I could have entitled this post “Things I’m Afraid Of,” but my inner grammar freak wouldn’t let me end the title on a preposition, though I break this “rule” all the time in verbal conversations, and “Things Of Which I’m Afraid” sounded stuffy and overly formal, not to mention awkward. I mean, who would even say something like that? “These are the things of which I am afraid…” Nope, not even I would talk that stiffly and pretentiously. Also, I clearly had trouble picking my favorite verbs, so I went with five of my favorite–I got the idea for “petrify” in the thesaurus, and I obviously had to include it because it reminded me of Harry Potter and the petrificus totalus spell (I had to Google that to make sure I spelled it correctly, not that anyone cares). I can’t say I’ve ever been literally “frozen with fear,” but most of these metaphorical cliches aren’t meant to be taken literally anyway. I’m hoping that by writing this post I will become painfully aware of just how stupid and irrational most of my fears and anxieties are, therefore giving me some impetus to just “get over them,” but who knows how well that plan will succeed…Anyway, here is an abridged list.
(1) Driving: I essentially had to be coaxed and prodded into getting my driver’s license in the first place when I was 17, since I was thoroughly convinced that I was 100% incapable of driving a car, and that I would, without a doubt, get into a violent car crash and either die or kill someone else in the process. Not melodramatic at all. I didn’t need those graphic DMV videos designed to scare teenagers into driving safely–nope, I had the cautious part down just fine! Granted, some of these fears probably stemmed from the fact that I was not in a healthy place at that time, mentally or physically, but I’ve always been an irrationally anxious person, so there’s that too. Even when I did realize that I could drive relatively well (I’m what you might call a “safe driver” or, as my younger sister would say, a “painfully slow driver”) without crashing or hitting the wrong pedal, I would still (er, still do) get stressed out by traffic, four-way stops, unprotected left turns, merging, driving on the interstate, going somewhere I’ve never been before, ice on the road, snow on the road, rain on the road, sticks on the road–well, you get my drift.
Even now, when I’m in a stressful driving situation, I have to constantly recite a soothing streams-of-consciousness monologue to prevent myself from having a carefully smothered panic attack or just pulling off to the side of the road and screaming I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE. JUST TAKE AWAY MY LICENSE AND TELL ME I NEVER HAVE TO DRIVE AGAIN. Except I do, since even though I live in Eugene and can bike to most places, I still have to use the car for my nanny job and grocery shopping and whatnot, so it’s a practical necessity. At least I have my classic rock music station to act as an anti-anxiety drug along with my repetitive mantra of “You’re fine. You’ll be fine. You’re OK. Just drive slowly and carefully. It’s OK if everyone passes you. Just let them do your thing. Breathe. BREATHE. You don’t need to hold the wheel in a death grip. Go to your happy place.” And heck, at least I CAN drive. It’s really a blessing, though I act terribly ungrateful for it at times.
(The following image is from a CD that claims this hypnotherapy session can help you overcome your fear of driving. I sincerely doubt it but appreciate his effort. And the tranquil expression of that woman who is probably about to careen off the side of a cliff because she has been hypnotized and shouldn’t be driving)
(image source: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/OVERCOME-FEAR-OF-DRIVING-HYPNOSIS-CD-FREE-MP3-VERSION-motorway-phobia-drive-/131361227602)
(2) Crowds: Well, this one depends on the situation. Sure, I grew up with four siblings and was totally accustomed to chaos and noise–that doesn’t bother me a bit, which is good because when you work as a nanny, you’d better be A-OK with a constant flurry of activity. However, when it comes to going out in public places and being in the thick of a crowd, I start to go a little crazy inside, though I’ve developed the ability to at least look calm and tranquil on the outside. I went to a farmer’s market once and was able to walk around for maybe 10 minutes before realizing that despite the delicious food and interesting items for sale, I was definitely not in my happy place and I should leave before I bolted under the table of berries and just hid there curled up in a fetal position until the crowd dispersed. Not like I would have done that anyway, since my Rational Brain is quite adept at steering me away from such desperate strategies. Or sometimes we’ll have a combined class in the dance department and there are 30-40 people in the studio and I start to get stressed out and think WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE HERE? and then I have to remind myself that they’re all my friends or acquaintances and once we start dancing I’ll be perfectly fine again and won’t feel like a cricket trapped in an aquarium full of starving green anole lizards (we used to have those as pets, hence the unusual analogy. Though as far as I know, none of my friends are cannibals and therefore wouldn’t eat me, so maybe it’s not the most accurate analogy ).
