At the beginning of the summer, my family went to VA to visit relatives. We ended up spending a day at Busch Gardens, because we always do when we go down there. Somewhere during the day, I decided that I was going to ride a roller coaster. I have ridden them--even some of the ones at that park--but they completely terrify me. It's more that I'm scared of having a panic attack when I can't get out of the initiating situation than that I'm scared of the ride. So I made my desire known: I was going to ride a roller coaster for the first time in 12 years.
I spent much the day agonizing over which one to ride. This one was too scary, that one was a hanging coaster, the one over there was a standing coaster. Finally thought I was going on Loch Ness, but it turns out the coaster goes through a tunnel--a tiny, 3 second tunnel, but my claustrophobia jumped on top of my fear of anxiety attacks and I changed my mind. That left exactly no roller coasters I could go on.
As the day drew to a close I kept pacing back and forth past Loch Ness. The park was closing in 30 minutes. We'd done everything we planned on doing...except for me getting on a roller coaster. We could leave when I was ready. I walked away. I walked back. Then I walked away again. We headed for the exit with me feeling utterly defeated after what should have been a great day. Instead I spent the whole ride home lamenting that I hadn't done what I planned to do.
On the drive home from VA, I mentioned my disappointment and my husband, ever helpful, said, "Canobi Lake has roller coasters." I decided then that I was going to ride a roller coaster before the end of the summer, no matter what.
Well, we went to Canobi yesterday. It took some working up to, but I did get in line for the Cannonball. I thought, "How bad can this one be? It's stuck to the ground, no upside downs, no twists, just a 65 mph train ride. I've ridden in trains before." 2 things worked together to make me actually go on it. The girl in front of me chickened out and had to make her way out of the long, winding line, and my husband said, "See? Do you want to be that person?" No, I didn't. Also, the line was so long, that by the time it was our turn, I just wanted it over with so I could go get a drink. It's like coming to month 8 in your first pregnancy: you used to be scared or worried about the delivery process, but now you just want the baby out; you don't care what you have to go through.
The roller coaster was terrible. The first drop was worse than I thought. I closed my eyes and clung to the safety bar. Apparently I didn't buckle my seat belt tightly enough because I kept getting thrown forward so I hit my knee on the metal seat in front of me. I stopped breathing and only started again because I reasoned with myself that I couldn't hold my breath for 2 minutes: I'd pass out before the ride was over. Slow, labor breaths.... When the ride finally stopped, tears were streaming down my face. My knee hurt, my hip hurt, I'd strained my wrist because of how I was holding onto the safety bar....I'm not ashamed to admit it: roller coasters are not my thing. But I did it. I overcame my fear. I spent the rest of the day going on other, non-coaster rides that I'd always been too afraid to go one because if I could do *that*, this couldn't be as bad. I even found a couple rides that I actually enjoyed.
It might sound stupid, but it was sort of empowering. I was afraid of being afraid, and now I know that being afraid is OK. I used to have debilitating panic attacks, but now I know I've developed the coping skills necessary to get me safely through situations that I think might be too much for me.