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Years ago, there was a hugely popular theme park in Nashville called Opryland. It was torn down and replaced with a mall, stupidly, and I think whoever made the decision to tear down a perfectly wonderful and popular theme park to put in a horrid discount shopping mall must be regretting it. At least I hope this is the case.

Anyway, my dad, who is a carpenter by trade, did some work on Opryland, and was able to test ride the famous Wabash Cannonball. I used to love telling this story to friends, adding that my dad rode it before they ‘slowed it down.’ I’m not a huge fan of coasters, but I did ride them when I was younger. Until, one day, when, of course, I had a massive freak-out. In the middle of a ride.

I was 19, and my family, along with an aunt, uncle, cousin, and my best friend, all drove down to Disney in Orlando. After spending a few days in the parks, we drove over to Daytona Beach, just an hour or so from Orlando. Daytona Beach has a boardwalk right on the beach, filled with shops, Ski-ball, the usual attractions. But this boardwalk also had an indoor amusement park, which, to this day, I don’t understand. Why indoors? Especially on a beach?

So I took my young cousin in and we decided to ride the Scrambler. That may or may not have been what it was called, but there was a ride just like this in Panama City Beach (at what used to be the Miracle Mile Amusement Park, also now a shopping mall) and it was called the Scrambler. Two people to a pod, with the pods spinning on their own while going in a circle, and also the arms moved up and down. Quite thrilling, if you like that sort of thing.

This indoor park was really quite shabby, and as we whirled round and round, I heard noises and creaks and things that didn’t sound exactly safe. Not to mention I’m pretty sure that the ride was going way faster than is allowed. Which says a lot– at 19, I was what was termed a ‘speed demon’ and had just earned in the neighborhood of 8 speeding tickets in one year.

The faster we spun, the more unsafe I felt, until finally I couldn’t stop myself from screaming. I screamed until they stopped the ride and let me off. As I write this, it’s hard to decide whether to laugh or cry. There is enough distance in time from this event that it’s funny, but with recent events being what they are (a subject for another day), and my anxiety levels being at an all-time high, it’s hard to hold back the tears.

Surely I’m not the first person to do this, but I’ve never witnessed anyone else having a meltdown on a ride. Thank fuck there were no cell phones back then to record my meltdown. I guess that is one huge positive note in an otherwise sad tale.

In December of 1996, I threw away every bit of silverware that I had.  After having spent months & months washing this set of silverware over & over again and never quite getting it clean, I took the easy way out.  I threw it in the trash. From then on, I used plastic utensils. Thirteen years later, and guess what?  Still using plastic.

Traci on “Obsessed” reminded me of this when she talked about her dish washing habits.  And her hand-washing habits.  I think she said it was about 100 times a day;  that’s a lot, in case you were wondering.  Count the number of times you wash your hands on any given day and you will find the number surprisingly lower.  There have been times when my hand-washing was over the 50 times per day mark; I considered it quite an accomplishment to get it down to 30.  But the dishes:  oh that is very familiar territory.

Traci washed the dishes after her roommates washed them, feeling they were not clean enough.  She hovered over her boyfriend while he was trying to cook dinner, watching his every move.  Oh, so familiar.  That fear that others do not wash the dishes well enough & they are therefore contaminated; that absolute need to watch someone prepare food to make sure they don’t use anything you deem ‘dirty’ or unclean.  I understand her boyfriends’ annoyance at this:  I used to drive my mother crazy doing the same things.

I felt nervous for Traci:  I don’t know that I could go into a port-o-potty either.  Just watching this makes me cringe.  Confession:  this is the first time I’ve seen the inside of one!  [current anxiety level from the sofa:  5.  high, I know, but as a fellow mysophobia-sufferer…]   I know the E&R therapy is helpful, but oh my god… the things you have to do.  Anxiety-provoking, dirty, disgusting, horrific things.

Oh, Traci:  now a roller-coaster ride too?  I recently wrote a post [June, I think] about freaking out on a coaster once.  That feeling of being trapped on the coaster is a familiar feeling, as well. Saying that she felt ‘freedom’ again while strapped into that coaster– well what else can one say but well done?  The therapy made her feel less the ‘prisoner’ she felt she was in the beginning of the show.

I love Dr. Shana’s approach with hoarding; the yard-sale is a great idea.  However, Judi experienced quite a bit of anxiety in giving up her things.  The value of the items to her is of course much more than the price put on those items.  I think it’s quite sad to put all your belongings out on the lawn, for others to judge worthy or not.  Items represent your life in some ways, whether you want them to or not.  It’s interesting to me that we usually tend to label some people who collect things as ‘hoarders’ and at other times ‘materialistic.’  I think the line of demarcation must be the emotional meaning that items hold for hoarders, and the anxiety it can bring when trying to get rid of those items.  It’s so nice to see how proud Judi was of her house after the big clean-out, and how nice it was to have her in-laws over for dinner– for the first time.  What a huge accomplishment for her.

Monday nights are doomed to be sob-fests for me, so long as A&E continues to show “Obsessed.”  And I so hope they do.

In 1989, I went on a family vacation, which included a stop in Daytona Beach, Florida.  I was about 19 years old at the time.  My best friend came with us, as well as some family from Virginia.

There’s a boardwalk in Daytona Beach, which (at the time) included a sort of indoor amusement park.  Inside this park, there was a roller coaster called “The Scrambler.”  You know the one:  lots of different arms ending in receptacles with room enough for two.  The entire ride spins around, moves up and down; individually, the receptacles (for lack of a better word) also spin around independently.  This all happens really, really fast.

I took one of my very young relatives on this ride.  This thing went fast:  I mean really, really fast.  Now, I’m a gal who drives a fast car, and who loves the take-off portion of flights:  I am not afraid of speed.  Imagine my embarrassment at what happened next.

Screaming.  Screaming at the top of my lungs.  I am in public, on a kid’s coaster, and I am screaming for them to stop this goddamned ride and let me off.  I did not stop screaming until they stopped the ride.

Everyone was a little shocked but concerned.  I was shaky.  They asked if I was ok, and I shuffled off, saying yes, yes, I’m ok.  I was a bit embarrassed.  Screaming in public is just not cool.

But here’s the thing:  the fear I experienced that day was so strong that my response was automatic, unavoidable.  Having had anxiety for all of my life, I try & have always tried to hide it, to keep it a secret, to not let anyone know what I was experiencing.  I’ve put on an Oscar-worthy performance for most of my life.  That was just one time that I could not push through the anxiety.

So, I was just doing some research on claustrophobia.  Lately, I’ve been experiencing anxiety in places I’ve not had it before:  movie theaters, crowds in open spaces, thoughts of flying.  Just thoughts of flying make my heart race.  Turns out, roller coasters can also cause claustrophobia:  because of the constraints used to keep one in the seat.  Ridiculous!  But as I read through the symptoms, they are dead-on to what I’ve been experiencing lately.  That absolute need to have an escape route, that feeling of being trapped, that need to escape, or know that there is a way to escape.   I have all the classic symptoms.  Lucky me.

It’s an odd sensation, when you read something that describes your problems so accurately.  You at first feel relief, knowing that what you are experiencing is known, it has a name, which means it has a cause, and probably a treatment.  On the other hand, it means that you have a diagnosis.  Something is amiss with you.  Something is disordered.

Mantra for the day:  Don’t panic.  It’s only a phobia.

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