(image source: http://images2.fanpop.com/image/polls/318000/318911_1256684092330_full.jpg)
(3) Telephone calls: And not only because I watch too many sci-fi shows and horror movies in which a phone call usually means that someone has died or someone will die or something unpleasant and horrible is about to happen (which will also probably eventually lead to the death of someone). You’d think that someone with anxiety issues and an overactive brain would stay away from those type of shows, but no, I find them oddly compelling and soothing instead….Maybe because they remind me that no matter how stressed I am, at least I’m not an FBI agent being targeted by a psychopath with mind-control abilities or a hunter who has watched several of his family members be murdered by demons. It could always be worse, right? But now I’m getting off topic.
If I don’t recognize the number that is calling my cell phone, I will of course let it go straight to voicemail, because I figure if that person really wants to talk to me, he or she will leave a message. Or even if I do recognize the number, sometimes I’ll let it go to voicemail anyway because I haven’t had sufficient time to sketch out a brief outline of (A) what words to say (B) what words to avoid and (C) what tone of voice I should adopt for the conversation. And then I’ll call them back promptly. Sometimes. Clearly, I’m a very responsible adult. There’s just something about talking to people on the phone that is far more nerve-wracking than speaking to them in person. Or texting them, of course, but I think that goes without saying, especially in this era. If I had to rank my preferred means of communication it would be (1) Writing (2) Face-to-face conversations (3) Texting and (4) Telephone calls.
(This image is basically what I’m thinking while on the phone, unless it is with one of my family members)
(image source: http://www.primermagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/phone-anxiety/phone-phobia-inset1.jpg)
(4) Watching my family members get sick: Interestingly enough, this one only applies to my close friends and family members, not myself. If I come down with something, I figure that unless I’m hallucinating, bleeding from all my orifices, vomiting profusely, or running an 104 degree temperature, then I’ll be fine to go to my college classes and there’s nothing to worry about, except perhaps being a ticking time bomb of contagion. Maybe this stems from the fact that I had a roundworm infection when I was maybe 15 or 16, and once you’ve seen an 8-inch long worm come out of your body and occasionally felt the smaller ones squirming around in your intestines (no further details required, I’m sure), a bout of the norovirus doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore. Though I can’t say the roundworm infection was particularly enjoyable (really, Kendra?? You don’t say), I did develop an odd fascination with these worms and did quite a bit of research on them, all the while feeling a tad disconcerted by the fact that these creatures had moved into my body without even asking permission. How very rude of them. Oh, and my siblings and I named that 8-inch long worm Bob. Don’t ask, we have a weird sense of humor about those things. Also, the scientific name for roundworms is ascaris lumbricoides, which sounds like it could be a spell from Harry Potter or something. Just like petrificus totalus! Can you tell I love the Harry Potter books? And Latin words, for that matter.
Anyway, to get back on topic, I become agitated and anxious whenever one of my family members falls ill, and I will immediately start Googling their symptoms in a frantic and panicky manner, which is probably the number-one thing you SHOULDN’T DO when you get sick. Or I’ll hover around them 24/7, constantly monitoring their symptoms and asking “Are you feeling OK now? Do you have a headache? A sore throat? Are you dizzy? Nauseated? Chilled? Do you need water? Food? Another pillow? Do you feel like you’re going to pass out? Would you say the phlegm you’ve been coughing up is more yellow or green in color? On a scale of 1-10, how close to you feel to death right now?” My siblings are probably thankful that I’m living in Oregon right now, so when they get sick I’m no longer there to drive them crazy with my endless interrogations. I SWEAR IT WAS ALL OUT OF LOVE. Or paranoia. Same thing, really.
