I recently bought roller skates for my two youngest daughters. They had never roller skated before, but we were determined to teach them because we want them to spend more time away from their screens and more time outdoors, being kids. While I was watching them, it occurred to me that roller skating is a lot like anxiety. That may sound like a strange comparison, but hear me out. When you live with anxiety day in and day out, you tend to discover strange similarities like this one.
It’s Scary at First
Roller Skating: Think about that first time you laced up your roller skates. Unless you were used to moving around on wheels, it’s scary. You feel shaky and unbalanced, like you could crash into something at any moment. It seems unlikely that you’ll ever get used to the feeling.
Anxiety: Now think about that first time you experienced anxiety. It’s also scary. You feel shaky and unbalanced, like your life could crash at any moment. It seems unlikely that you’ll ever get used to the feeling.
You’ll Probably Fall Down a Lot
Roller Skating: That first time, and possibly the next few times after that, you feel like you’re going to fall. In fact, you may just do that, a number of times. You might get hurt physically if you aren’t wearing protective gear, but you may also get hurt mentally. That first fall may stop you from getting up and trying again. You’re afraid that you’ll get injured again, possibly worse next time. You go over everything you may have done wrong, that caused you to fall and make sure to do things differently in the future.
Anxiety: The first time, and probably all of the other times after that, you feel like you’re falling, like there is no way to stop yourself from falling again. That first anxiety attack is now forever etched into your brain. It’s damaged you mentally. You may be afraid that it’s going to happen again, so you think of every possible scenario that might have caused this one. You vow to never do any of those things again, in hopes that you will never experience another anxiety attack. You’re afraid that next time, it might be worse.
Going too Fast and it’s Hard to Stop
Roller Skating: Once you finally get going, especially if it’s even slightly downhill, you are rolling fast. Everything is passing on each side of you and you hope nothing gets in your way. Even with those little rubber stoppers, you aren’t sure you can stop. What if you try to stop and wind up falling? Can you use that speed to your advantage? Maybe. It’s a rush. You haven’t felt anything like it before, it’s a mixture of excitement and terror, all rolled into one. All you can do is breathe and take in the moment, until you finally come to a stop.
Anxiety: Once you have a panic attack, you feel like you’re rolling downhill. It’s fast. Life is going on around you, but it’s too blurry for you to notice. All you can focus on is the panic and trying to figure out how to stop yourself. What if this lasts forever? Can you live life like this? It’s terrifying. You wish you had a stop button, but nothing like that exists. You breathe, slowly and thoughtfully until the panic finally comes to a stop.
Once you Get Past Initial Fear, it isn’t so Scary
Roller Skating: Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, and get past the initial fear, you’ll find that roller skating isn’t so scary. You have learned to control your body and your movements in a way that has allowed you to enjoy it. You look forward to roller skating again and each time, it gets easier and easier for you to do it without getting hurt.
Anxiety: While anxiety attacks are scary, once you’ve lived through them and realize that you can get through them with some breathing techniques, it’s a little less scary. You have learned that distraction, focusing on your breathing and mindfulness have allowed you to get into control of yourself during this scary time. You’ve built up a shield of armor that can be pulled out and used to fight the scary feelings over and over again, until they’re gone.
Someone Can Hold Your Hand
Roller Skating: While you’ve finally learned to skate on your own, you know that skating with a friend or family member is easier, and more fun. They can help you balance and enjoy the experience with you. Together, you can hold hands and conquer the moment. Sure, you might fall, but falling together can be less scary and even funny in some situations.
Anxiety: While there are moments during an anxiety attack, where you might want to be left alone, in most cases, having someone just nearby, or holding your hand, makes it a little less scary. They can remind you to breathe, distract you or just comfort you a bit. Sure, it’s a panic attack, but it’s a little less scary knowing you aren’t alone.
Do you see how anxiety and roller skating are similar? Can you think of any other similarities?
Make sure to read more about my journey with anxiety and share yours in the comments below. Together, we can get through this.