14 Jan 2011

Fear - not just a river in North Carolina

Fear (noun) -  distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. (definition + etymology from here)
Etymology - bef. 900; ME fere,  OE fær  sudden attack or danger; c. OS fār  ambush, D gevaar,  G Gefahr  danger, ON fār  disaster

So yes, fear, it's not just a river in North Carolina. We're all afraid of something from snakes and spiders to death, failure and armageddon. Today's blog post is just a short essay-ette on what lurks in the wardrobe and under the bed. 1,2,3 it's coming to get you....

When i was a child I was scared of the dark. I slept with my bedroom door open and the hall light on for comfort. I've never grown out of this feat, I'm still terrified of the dark - it reduces me to a gibbering wreck. I'm not sure what it is that scares me exdactly - it's as if "The Dark" is an amorphous entity in itself - but the lack of all senses save touch (I'm deaf) doesn't help.

I magine wraiths reaching out to grab me with cold clammy hands, demons hiding in the dark waiting to eat my soul, serial killers chasing me down endless corridors with locked doors either side, whilst spiders and snakes writhe underfoot! (did I mention, I have a vivid, childlike imagination!)

I think it's really a fear of being trapped somewhere with no escape route too - as I'm mildly claustrophobic (no spelunkers on this blog!) and paradoxically, I also have a touch of agoraphobia (from the ancient greek for fear of the market place). I hate airports and huge shopping complexes and municipal buildings with no visible windows or exits and entrances. For some reason I need to know I can escape....

I'm not even sure what I need to escape from, maybe it's more a need to escape "to" something - something familiar and known, which leads me to believe this is linked to a fear of being alone and abandoned, which I think we can all relate to. Self imposed isolation is one thing, loneliness is quite another. One of the worst nightmares I ever had was populated with people with no faces, no matter what happened in the dream. The feeling of total ostracism and isolation was so overwhelming, I woke up crying.

As well as these fears linking to a desire for the familar, the ordinary, everyday and known, I have real problems adjusting to change and visiting new places - these can be very difficult and stressful for me, and I am beginning to realise I'm not alone in this. With the world becoming smaller almost everyday and an abililty to contact people all over the planet, it seems common place for people to travel to extreme far flung places - and the implication is that if you don't do this, come judgement day all these non-travelling luddites will be left behind. That's not to say I won't try new things or go to new places but it's hard, sometimes the adrenline starts running through my body weeks before a change to my routine or visit to somewhere new.

It's almost pleasurable, a mix of terror at the unpredictability and pleasure and excitement at something new. And yet there is no 'high' when I have survived whatever it is, only exhaustion. It is rarely ever as bad as i have feared but I can never celebrate this, there is always something new to anticipate. Perhaps I am addicted to fear and anxiety.

A short survey of my friends would indicate that my other fears - spiders, snakes, sharks, heights, deep water, failure are also incredibly common. Many of them mentioned fears linked to other people - but the opposite of abandonment - a  fear of talking to people face to face, of walking into parties and not knowing anyone. I think we've definitely all been there - a fear of judgement, of laughter and talking behind our backs, mockery and fingers pointing. Which then leads back to feeling alone and abandoned. Linking to this, something that really came out of my 'fear surveys' was not of a fear for one's own safety, but a fear for one's loved ones - in particular your children. It makes me wonder, are all my fears just really selfish and will I change when I have children? I don't know but I hope so.

Sometimes it seems like every minute of every day there is something to be afraid of and worry about. To my mind, on a bad day, just getting out of bed is an achievement. To some people this may seem like such a total over-reaction but remember that all this fear and worry is in my head; few people - til this blog - really know the extent of it, I think the outside world would never know - until my fear completely prevents me from doing something.

That's because my over-riding fear is one of missing out, of being left behind - of a life half lived and all that. Every day I face my fears and battle my demons so that I can wrestle my life into some semblance of happiness and live the life I feel I should be living.

Thank you and good night (don't forget to lock your doors now....)

Stupidgirl has left the building

PS Thanks to all the tweeple who took the time to tell me about their fears, really appreciate your honesty folks. Hope you like the blog x


  1. Wow! Having known you for some time I had no idea you had these fears, and so' well done on hiding them!

    My fears are mostly irrational. I have no animal that scares me, I don't like wasps & I don't want to come face to face with a great White, but no actual fear. I'm always the one called to get rid of the spider. But my fear is also of the dark, but primarily of ghosts.

    I'll walk home alone at night as long as there are street lights & I know the area. I'm not afraid of attack from someone. But get me home in the relative safety of my house, turn the light off unexpectedly & I drop to the floor in a foetal position shaking like a leaf.

    It's the only thing that scares me. No places. No animals. No people. Maybe that's strange of me not to be concerned more, maybe as you said if I had children it would be different.........

  2. It's interesting isn't it - fears + phobias. I ultimately think that facing mine + battling them is making me a stronger person but it is a bit tiring at times! THanks for your honesty with yours, I think that the being plunged into darkness fear is quite common - certainly freaks me out!

  3. Hiding ones anxiety is part of the habit...it's self perpetuating. I have all of the above and have been agoraphobic, varying degrees of, for 25 years. The monsters are still under my bed and in the wardrobe and...