Have you ever been on one of those zero gravity rides at the fair? They’re usually open circles you step into and everybody faces the center while the forces of it spinning hold them to the walls. When I was really young, I remember riding that with my aunt, who loves heavy metal and they would play heavy metal songs, including what remains to this day to be one of my favorite songs (in spite of the fact that heavy metal isn’t my preferred genre): Enter Sandman by Metallica.
I remember that it was enclosed back then and looked like a space ship. Every year, I was always terrified but it was my second favorite ride. I would stand in the line, feeling the forces of the overwhelmingly loud base beating against my throat and pushing against my chest. It felt like somebody took a subwoofer, slipped it into my head through my ear, turned it all the way up and hit play. Although I would stand there waiting for extended periods, the loud, in-your-face noise continued to feel sudden and abrupt. I would try to mask my fear so my cousins and brother didn’t tease me, so that I didn’t handle it worse than my next youngest cousin while debating whether or not I could physically force myself to step on the ride. When the operator would open the gate for us to enter, I’d feel the base pressure lodge in my throat and my heart would jump to meet it. It felt like an inevitable sentence I accepted as I stepped through the door, all the while knowing I had ridden it many times before and should be fine. That’s what makes it fun and that’s what also makes it scary. Adrenaline can be a drug or it can be a lifeline but the scary thing is in the moment, we can’t always separate our fear and perceptions from actual dangers.
That’s what PSTD feels like for me, minus the fun part. I feel eight or nine years old again, shifting my weight from foot to foot and trying not to shutter or wince from the loud noise that overpowers me and obscures my other senses, senses I have relied upon my whole life to keep me safe. I carry that ride in me everywhere and the main difference is that, unlike knowing the fair comes in October each year, it makes itself known on its own schedule, usually when I am already uneasy, haven’t eaten or slept much, or it’s simply a day that ends in d-a-y. It’s what has me on the fence about attending events or spending time with people, just like I stood in the line playing chicken with myself, waiting to see if my thrill-seeking side would run over my fearful side to get into the space ship or if the fearful kid in me will give in to instinct.
This awesome image of the zero gravity ride is from psychedelicfivecats on Flickr. You can find the account here.