Fear…………..you should approach it head-on. But I can’t do this because I’m, well, afraid, all the time.
This has been a long time coming……my first post. For many years I’ve been afraid to write. Authors say you should write about a subject that you know most about, that is true. But I’ll be writing about what I know, what I don’t know, what I should know, and what I feel. This brings me to my first subject, one that I’ve thought about for most of my life. A time that I cannot remember I didn’t feel… FEAR.
For as long as I can remember I have feared to write. Oh, the entities of excuses. Depression, anxiety, rejection, let’s have one last shot of Jack; a cigarette for the nerves perhaps — I’m really not good enough — I’ll do some reading first, another Whiskey? Is this low self-esteem and low confidence?
The truth is I should have written years ago but fear stood in the way. Every. Single. Time. It stopped me from doing most things in my life. So, this got me thinking.
What is fear exactly and why is it so well……feared? Webster’s dictionary defines fear as “unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”
When I was a small child, I was petrified of the drain monster. My mother would scare the bejesus out of me with ‘Herbie’. I would peek fearfully down the bathroom sink that carried away the water and be petrified.
The garbage truck dude gave me a feeling of terror, the idea of this gigantic truck intruding upon me with its loud sounds paralyzed and terrified me at the same time.
Even though as an adult, I have become less scared of monsters lurking from the drain and giant trucks, I have developed many other fears and phobias. Some rational and some errrr not so rational.
Here’s what I am afraid of:
1. The dark — I don’t sleep with the lights off — can’t figure out why yet (maybe I watched too many gothic and supernational horror movies when I was younger)
2. Aging in a way that I look like uncle Fester from the Addams Family.
3. Death or injury by car accident
4. Being raped (when I was living in South Africa, this was my greatest fear)
5. Hi-jacked and taken to that “second” location (in South Africa).
6. Drowning (not a major fear)
7. Fear of being rejected (normal, I realise)
8. Abnormal fear of snakes — scared to the point of paralysis
9. Fear of worms (maybe it’s a fear of animals with no legs)
10. I panic greatly when in a crowded area, such as at a concert — claustrophobia, even though I love these, I feel like I can’t breathe
11. Fear of my mother growing old in South Africa without any of her children around — she has no brothers, sisters, cousins, aunties, uncles, nieces, nephews, there’s no one — but good ole’ Molly’, the neighbour.
12. Fear that all my promises to her will be broken.
13. Of course, fear harm will come to my husband and children.
14. Constant anxiety for my daughter, who is now an adult — even worse now that she has her drivers’ license (and lost it within 3 months, phew bit of a relief).
15. Thanks to the 2019 Australian bush fires, I now fear fire.
16. My shadow (as my mom would joke…no, that’s not really true).
My mindset has been fuelled by an undercurrent of constant fear that has made me stuck, but safe. To me, these are genuine fears, but to others not so much.
Then there is the personality disorder of fear. The neurotic side. I hate it when my meat touches my vegetables. I can’t fall asleep when my cupboard doors are open, even if it’s just a tiny bit open or I feel like someone is watching me. I can’t walk on grass barefoot — the grass touching my feet gives me the heebie-jeebies. Not to mention my road rage and obsessively overthinking and panic in non-life-threatening situations.
I didn’t realise these fears could stem from a certain personality disorder called neuroticism. Neuroticism as described by Tzeses from Psycom.net is the most debated personality disorder there is and is ‘heightened self-criticism’.
Betterhelp explains that a hallmark sign of neuroses is constantly worrying — this I do well. I worry about how others see me and like or dislike me and I need reassurance a lot. I drive the people in my life crazy. On the flip side, researcher Richard Zinbarg says that this is a good attribute, as I am empathetic to people’s emotions and want to make them feel better.
This constant neurotic state is exhausting, not only to me but to my relationships too. Writer Carol Anne Strange says it’s a self-limiting thought pattern that can create a jail and keep you in there for life. This is exactly what it’s done.
But I am not “one lab accident away from becoming a supervillain” as Leonard described his best friend, Sheldon Cooper. And I had myself tested, so rest assured I am mentally stable.
But maybe there isn’t a deep psychological reason I’m like this, maybe this is just how I am, and fears and phobias are sewn deep into my being. After all, we are who we are.
I’ve managed to live with it for so long. But the worst part is that I have lived through many traumatic events and after the tragedies of the bush fires and COVID-19 with its destructions and lockdowns, my fears and phobias seem insignificant. The universe is larger. And yet, here I am, still scared.
My survival strategy? I talk a lot about a particular fear when I feel like this, to my best friend (mother dearest) and anyone who’ll listen. I don’t take myself too seriously and I laugh at myself a lot and do feel ridiculous. But sometimes you have to let go of the fear, of any kind, and just go for it.