A rollercoaster often starts out slow, moving upward, tension building as it climbs. Once it reaches the top of the first incline, the real adventure begins. Twists, turns, rolls, and spins jolt the whole body. Squeals and screams express excitement and/or fear, depending on the rider. Then it stops, just abruptly as it began. Cue feelings of relief.
When I was younger, rollercoasters were a thrill. Riding over and over, I would laugh and scream, loving that rush of adrenaline. That is no longer the case, and it hasn’t been for quite a while. As a matter of fact, I once had an anxiety attack in front of my kids involving a rollercoaster.
We had taken a family vacation to Kansas City. A fun road trip which would include shopping, museums, eating, and an amusement park. The kids were excited. Each had a favorite activity on the list. And everyone was looking forward to the amusement park. Everyone except me.
Looking back, I now realize anxiety crept in before we even arrived in Kansas City. Any mention of the park would cause my stomach to nervously turn and tears would start to form. I would suddenly feel tense, my heart racing. And then I would push it all away, trying to breathe and focus on the activity at hand.
What I didn’t realize, was that pushing these feelings away did not get rid of them. It only buried them temporarily. And when we simply bury feelings, they are sure to resurface at some unsuspecting moment. When they do, controlling them becomes almost impossible.
We stood in line for a ride, the Patriot, I think. As we waited, I felt sick. I found myself taking deep breaths, working hard to keep it together. I told myself, “You are not being logical. There is nothing to be afraid of.” But I could not seem to accept what I knew to be true.
As we approached our turn, I didn’t know what to do. My thoughts were frantic, not making any sense. Once the gate opened for our family to take our seats, I couldn’t get on. Embarrassed, I said, “I can’t do this,” and walked through to the exit.
My tears could not be held any longer. I was so mortified. My family was having an adventure, and I was missing out. Not wanting the kids to see me so upset, I attempted to pull it together.
As my husband and the boys took off to ride more rides, my sweet Rachel hung out with me. We got snow-cones and sat and talked. She reassured me that it was ok. My embarrassment was not erased, but I knew my family understood.
I did manage to return to that ride before our day was done. Somehow, I pushed through the anxiety and rode the darn thing one time. Once was enough. I certainly cannot say I enjoyed the experience, but there was a brief sense of relief. A few minutes of overcoming the illogical which often accompanies anxiety.
Support of family and friends, medication, recognition, and prayer have helped decrease these feelings and make the remaining ones more manageable. It would be foolish to think I will never experience anxiety again. Since life itself is much like that rollercoaster, it is to be expected.
My goal is to continue learning how to live contently, despite events or circumstances. That includes times of grief and celebration. Recognizing that the rollercoaster does not control my reactions. That is on me. And admitting that I sometimes need a little help is the first step in beating those feelings of anxiety.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. Philippians 4:11