was taking bigger and bolder lobs than ever before (on a trip to Hueco Tanks) and that accident had faded from having any affect on me.
Missy, loads of great advice here & your idea of getting out to the mountains is key I think. But the most important thing, that none of the other suggestions quite touch, is finding self compassion. You are never going to regain the love & ability to switch off if you're so busy criticising yourself. You have to find some understanding for yourself. She's had a bad injury, she's frustrated, she's scared, she needs you to reassure her kindly, time & time & time again, that's she's safe. All of this takes time and consciously learning to treat yourself with love. Sounds like hippy crap but it's the only thing that's ever worked for me.
>> Im currently in bit of a pit and don't know how to get over the fear & hatred i'm feeling towards myself
Lots of good advice on this bit above, which seems to me to be the most important bit. If for any reason you don't fancy getting help from a person, try searching "there's nothing wrong with you". It's not for everyone but does describe what's going on, and explains several ways that, over time, you can free yourself from all that stuff. Also it can have effects beyond climbing. Whatever happens, good luck!
Crikey. You might be taking this climbing lark a bit too seriously.
Being injured sucks, but the "self hate" bit seems overly harsh.
Go somewhere nice with great people. Do some routes; fail on some routes; laugh about it. Repeat. It'll all come back in time.
Ah, the innocence of the happy... Sadly, some mental processes can get caught in a 'trap' of bad and circular thoughts and as much as you say "it'll come back in time", the person has to believe that and the problem is that they obviously don't. Most of the time you can know it's irrational but it still sits there in the background, catching you unawares. It's like a bug in your software and you keep thinking you've fixed it but it's just changed its symptoms.
And as for the self-hate, if you've built part of your self-identity around climbing, then removing this inevitably changes that self-identity. Your self-image is damaged, your self-worth takes a bashing.
Combine a real injury with a mental 'trap' like this and it can be very hard to see things rationally at all.
In reply to MissyClimbs93:
Recognising that your brain reinforces thoughts, both bad and good, can be a route to fixing things though. Clamp down on the negative thoughts as soon as they occur. Replace them with positive thoughts and feelings and keep telling yourself that you don't need to blame something for feeling the way you do and you can gradually 'reprogram' your mental/emotional reactions away from the 'trap'.
Hopefully, congratulating small successes (and putting yourself in the situations where you can have them) will make things better too..
> ...if you've built part of your self-identity around climbing, then removing this inevitably changes that self-identity. Your self-image is damaged, your self-worth takes a bashing.
And I'd argue that building any important part of your self identity around being able to climb at a specific level is ill-advised.
Sorry to hear about your injuries, and their aftereffects. There's loads of good advice on here already, but it won't all suit you and the way you tick - we're all different!
Be kind to yourself. Your body has done a fantastic job of healing itself. Your brain (subconsciously) is only trying to protect you, and it thinks it's got your best interests at heart. Love your body and brain. Work with them, and you will recover your form in time. There's plenty of time!
Remember that the best climber is the one having the most fun! There's so much more to enjoy in climbing than the accomplishment of overcoming a difficult problem. Could you shift focus (temporarily) from climbing harder to climbing better? Perhaps work on your technique and movement skills on easier problems.
If I'm having an off day I'll take a break, have a coffee (and maybe a cake), go and climb some routes well inside my comfort zone, finish having succeeded on something, and go away feeling good about the session. With repeated positive experiences your mind should unlock, and allow you to recover your form.
All the best!
I'll advised yeah, but that's humans for you...
> Sorry to hear about your injuries, and their aftereffects. There's loads of good advice on here already, but it won't all suit you and the way you tick - we're all different!
You're are spot on with that one.
> If I'm having an off day I'll take a break, have a coffee (and maybe a cake), go and climb some routes well inside my comfort zone, finish having succeeded on something, and go away feeling good about the session. With repeated positive experiences your mind should unlock, and allow you to recover your form.
I don't enjoy my days at the wall unless I'm failing, I have a few acquaintances who would rather climb within their limits and enjoy their day that way. Quite often they've been put off by the "grade" rather than trying and finding out, it's either mis-graded or they can actually climb it, to get there though you need to try, and they don't.
So you statement above is spot on, it's a personal thing and you're probably going to have to work your own way through it.
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