The Roller Coaster of Denial

We’ve all heard the saying “Life is like a roller coaster, it has its ups and downs. But it’s your choice whether to scream or enjoy the ride.”

My version of that saying is to replace the word “scream” for something more along the lines of “deny” or “shut your eyes” or “ignore”.

Today I want to open up to you guys about the roller coaster that has at times been a very prominent piece of equipment in my life.

As a kid my family and I always visited the Gold Coast theme parks once a year which my sisters and I always so looked forward to as it meant that we could finally escape the freezing Tasmanian winter (which lasts about 10 months of the year) and the dull and pervading school days and step into the freedom, excitement and sunny side of life. I was the kid that dreaded the slides, dreaded the flume rides, and felt claustrophobic on even the most basic and chilled rides. I would choose to shut my eyes, tense my body and hold my breath until it was all over.

Fear was incredibly present for me in those moments. My coping strategy at these times was to deny or ignore. Deny my surroundings, deny knowing whether I was upside down or back the front and to shut off the intensity of my experience until I felt safe. I did what was fairly normal and it was my way of coping with a situation that moved too fast for me to be able to process both physically and mentally. At the time, this was a positive thing because I still looked (to my family) like I was brave enough to partake in these “life threatening” scenarios.

Here I was years later however as an adult with my eyes shut partaking in my own world of denial – at some level acknowledging that it wasn’t where I wanted to be, but still choosing to hand over the controls. I was waiting to feel safe before opening my eyes which meant that I stayed in an unhealthy situation for far too long to the detriment of not just me but to other people around me.

Denial can be present to all of us when we feel vulnerable or have our sense of control threatened which can be anything from illness, addiction, eating disorders, personal violence or financial or relationship problems. The problem with this is that it can stop us from getting help and moving forward in our lives toward happiness or love or better health.

What I’ve realised is that denial can be a good thing, as long as it is only temporary. It buys us time for inner selves to catch up but we then have to recognise when it’s holding us back.

Sure, old habits die hard and I still shut my eyes from time to time but my change in mindset through suffering for far too long has resulted in a life that is now so much richer and more rewarding.

Now I enjoy the ride

Anna Honeychurch