Dr. Johanna goes Over The Edge for the Youth Council 2019 Experience

The Day I Went Over The Edge

I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and feelings around my experience at the Over The Edge event.

In earlier blog posts, I shared why I was participating in the challenge. For starters, I was nervous about being able to raise enough money—and then of course I was also nervous about actually stepping Over The Edge!

A few weeks before the event my family and I hiked Mt. Ascutney after I had completed the mountain race. Because of my fear of heights, I was unable to walk to the top of the observation tower. Thankfully, my friend Amy, a fellow chiropractor who is a rock climber and who helped me practice rappelling off of her ten foot high porch.

Friday—the day of the event—we finished our work at the office, rounded up the boys, and I half changed into my costume before we headed to Manchester. All day, I had been feeling waves of nervousness. My husband Alex would ask me if I was feeling stage fright or if it was like the gondola ride at Canobie Lake Park. (Early in our marriage, we went to Canobie Lake Park and I thought I would feel ok on the gondola ride, and that it wouldn’t set off my fear of heights. Unfortunately I was wrong and sat there for a few minutes detailing to Alex how I was going to jump out into a tree and climb back down to the ground!) Fortunately I realized that my fear was stage fright—and I was also scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Even if I cried the whole way down the building while being coached, I knew I would not regret the experience. But if I got up on top of the building and didn’t go Over The Edge, I would regret it for years. The scariest thing for me to think about was the idea of watching someone not able to take the first step!

Dr. Johanna and Family At Over The Edge 2019Once we got to Manchester, waves of nervousness passed through me as we met up with others from The Youth Council. Soon it was time to kiss the boys goodbye and head into registration with another Youth Council “Edger” dressed as Wonder Woman. Inside the room where we got our harnesses as a group of three, Wonder Woman—who had gone over last year—and Meredith who was going Over The Edge for the Nashua Prevention Coalition. In the room there was a hypnotist. On the advice from someone who had already made it over, I sat down and chatted with him. I’ve had hypnotherapy in the past to help cope with test anxiety, so this wasn’t a new experience for me. But even as the three of us chatted, the waves of nervousness kept coming.

Since the first harness they gave me was too big, I had to swap out to a smaller one—and after getting our harnesses on, there would be no more bathroom trips! After multiple checks on the harness set up, they attached the rappelling gears, and handed me a (still damp from sanitization) helmet. I made sure all of my hair was pulled back, and Meredith had to tuck my braid in on itself as it was too long. Next we took a very fast elevator ride to the 20th floor where we took stairs the rest of the way to the roof.

The roof was set up with water coolers, snacks, and a popup shade tent. We learned how to use the different pieces of equipment and I practiced doing a one foot rappel off of an I-beam. For the next hour we waited, chatted, and watched others go over. As more people went over, we got to see someone in a T-rex costume at the top—and we could see that we were getting closer to our turn!

When there were only four people left to go before us, there was a correction on the scheduled times and suddenly I was next! I was next for the blue rope. But, a woman was up on the roof at that point, and I could tell she was scared—her legs were shaking. We watched and waited. And then she stepped back down from the ledge back to the roof—which was the hardest thing for me to see. As I had already told Alex, this was the one thing I really didn’t want to see—and the one thing that could shake me—and there it was right before it was my turn to step up to the ropes!

Dr. Johanna Over The Edge About To go overBut, I stayed focused and remembered what Amy taught me. Instead of looking down or over the edge, I focused on the people helping attach me to the rappelling ropes. I looked everywhere but down or over the edge. While It was easy for me to sit on the roof edge and talk, standing up was challenging. My arms were too short to reach the tripod, so I was attempting to stand up on the edge, while attached to many different things, all while using the rope to hold on to while trying very hard not to look down. The tripod was shaking a little, everyone assured me it was safe, but the shaking was a bit unsettling to say the least!

Once I was standing, a photographer started taking pictures of the edgers. The attendant helped me step to the edge of the building offering to tell me when I got there. I stayed focused on the people on roof, my hands, the ropes in front of me, and my feet as they were on the edge. I didn’t want anything to shake my resolve. The photographer took a few more photos and in hindsight I wish I had done some goofy stuff, but in that moment I just wanted to take the steps necessary to commit to the rappel.

When I started stepping back, I kept my focus on my feet, one step then two steps. I looked up at the tripod, then focused on my hand holding the gear. I did not let go with my right hand though I could if I wanted to with this safety gear. I stepped backwards slowly and found that instead of having to force the rope through the mechanism, it moved smoothly and almost too fast. After several steps I was standing on the windows on the side of the building. I struggled to touch the side of the building with my feet. The rope was releasing a bit faster than I wanted it to, and my legs felt too short! I kept trying to just keep walking backward. I kept trying to go slow while avoiding locking the secondary rope because I did not want to have to fiddle with the equipment on the wall.

I continued to keep looking up, and while I was looking at the windows, the only image I remember is seeing the back of a Dell monitor on a desk inside.  I counted each floor I completed, but after about six floors, I gave up trying to walk on the wall, and just hopped from ridge to ridge, dangling my legs between. While I originally didn’t want to do it this way, it became more comfortable. I looked up to see how far down I had come, and occasionally I would look to the sides and diagonally down to the streets below—but I never looked directly down!

