Oh, anxiety attacks, how I love them. They come unexpectedly, sometimes without a cause, or at times it’s just a plain absurd reason.
There I was, at Epcot, with my friend and sister, Angie, who came to visit me from Ohio with her fiancé. They are big science nerds so, of course, they wanted to ride Mission: Space. For those of you not familiar with this ride at Epcot, it’s pretty much a launch simulator of what an astronaut might experience inside a spacecraft going into space. The simulator is an enclosed capsule with literally no space to move and with a dashboard of buttons inches from your face.
Not the actual capsule, just a display in the line.
Now, I’ve been on this ride a few times before and I’ve found that every time I go back to it my ability to tolerate it seems to be less. My friends asked me several times if I was sure I was going to do it, which I definitely was not but somehow my head got ahead of my words and I nodded. However, inside my mind little Kheys were running around freaking out about it. I tried to keep calm but I’m sure my face was a dead giveaway that I was not okay since they kept asking me.
Me and fiancé walking to my death.
So I was already dizzy when we stepped into the capsule. I sat down and as soon as I buckled up my brain decided that it was a bad, bad idea. I raised my hands to stop the cast member from closing the capsule but it was too late: she closed.
An alarm went off my brain as if I was in immediate danger. Invisible hands pressed hard down my chest, and suddenly I was gasping for air. There just wasn’t enough air.
Who invented that awful machine anyways?
I started knocking on the door, hoping she could hear me. Knocked once, twice, but no response.
“Hey, guys, I think i’m having an attack.” I said while I pounded on the door even harder. An immense fear took over my body and I knew I was going to die in a launch simulator at Disney World.
My friend held my hand and squeezed hard, “Khey you cannot go outside, you’re contaminated and you cannot go back to Earth. You have to do this.” and then she smiled.
“Yeah, I have to do this.”
This is what I did and thought during those few seconds before the little screen in front on me turned on:
I took a deep breath and relaxed my shoulders.
Relaxing the body, taking deep and long breaths takes training and so much effort. I didn’t think focusing on my breath could make any difference, however, I’ve found it’s the first step to avoid the attack take over because it’s the immediate thing I can take control of.
The worse case scenario is not dying.
Many tragic scenarios played in my head in a matter of seconds. I was so afraid that the pain I was feeling would kill me right there. I believe the worse thing that could happen is not death and we should stop thinking it is. Besides, an anxiety attack, as painful as it is, won’t kill you!
I gave in to imagination.
My friend was living it so I focused on what she said and totally believed I was a trained astronaut finally leaving Earth! If my brain wants to convince me I was about to die, well guess what? I’m in charge and I can convince myself I’m on an actual mission, why not.
I fake laughed until it became real.
I once read that fake laughing could eventually become genuine so I gave it a try because right there I had nothing to lose but my mind. And I lost that a long time ago.
If I could survive those 3 minutes, I’ll come out 10x stronger.
And so I did.
I let my friend’s hand go and looked straight ahead to the little screen and I started laughing, already feeling the heavy stone lift from my chest.
What triggered my anxiety attack was the fact that I dumbly thought Disney keeps cameras in all machines, they watch us closely, so I was pretty sure they were going to stop the machine and let me out. I thought if I’m not being watched then what if I have a heart attack or something and I die here because they won’t notice I need help. It was absurd, I know, but sometimes silly thoughts like that can cause so much pain which is why we need to learn how to control it. It’s hard but it is possible.
Have a good day pineapples!
Thanks to Angie for letting me use her pics and supporting me in facing my fears. 😉