Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Started at the Bottom (Pt. I)

I sat trembling, my board dug deep into the snow. I stared down the hill. The grade wasn't even that steep. What was this? A blue? Possibly? I had ripped down far steeper, more technical slopes before, even going as far as finding small rollers and launching myself into the air. Today, I was incapable of any such maneuvers.

I briefly considered asking ski patrol for a ride down. Apart from the involuntary tremors, I was completely paralyzed. Is this what a panic attack felt like? Why was I completely incapable of snowboarding down a mountain? I had not only managed to do so before, but thoroughly enjoyed the hundreds of hurried rides I'd taken down slopes. Everything I felt was strange and unwelcome, but there was nothing I could do to stave off my fear. I was terrified to ride a snowboard. Until this day, I had always loved snowboarding. I resolved to get down on my own power despite my mind and body's rebellion, in order to preserve some semblance of pride.

The next hour was pure mental agony. I'd ride down the mountain a few hundred yards until my anxiety hit fever pitch, then I'd pull over to the side and sit until I calmed down enough to get up again. I picked my way down the mountain slowly, it was a ride that would have taken me 15 minutes tops, once upon a time.

I had a fear of heights as far back as I could remember, but it was reaching levels I never before experienced. A few months earlier, I planned on going for a casual bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin with a buddy. If you live in SF, the bridge is your gateway to hundreds of miles of beautiful, rural roads. We took off to spend the day up north exploring, without much concern for the trip ahead. We cruised toward the bridge, excited for all that lay on the other side. As we crossed the threshold onto the bridge, I felt a surge of fear and anxiety. My legs locked and my bike rolled to a stop about thirty yards from the beginning of the bridge. I could barely stay upright. I dismounted and ashamedly walked my bike back to solid land where I waited for my buddy to come back. I could see the lack of understanding on his face, but he did his best to console me. I rode back home, dejected. He headed back north for his day of riding.

In my weird world where I'm deathly afraid of heights, the bridge made some degree of sense, even if it was frustrating. Having a snowboarding trip ruined was inexplicable. My fear had reached it's zenith. Apart from this, there had been other worrying signs. I was constantly imagining worst case scenarios. Social functions had become more full of anxiety and self-consciousness than ever before. On a daily basis, I was gritting my teeth to get through activities I had once found enjoyable.

Although it would be a long process of small steps and decisions, it was that day, sitting on that mountain, miserable, defeated, handicapped, that I decided things needed to change.


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