How Our Mental Health Resembles An Amusement Park

As I was questioning whether I could fly to & make it through a wk in Europe for my best friend’s wedding, I took inventory of what still feels “off” from my PTSD crash. Not everyone is going to experience MH declines in the same way, w the exact same symptoms – but there are a lot of similarities regardless of our “complication” w respect to how it messes w our senses – our ability to feel/think/act/emote at our “best” (or at least what we may have been accustomed to in the past).
Regardless of the condition, we recognize things, & compared to how we experienced them in the past, we either feel like 1) we can’t experience/feel/recognize them to the same level or even at all, or 2) we notice them, but the way our brain/body interprets those things seem way different. It’s my hope that drawing this amusement park analogy will help those of you struggling right now feel less alone, & help caregivers better understand how a friend/loved one is feeling.
Most of us have been to an amusement park – a place that activates so many of our senses. Kids running arnd smiling. Some crying bc of fear of rides or bumps & bruises. Adults trying to act like kids. Some adults not participating at all. Strong smells of cotton candy & fried everything. Larger than life roller coasters you marvel at. High-speed adventure. Love in the air for those who come on a date. Siblings fighting. Loud music & sound effects. Let’s consider the amusement park an analogy for life, generally, when things are going “ok” – a whole lot to take in & feel all at once.
Most amusement parks however, also have: the “Haunted House.” Unlike the rest of the park, it’s dark when you get inside. You don’t hear anything at first, & then a sound comes out of nowhere to jar you. Maybe you’re riding thru the house on a small car & your car dips quickly. You can’t see the road in front so you never know what way you’re going to turn, or whether you’re abt to climb or fall. Props designed to make you jump, fall from the sky. Red lights blink. There are walls that you approach where it feels like your car won’t be able to make it thru w/o a major accident. Even walls that cave in on you.
Whereas you have full access to your senses in the amusement park, in the Haunted House, you feel alone, off balance, unaware, on edge, w/o perspective, etc. Not much different from how MH complications mess w our sense of time, our balance, our memories, our vision of what’s to come next.
The amazing thing is – IF you’re ok w going thru the Haunted House many times…going thru gets easier & easier. The things that jump out at you, you expect to come. The things you cannot see don’t bother you as much. You learn to navigate thru w/o an awful experience. And…eventually, you do get out & leave the House, & get back to the Park where you can enjoy again. We need to be ok that the House may be what our experience is like now. But – we must also understand that the House becomes a lot less scary the more times we go thru. We need to be ok being “not fully ok,” to get to where we want to go.

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