(this is not really illness-related, but I love the Pearls Before Swine comics, and it is Google-related, so….)
(image source: https://thoughtfulrandomness.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/pearls-before-swine-google-it.jpeg?w=600&h=190)
(5) Giving presentations in my college classes: Or being called on in class to answer a question without having had time to prepare an answer ahead of time. Or just talking in general, really. OK, so that’s a complete exaggeration, and I feel I have to clarify this because my sense of humor is so sarcastic and deadpan that people often think I’m totally serious when I’m totally not. Anyway, I somehow managed to ace my speech class during my first year of college, probably because I rehearsed my speeches so obsessively ahead of time that I could have recited them off the top of my head, though technically we weren’t supposed to “memorize” them. I don’t mind public speaking too much if I have done an adequate amount of preparation ahead of time, but if I’m suddenly asked to speak up in class, my mind goes blank and I start desperately searching for those words that come out so easily once you give me a piece of paper and a pencil. I often feel terrible for not being a more active participant in my college dance class discussions, and am often told that I should “talk more,” which I completely understand. I mean, how are teachers going to know what I’m thinking if I don’t speak up (by the way, that’s a rhetorical question)? They want to know what’s whizzing along the freeway of my mind. That’s actually a decent analogy for my mind–it’s like a freeway that’s jam-packed with traffic, and people yelling at each other, and police officers trying to deal with the car crashes that are occurring at the speed of light, and huge trucks zooming around in the air because they don’t care about the rules of logic, and scientists screaming at the trucks because they do care about the rules of logic, and vultures flying everywhere waiting for a murder to happen, and frogs raining down from the sky, and–yeah, you get the picture.
So I feel bad about not talking more, I really do, but it is physically and mentally exhausting for me to try to change myself into a chatty and outspoken person, and I wonder if it’s worth the effort (by the way, that’s not a rhetorical question and I welcome any and all input). Sure, some teachers will say “We understand that some of you may be shy and quiet,” but this is often code for “We’re basically forced to say this because we’re not supposed to discriminate against any student, but if you don’t get start talking more and ‘get over’ your shy nature, then YOU WILL FAIL THIS CLASS AND IT WILL BE YOUR FAULT.” Yet somehow, chatty people are never told they just need to “get over themselves” and “be quiet more often.” Funny how that works, eh? Giving presentations are also a bit of a nightmare for me, and the anxiety I get on the days preceding the presentation usually gives me a host of digestive issues and insomnia–though the plus of the insomnia is that it gives me more time in which to get extra studying done, so yay for that!! See what a positive person I am? The irritating thing is that I know there is no reason to get so worked up about these things, and I know that my high stress levels will probably lead to an early death, but even my faithful Rational Brain can’t convince Panicky Brain of this fact. Damn you, Panicky Brain, for being so stubborn and resistant to the sweet song of logic. Honestly, though if someone tells you “Stress shortens your lifespan!” then of course you’ll immediately start stressing out about how you get stressed out too much, so it’s really not a very helpful bit of information.
I could go on, but I shouldn’t, so I won’t. Hey, I’m actually being decisive for once. I make light of these fears because I’m sure that many other people deal with them as well, so I’m not trying to label myself as a “special snowflake” who needs special treatment to deal with her special anxieties. On that note, I recently started reading Jenny Lawson’s book, Furiously Happy, and though I haven’t finished it yet, I find myself constantly stopping to nod frantically like a spastic bobble head and say out loud “YES. YES. YES. This is what it feels like to live inside my mind on a regular basis.” Check out this link for a brief interview with her, and I definitely recommend the book if you are an anxiety-prone person, or if you just enjoy reading anecdotes about a stuffed raccoon named Rory.