I have been on a rollercoaster I think twice in my life. The first time I was real young and had no idea what to expect. The following time, I was goaded into it by a family member who said that I was too young to have really appreciated it the first time, and this time it would be much better. It wasn’t.

What stands out most in my mind, the reason I absolutely will not repeat the experience if I can help it, is not so much the hills and twists and loops, that part actually isn’t that bad, maybe I can even see the fun in it, the thrill others get out of it. No – it’s not that. It’s that sickening feeling of helplessness between the time the bar comes down over your legs and reaching the top of that first hill. The inescapable, escalating panic as the coaster chugs up the incline to the top.  There’s no way to back out, it’s completely out of your control.

Even from my earliest years, I had to be in control.

I am currently wrestling with a version of that helpless, out of control dread right now. It’s my own fault, too: about a month ago I signed up for a week-long, out of town class. It’s a really cool class, and it will earn me CE credits for one of my tech certifications as well as give me some useful hands-on experience that will be an asset in my job. It is even in a resort town within driving distance, so I get to go somewhere nice, on the job with expenses paid. That all sounded great a month ago. Now I wish I hadn’t committed to it, and there’s nothing I can do but suck it up and get through it. Backing out is not a choice unless I happen to throw up my own appendix the day before or something.

Actually I shouldn’t joke about that, because in the past when I’ve gotten this stressed, I’ve generally run a fever and had weird flu-like symptoms. Back when I had to go to Atlanta for two weeks for a previous job, I was pretty much sick the whole time.

Originally the thought was that my partner could make the trip with me, which would make it sort of a vacation and less scary, but money is too tight and she can’t take off work. So I have to deal with a complete upheaval of my routine, finding my way around in a strange city, staying in a strange place alone and dealing with meals. Hoping I don’t space on a critical preparation step, or forget to pack anything I can’t live without. Also meeting strangers and steeling up the nerve to force myself to at least set foot on the beach once while I am there, because I’ve never seen the ocean and who knows when I will get another chance.

At least maybe I can decompress a bit on the long drive. I’ll be way too nervous to be drowsy (my daytime sleepiness is well managed by meds)  and I can catch up on podcasts. But I’ll miss my home and family – human and furry – and my predictable routine. I’ll worry about things that are going wrong at work that I’m not there to manage, and I will have to walk into a room full of strangers at least 10-12 times. I haven’t had to do anything like this since before the ‘big crash’ where my communication skills regressed so bad, and it’s made me a lot more self conscious. It’s one of those times when I am not sure if it’s better to know that I’m autistic, because I second guess myself even harder: am I being rude? Was that too long of a pause before answering? Do I sound like I’m slurring my words?

Oh well, nothing I can do except get through the next few days as the stress coaster clacks up the hill to the top. And then hang on…

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