I was slipping but I wasn’t falling, so that was something.
Today I was clinging to the side of a mud laden hill when a childhood flashback blurred my vision. This time was a bit different as I was that much older and more susceptible to broken bones and the like.
No soft snow to land on here, either. Only rock, turf and stone fences.
I must have been 10 or 11…
I’m searching my mind and I can see my brother, Matt, the mountain goat he was as a boy, and our neighbouring friends, Curt & Mac McRae, the proud owners of The Big A, scampering up this snow hill made by the blowout of said neighbour’s farmyard and drive. My sister, Jenn was smaller and only lasted a bit before her and the youngest McRae, Catherine, headed in for hot chocolate.
We spent hours out there.
Climbing up the hill and tobogganing down it, the cold only ever showing evidence by the rosiness of our cheeks and noses and our steam-train breath.
One of these times, we had a 3 seater, wooden toboggan and maaaaaan was it quick! I was down at the bottom marshalling with the ‘Ready-Set-Go’ with Curt, Matt (my bro), and Mac at the top of this snow mountain, balanced ready for flight.
And off they went.... steaming down the side at Mock 2.
They hit a bump… flew Dukes of Hazzard style but luckily landed it for a 10.
However, the cheers were short lived as even in my early foresight I could instantly see they had changed course and now were heading for the big oak tree at the ‘back’ of the hill.
I started waving my arms, “You gotta bail, boys! You gotta bail! You’re gonna hit the tree!”
Curt heard me and hurled himself off the sled to the right. Matt, now seeing the impending danger tore himself off and ditched himself to the left, leaving Mac on the back 3rd square riding the doomed toboggan. There was no more time to stop him, no more time to intercede or throw him off course and the toboggan hit the tree square on…SMACK!!
And poor Mac skipped forward from square 3 to square 2 to the front square in rapid gun fire succession and head butted the tree.
It went quiet. That quiet when kids hold their breath and know not to say anything.
Mac tipped over into the snow. We ran to see if he was ok. There was Mac, laying on his side and smiling up at us, asked simply, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me to bail?’
We all looked at each other. Seeing it was ok…that Mac was ok, and collapsed into the snow banks laughing, half crying of relief and all talking at the same time reliving every, single moment of 'our near death experience’.
That same day I had moccasin boots on. They were the warmest boots and the ones we used for snowshoeing. They may have been warm but they had no grip. Just smooth, leather pads.
The other 3 kids were literally running laps up and down beside me as I tried to get a foothold up the snow hill, but I kept sliding down to the bottom. In fact, I can’t remember ever making it to the top that day. What I do remember is thinking, ‘this can’t be right! There has to be somehow, some way to make this easier and get me to the top. I was more upset about not being able to figure it out, work the problem, let alone solve it.
Instantly I was back on that snow hill today, as my boot grip slipped on the copious amounts of mud and flung me forward to cling me to the side of the hill. I stopped breathing, thinking if I move an inch without thinking this through, I’m sliding down this hill with what seems like the whole of Derbyshire either in my path of certain destruction or watching, (and most likely filming for and cashing in at You’ve Been Framed).
This was not going to be some cute kid on a self made mudslide. And my daughter was already cursing me for bringing her on this adventure. I had to get this right.
I made it.
One little body movement at a time until I could gain some purchase and was able to manoeuvre over to a flat bit to recover. I didn’t let the panic and frustration take hold as it had done back then. I could see the solution. I could feel how to solve it. And using that extra adrenaline, I moved forward.
There I stood, overlooking the vast landscape of the White Peaks District proud of that little girl who, after all these years, made it to the top.
And this brings me to my kids, friends and family and all those who suffer from panic attacks or anxiety.
I really believe that it is based in a belief of ‘what if?’
If we are using all our intuition, all our know-how, all our energy to answer a question that hasn’t even happened yet and we’re looking for it to fail already, no wonder we are wound up tight at the notion of its impending doom. So tight we can't move in any direction, never mind the way out of it.
'Control the controllable", I was told once.
It has saved my brain more than once.
Even it’s just one small body movement or body adjustment at a time. Or making that break in the cycle by doing something completely unrelated for only 2 minutes every day, then 3 minutes then 5 minutes and so on, then coming back to the problem with fresh eyes it will make all the difference in your mental wellbeing (and in my case physical wellbeing as well!)
Pull yourself up that hill, look sideways if you have to, but knowing...feeling that down is not your only option.