Feeling more of feelings can be a good thing or a bad thing. It was a bad thing for me at the climbing gym yesterday. I saw the parking lot full of cars as I pulled in with my truck and backed into a parking space of my own. I gathered my things, hoping that they were all there for a birthday party up on the mezzanine and that there weren’t really that many people there to climb. The thing about false hope is that it lets you down pretty hard. I walked through the door, saw all the people, and felt the anxiety flood over me, petrifying me instantly. McKenzie was there and welcomed me, knowing that my thoughts were occupied by those of running back out the door, and Anthony greeted me as well. I scanned my ID tag reluctantly and walked over to the bench beside the vending machine. From there, I looked around for a suitable cubby to stash my belongings in. I spotted one at the far end of the bouldering area and made my way over to it. There were people everywhere. I knew only seven people in the whole place, and three of them worked at the gym! I simply stuffed my crag pack, my iPad Mini, my climbing log, and my hoodie in the cubby and went over to fill my water bottle with water at the drinking fountain. Heath, one of the owners, had a bright green vest on and was giving his time to being a belay slave for people, mostly kids, who needed someone to belay them on toprope. I was desperately trying to overcome my anxiety as I placed my orange HydroFlask in its place at the water fountain to fill it. More people were coming in the door all the time, as if there weren’t enough in there already. I took a few swigs out of my HydroFlask and found my place at the end of the bench where my gear was again.
McKenzie came over to say hello when she got an opportunity and gave me a hug. “I set up Harold last night,” she said, excitedly. Harold, as you may remember, is the robotic, water-activated shark, complete with plastic fish bowl, that I had given her yesterday because I thought she needed a pet and a friend. I told McKenzie it was really busy. She agreed. “Maybe you could go up and spend some time on the bike,” she suggested. I looked up at the mezzanine. I group of men were standing around and leaning on the bike I usually do my cardio on. I couldn’t deal with people yesterday, so that was out. McKenzie offered to go bark at them, but I told her I might just walk right back out the door because it was way too busy for me in there. McKenzie is such a fantastic friend, and I’m so blessed to have her!
I sat and stared at my iPad for awhile, flipping between the screens and trying to get a handle on the anxiety. It wasn’t going to happen. I thought that I might be able to interview a couple of the people I knew, like Mike and his wife, or McKenzie, or Anthony, for my Sunday Sesh blog that I had high hopes of making a weekly blog phenomenon of, but that didn’t happen, either. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t get the anxiety under control, and that quickly plunged me into feelings of failure, which were both catastrophic and generalized across the board to everything in my life. I managed to stay there for 41 minutes before I had to pack up and leave. McKenzie stopped me on my way out. “Oh, Chris! I was thinking Harold needs a pirate ship, so I might get him a pirate ship!” I thought that was a great idea, and Anthony said he drives by the Heights Pet Center every day, so he could swing in there and pick one up. I love how excited McKenzie is about Harold. It made me feel good. She gave me a big hug and both of them bade me farewell. McKenzie told me to drive safe. I appreciated that very much.
I unlocked my truck, got in with my gear, started it up, and drove away feeling like a complete and utter failure. I had failed. I had managed to get to the gym, go inside, get settled in as much as was possible, and that was as far as I got. I hadn’t touched the zippers of my crag pack to unzip it. I hadn’t touched my climbing shoes or my chalk bag at the gym. I certainly hadn’t managed to get my shoes on, much less touch or climb on the wall… I noticed that I was driving by Shipton’s and I wanted to stop. I kept driving with my doctor’s voice in the back of my head – “Don’t do anything stupid”. I drove straight back to my apartment. I hadn’t been able to tame the anxiety. Not even close. After 41 minutes of sitting in it, surrounded by chaos but still wanting to climb, I had left without so much as touching my gear. Total. Fail.
I got back to my apartment and my husband asked me what happened. I told him it was crazy busy at the climbing gym. He took me for a drive and we got ice tea at McDonald’s. He knows what a big deal climbing is to me and that I need it to be healthy mentally and physically. I had told him about the medication change on Friday and again on Saturday. Yesterday was a disaster for me, and he knew it. We went for a long drive and it began to rain, then to snow lightly. Our weather for the next week is supposed to be decidedly unsettled and very un-spring-like. I was glad that we were driving around, looking at things, enjoying our ice teas together. I began to calm down some…
I tell you these things in my climbing blog not to bore you, but to demonstrate what else might be going on with a person – your friend or that stranger, or anybody – and why they may desperately need climbing in their lives. A lot of non-climbers think we’re insane and that we deserve the horrible accidents that may happen to us as we pursue this passion of climbing that we have. For some of us, it’s the only thing that can save us, and we gladly take on the calculated risks involved to gain that relief that only climbing can give. Feeling more of my feelings may or may not be good, bad, or ugly. The simplest things caused such intense emotional reactions yesterday… Is it better to feel all that in such raw form, or to be numbed a bit and semi-functional?