The Scare-Lift

Using the word scare-lift seems interesting terminology. Something made up, used as some kind of description. In fact, that was exactly how the term came out of my mouth. Sitting in the office of the psychologist, Dr. Dave. I was meaning to discuss my fear around riding a chairlift. Dr. Dave has skied all of his life. Giving him the ability to know what I was attempting to talk about. He didn’t mention anything, as I continued along with my thought pattern. It was me, who caught myself at thoughts end. Asking, did I just call it a scare-lift? He kindly responded by affirming my suspicion. While, my thoughts moved on to the obvious fear I had of riding a chairlift. It would be one of the major obstacles of going up to ski on my own, a goal I had been intending to discussing with Dr. Dave at the time I misspoke. The preparations were being made to ski solo, for the first time, the following week. Though putting on my equipment and fastening everything would be a major challenge. The riding of the chair on my own loomed large. There had been uncomfortable experiences in my life when riding the chairlift. Nothing real traumatic that I could specifically point too. I just remember always being scared of riding up the mountain on a chair. Heights have often been challenging for me, along with feeling confined in small spaces. Probably not the best combo for riding a chairlift. 

Often, the double chairs were the ones to cause the most fear. The seats on them always felt really small. Without much feeling of security. The bar on the far side of the seat didn’t rise very high. Maybe, barely coming halfway up on your hip. The double chair felt like I could fall off at any moment. It often felt like my disability also played a role in this fear. Feeling like I had to sit still while on this type of chair. Which, with the spastic nature of my cerebral palsy, sitting still was a constant challenge. This fear of the double chair became unbearable when skiing as a youth. During junior high school, I loved the idea of skiing. Wanting to show independence, I signed up to ride the ski bus each weekend. But, I was still terrified to ski alone. We would have classes of skiing and free time to ski with friends. In my mind, it would be an awesome way to spend my winter Saturdays. I signed up with all my friends and looked forward to the weekend. There were some things I didn’t take into consideration. The main thing being my ability to ski with my disability. Believing I could keep up with my friends on the slopes wasn’t realistic. 

Those weekends led to more fear around skiing. I didn’t end up achieving the added independence I was looking to achieve. The memory burnt into my mind was trying to keep up with a friend when getting onto a chair. It was early on a sunny Saturday morning after arriving on the ski bus. We were headed for our first run, as I struggled to keep pace. Hoping he would wait for me, so we could ride the chair together. He went on and loaded the double chair on his own, leaving me to get on one behind. I had never ridden on a chairlift alone and was freaked out by the idea. But, I got on anyway, trembling the entire journey to the top. I arrived safely at the top of the slope and skied down successfully. The fear of that ride never left me and sitting in the office of Dr. Dave, it was still in my emotions. The incident on that slope in junior high didn’t stop me from skiing again. However, it made me feel a sense of loneliness I hadn’t felt before that point. The friends’ I was hoping to ski with during that winter were better and I couldn’t keep up. It had me feeling left in the dust. Even though, I had skied with friends’ in high school and early college. The fear of being left behind continued to linger. Now, some twenty-five years later, I was hoping to overcome the fear. Finally, finding the independence that had been elusive. The ability to ski by myself, without the stifling fear. 

In the years since high school and college. I have skied a few times here and there, all resulting in positive experience. Those years of going up to the mountain positively helped open opportunity. Along with spending the year recovering from a silent addiction. My thought process had become clearer. My emotions were gaining stability. With all my growth, it felt like time to try gaining independence. I had been on the Daisy chair many times in my life. It had been changed to a quad chair, from a triple chair, a few years prior. Meaning there was plenty of room on the seat. Especially, when riding as one person. With the new chair, there was a bar that could be pulled down to surround anyone on board. Providing even more comfort while riding the lift. All of these aspects led to the hope of a positive experience. Another fear of mine, was handling the chair stopping on its way up the hill. The stopping of a chairlift has always left me frightful. Feeling the anxiety bubble up inside my body. Sometimes it would be controllable through conversation with whomever I might be riding alongside. But, at other times. my fear could overwhelm. I was hoping my maturity had reached a point to not only ride the lift, solo. But, be able to handle a start and stop with little to no fear. 

I remember moving up to load the daisy chair. It was a quiet morning in the middle of the week. Thinking there would be some kind of reaction from my body. The feeling of fear somewhere, taunting me not to load the lift. Whispering I could get stuck, without the ability to get down safely. Or, something could go terribly wrong, leaving the chair plunging toward the mountain. These were the thoughts I had battle in the past. Those thoughts didn’t show up that morning, as I sat on the moving chair. While it lifted off the snow, toward the sky. My mind remained quiet and even comfortable. I pulled the bar down for the secure feeling it provided. To my surprise, I sat back, enjoying my ride to the top. I loaded and unloaded the daisy chair more than ten times that day. Even when the chair stopped momentarily on one of my trips. Those old feelings of panic stayed silent, as I watched skiers under me, learning how to make solid turns. Driving down the mountain that day. The gripping fear that had lasted years took a huge step toward healing. As, I looked forward to doing it all again the following week.  

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