Dr. Johanna Rappelling Over The Edge

On the way down, I took moments to pause, breathe and just reset my bearings. I was surprised at how well I was handling the fear—but I still wouldn’t look down. I could hear people below cheering, but the only voices I recognized were my sons’, my husband’s, and friend who invited me to do this crazy thing. The things I remember from the event are strange, I remember how the rope sliding fast through my right hand felt, and how I was worried that I would pinch myself with it. The rappelling controls were sensitive, and like the hot and cold water in the shower, it was near impossible to get it to the right speed. I was warned during set up, that the activity is hard on the arms, I did not realize how difficult it would be until I was starting to fatigue. When I was about halfway down, an announcers introduced me and I heard the cheers getting louder.

On the last fifteen feet of the rappel, I realized that I could get hurt if I released the rope too quickly. If I did, there might not be enough distance for the safeties to stop me before ground impact. I was also completely dangling now, with no building for support, as I was being pulled away by the grounds crew from the bushes at the side of the building. I slowly descended to the ground and sat down. I was helped up, handed a cold water bottle—which someone was kind enough to open for me.  But my next thought was: can I get in line and go again? My husband helped me manage the recovery from the adrenaline spike. I snacked on peaches, posed for pictures and congratulated other edgers.

Dr. Johanna Over The Edge 2019

In the end, I raised $1300 (from 34 individual donors) for the Youth Council, but I was just one of five people who went Over The Edge for the Youth Council. The next day my left forearm and abs were sore, but I feel lighter and less afraid of heights after this experience. I’ll see what the next few weeks hold, but this may have been an event that has changed who I am.

Randy of 2020 Vision Quest’s GoPro video is a fantastic example of the set-up at the top: https://youtu.be/5GZg6FQq7bI

All United Way photos from the event can be found here and were used with permission.

Rappelling down a Skyscraper!

Help Dr. Johanna Rappel Down a Skyscraper to Benefit The Youth Council with Over The Edge 2019!

Over the Edge 2019 Q&A With Dr. Johanna

Have you ever rappelled before?

I have, but just once in high school with Explorer Scouts, and it was nothing even remotely close to this height! We went hiking and did some small rappels during the outing. I was only able to do the rappels where my feet were firmly planted on the rock face, I was terrified of just hanging! In middle school, I only managed to complete one zip-line ropes course. Before then, I’d gotten too scared and backed down.

As an adult I generally avoid heights or more accurately, edges. Unfortunately, this has conflicted with my desire to experience adventures in my life. Even so, I’ve managed to face my fear enough to ride a few roller coasters and have been to the top of the Eiffel Tower which was terrifying with the wind!

It sounds like you’re afraid of heights! Is that true?

I’m completely terrified of heights. I even have difficulty on gondola rides at amusement parks due to the height!

How do you psych yourself up for new and potentially scary challenges? The Over The Edge event involves a serious height challenge!

I never want to miss out on an experience because of fear. So, I rely on facts and get analytical. I know that the redundant safety measures were almost too redundant for one of my rock climbing friends who did the Over the Edge event last year! Intellectually, I know I will be safe—and I also appreciate the fact that not everyone has the opportunity to rappel down a 300ft skyscraper! I don’t want to miss my chance to have this a-once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’ve run a marathon, I ran up Mt. Wachusett last weekend, so I know that I can walk backward 300 feet—the length of a football field.

Gate City Marathon Johanna Half Marathon

It’s easy to back out of something scary when you know you’ll have other opportunities, but this event only happens once a year and I can’t guarantee I’ll be invited next year!

How did you first learn about this challenge?

I heard about Over The Edge last year when Dr. Amy Haas, another local chiropractor and avid rock climber went “Over the Edge”. This year Dr. Haas was not available, and I was invited to participate in her place.

The United Way hosts this event for every year to raise money for many area non-profits. I’m participating to benefit The Youth Council.

Where can we learn more about The Youth Council?

The Youth Council helps Nashua area families get help with mental health, alcohol and drug abuse. They’re able to intervene to keep children from going into the corrections system, or starting down a path of multiple criminal records.


The Youth Council is proud to fill a critical niche for young people at the intersection of law enforcement, education, substance misuse and mental health symptoms.

How will our donations help The Youth Council?

A $50 donation will support a day at our suspension center for a 5th-8th grade students. This center is a safe place for children who are suspended from school. The center also can address the underlying issues which may have caused the child’s suspension.

A $100 donation will support an embedded middle or high school student assistance counselor for a day. They work to help students overcome stress, anxiety, relationship challenges, and even substance use.

A $300 donation will support a global assessment of an individual’s needs. The Youth Council will help a family determine if their child has a substance use disorder, and will create a comprehensive plan to address their needs with a licensed therapist.

A $1,250 donation will help a child who has been arrested for the first time (along with their family) through our court diversion program. This program ensures that the child is held accountable while receiving the support they need to avoid an offense on their permanent record.

How Can I Support Dr. Johanna and The Youth Council?

You can make contributions on Dr. Johanna’s “Over the Edge” donation page: https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/edge2019/JohannaNewbold

Cash or check (made out to the United Way) donations can also be made at our office.

For new patients who have donated at least $50, we have set aside a few Thursday New Patient Consultations and exams. The appointment must be scheduled before the end of the June. If you would prefer to make a donation by cash or check, call our office to schedule and let us know that this is your plan.

Once Dr. Johanna raises $500, she will get on the schedule to know when she is jumping. She will need to raise at least $1,000 to make the jump, and would love to raise more. The Youth Council does great things to help the youth and parents in the city of Nashua.