There are a lot of things that inspire anxiety inducing fear in my heart. Just a couple of examples:
- Going to a new place where I don’t know anyone.
- Embarrassing myself.
- Having my mother-in-law fix my ingrown toenail.
- ROLLER COASTERS.
I assure you that the list is much longer than this but these are just a few that quickly popped into my head. Basically, there are a lot of things that scare me/make me anxious. Some, I’d consider to be acceptable fears. Others are a little more ridiculous and are often met with a “Come On” look.
Since my brief stint seeing a psychiatrist last year, I’ve decided to challenge myself and do things that make me uncomfortable. I haven’t committed to it full force, but there have been opportunities for me to get out of my comfort zone:
- One time I was out having pizza with my husband and a friend. My husband grabbed a soda from the dispenser and took a seat on the inside of a booth. I took the outer seat. When he realized his soda was flat, I offered to move out of the way so that he could let the pizza personnel know. Instead, he smiled at me and handed me his cup. He suggested I tell them. I gave him a dirty look as my heart began to race. I made the mistake of telling him I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and naturally he felt the need to help me. I took a deep breath and interacted with a stranger. I survived.
- This other time I went to California Adventure with my family. This was our second trip together and during the first trip they tried to get me to go on the Ferris Wheel. I had never ridden one and the height coupled with the dropping wasn’t at all appealing. No thanks. I managed to get out of it, though. Not the second time around, however. They kept talking about the damn Ferris Wheel. We eventually made our way over and I was quiet, the anxiety was taking over. We had our choice of a gondola that was stationary and one that swung. I was walking over to the stationary line when the rest of my family chose the daredevil route. I was forced to follow. During our half hour wait, I began to shake and the anxious tears came to my eyes. Seeing my face, one of my sisters said: “We don’t have to go on.” Free Pass! Except…no. I had internally reprimanded myself and made a promise that I would ride it and face my fear. I got on the swinging gondola and only freaked out a little. I survived.
I’ve been on airplanes, I drive (on occasion), I try to put myself in uncomfortable situations. For the most part, I’m not scared of things I haven’t done. Instead, I’m fearful of repeating the uncomfortable feeling that comes with some of these things, like…ROLLER COASTERS.
Yes, I have ridden roller coasters. I do not like drops and I hate being up high. Love the speed and turns of the rides, though. Nevertheless, I will not get on roller coasters. My limit is The Mummy ride at Universal Studios. So, what does someone with a fear of roller coasters do? They get a season pass for Six Flags Magic Mountain.
When people hear this, they often look confused and laugh at my silliness. In my defense, it was a great deal and my husband was getting one and Ninja is the shit…and Gold Rusher…and that’s it. Besides, all the fun is had while waiting in line. Amiright?! No? Ok.
My husband and I went to Six Flags with a friend of ours. While neither of them tried to pressure me on any rides, they did express that they believed I could handle the Batman coaster. There were no drops, just loops and a lot of speed. I trust my husband (he’s the one who thought I could handle The Mummy). He’ll be honest and tell me if he thinks a ride is too intense. I trusted that he believed I could ride the Batman coaster. I didn’t trust myself.
I smiled and told them that I would try it the next time around. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago during an impromptu trip to Six Flags with a couple of friends that I had made another internal promise: YOU WILL GET ON THIS RIDE.
Things have felt a bit out of control lately. Not so much out of general control but out of my control. I’ve been working on breathing through it and letting go. I know I need to let go of my fears and trust that things will be ok. What better way to test myself than to force myself to do something that terrifies me?
To me, Batman was the embodiment of my fears of late. On the outside, it looks terrifying. I’ve never gone through it before so I don’t know how I’ll end up. Then there’s my husband who leads with such confidence and compassion and has my best interests at heart. He’s asking me to trust him because he sees the end and knows it’ll be ok. I’m too focused on the middle where I’m hanging upside down and losing it.
As we waited in line, my husband and our friends were so kind. They saw my anxiety and assured me that no one was forcing me; I didn’t have to go on the ride. Once we were next, I grabbed a seat and strapped myself in. YES, I HAD to do this.
Once again, I was shaking and tears stung my eyes. I held onto the restraints for dear life and I shut my eyes tight.
We were off.
I screamed before the descent and I only stopped screaming so that I could laugh. I even let go of the restraints a few times to try and lift my arms. Have you been on Batman? It’s impossible, but I did manage to throw my arms out in front of me.
It was actually fun.
I felt…free and relieved and hopeful.
Since my adrenaline was pumping and I must have been feeling some type of way, I also got on Scream. This one was less exciting because there’s one part that is most definitely a drop and it felt like it was never going to end and I was going to die.
But I survived.
Then I got on Swashbuckler and if you’re familiar with the ride, you’re laughing because it’s (visually) nothing compared to Batman or Scream. To me, it was huge drops over and over again and I was probably more scared to get on the little boat than the two, big coasters.
But I did it.
By the end of the day, I was elated. I conquered something that had been hanging over my head for so long. I didn’t know what was coming. I didn’t know how it would make me feel. Instead, I trusted the people around me to help me get through it. Afterwards, my problems seemed so small and my fears seemed so manageable.
Riding the coasters and equating them to my life reminded me of the movie Parenthood. There’s one part where Steve Martin is expressing his life’s frustrations to his wife. His grandmother, who everyone writes off as loony, wanders in. She offers him a little story about roller coasters…and life.
Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.
Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!
Gil: What a great story.
Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.
Gosh, I hope I never stop choosing the Roller Coaster way of life.