Friday, April 13, 2007

I'm a freak...

...or a one of a kind. That sounds better. Or. Less bad.

I leave for my conference a week from today.

It will be the first time that I've ever flown. I'm a bit nervous. Not so much about the fact that I'll be flying. It's the descent. Ever since I was a kid, going down hills in a car was a cause of discomfort. I'm told by my mom that, as a kid, even going down stairs fast was too much. I'm always a bit wary of elevators (except the one in the math department here, which so slow that it's often barely faster than taking the stairs). Most amusement park rides are out. Even "the swings" (which is usually known as the Yo-yo). It's a rather simple ride. Swings go around in a circle, tilted so that the axis of rotation is not perpendicular to the ground. I went on this ride figuring, "Hey. This looks pretty simple. Doubt that it will cause the usual reaction." I was wrong. Some of the more advanced rides, involving multiple axes of rotation are likely out (even if they rotate parallel to the ground). I've subjected myself to the tilt-a-whirl a few times. But it wasn't really fun. There are other rides that I will never touch again. I've been on a rollercoaster twice. Once to see if I could handle it, and a second time to show a friend, who was the one who pushed me to see if I could handle it the first time, why I never wanted to go on one again.

It's hard to describe the feeling to someone else. It's something like how my stomach feels when I'm nervous or anxious, but not quite the same, and much more intense. Butterflies. Losing my stomach. People ask me if it's motion sickness (indeed, reports say that I was rather pale after my second rollercoaster experience). No. Not even close, aside from the reported paleness. There isn't even a hint of nausea.

Depending on the intensity my reaction varies. In a car or on an elevator, I don't think you'd notice. So far nobody has. I might take a quick, slightly voiced, breath inwards, but that's it. The worst reactions came from the roller coaster and one fair ride called the Scrambler. They both involved a lot of kicking and, hmm..., ?loud moaning?. In the case of the Scrambler, I was yelling at the ride operator to stop the ride. I got the same reaction from a ride that was similar to the Scrambler (and that I went on before my attempt at the Scrambler), but by the end it wasn't much worse than in a car. The ?loud moaning? only lasted the first two or three times around. I went on the tilt-a-whirl as many times as I did, because the reaction was at least bearable, if unpleasant. I thought that if I went on it enough times, I would desensitize myself. No such luck.

I was describing this to someone recently, who was asking about my thoughts about flying for the first time. He suspected that I was not the only one to suffer from this reaction, and that a doctor would know more and be able to recommend something. I was hoping he would be right. Earlier today, on his advice, I went to the doctor and described, in fewer words than I have used here, what I thought could be a problem with flying (or landing, to be precise). She had never heard of anything like it before. The best she could come up with was that it was something to do with anxiety. But the feeling comes whether I'm expecting the rapid descent or not.

Usually it's nice to know that you're unique. But in this case, I'd rather be like everyone else. Heck, I'd even settle for being like someone else.

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