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Friday, June 02, 2006

I’m A Scaredy Cat

may 2006
what is your biggest fear (rational or irrational)? describe it in detail: how does it start and manifest? are other people aware of it? if there’s a technical name for your phobia, give it. if not, make one up!

Ah.  Fears.  I’m always afraid of something.  There’s always some nagging worry or concern biting at me.  There’s never a time when I’m not afraid, or so it feels.  Toxiphobia which literally drives me to opening dishwasher tablets in such a way that I never actually touch them, but rather carefully peel open the tab and squeeze with the plastic wrapper so that it is properly deposited into the detergent slot.  Even then I often will wash my hands twice afterward.  I once sprayed a heavily infested (some sort of little fly) house plant with a bug killer and then spent hours afterward sick to my stomach and certain that somehow, in some way, in spite of washing my hands and spraying the plant while wearing gloves, and carefully avoiding any fumes, I had been poisoned and was on the brink of death.  I also won’t swollow toothpaste (EVER) and will obsess over “caution” labels like there’s no tomorrow (because, just being near poison of any sort means there won’t be a tomorrow because surely I will somehow ingest this poison.)  Still, as quirky as that is, I don’t see it as a major fear.  It’s just, you know, something weird about me.

Heaven knows I should have Soceraphobia with as freaky and unkind as my in-laws have been, but I’ve always been more about trying to change them or will them to like me than being actually afraid.  (Though there was a point when they tried to take out a life insurance policy on me where I was a bit nervous…).  I definitely have a touch of Traumatophobia - but isn’t it healthy to be concerned for one’s physical well being?  Okay, sure, mine meant that I was a star at dodgeball (too bad we were actually playing volleyball) and that I’ve never been one to truly enjoy bumper cars, skiing, or roller blading, because, well, no shit, you could seriously get hurt doing any of those activities (and so, so, SO many more…).  I mean, duh, I don’t wanna fall down.  I don’t want end up with whiplash.  I don’t want to get hurt!  Sometimes that fear becomes a little paralyzing, especially in social situations where a group of friends wants to head into the dangerous and death defying and I absofreakinglutely don’t wanna, but then my Social Phobia wins out and that becomes the center of my dysfunction, which is not only typical, it’s the number one reason I am such a hermit.  If I don’t go out, if I don’t expose myself to other people, I won’t have to worry about being judged, talked about, or in any way make a fool of myself in front of others.

Another sort of odd, but very real (to me) fear is Catoptrophobia.  I hate mirrors.  Beyond their telling “ooh another gray hair” and “you’re not as pretty as…” and “you’re not perfect in every way” I always have had this morbid fear that something was watching me - or maybe even able to reach through and touch me.  An unfamiliar evil twitch of an eyebrow in the reflection, a flash of light that seemed the wrong color or to come from nowhere, and you know, there’s that whole pre-teen oogy boogy slumber party trick, something to do with gazing deep into the mirror in a dark room while holding hands and chanting something… “Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary” that’ll bring some evil spirit, or a gruesome vision, or well, shoot, I dunno, maybe it’s some sort of blaspheme that’ll cause the Virgin Mary to jump out and strangle you, I dunno.  Regardless, I hate mirrors.  Whether they are a portal to some other dimension or a means for communication from the spirit world, I’m not comfortable being in a dark room with a mirror (or in a large room with lots of mirrors.)  But eh, it’s usually a “creep me out” kind of fear, not a “I must remove all mirrors from my house” kinda fear.

There’s always my issue with Metathesiophobia and/or perhaps Tropophobia which ties neatly in with my fear of abandonment, often does rule my life.  TDO likes change.  He craves it.  He absolutely has to have it to some degree in order to even function.  As a military brat who grew up moving every two years, he’s used to recreating a new life and starting fresh as often as he needs.  Of course, this means he takes little responsibility in personal relationships, because, well, why invest in something that is only going to last a very short while?  For me, I’m completely opposite.  I don’t want to move to a new house.  I don’t want to rearrange the furniture.  I don’t want to buy new dishes, I like my old ones just fine.  I don’t want to make new friends.  I don’t want to deal with new situations or unknown variables.  It’s terrifying.  It’s heart breaking.  I can’t drive to places I’ve never been before by myself.  I can’t learn new rules to a game that I’ve played for years without a sense of frustration and angst. 

Now, the irony is that I can be spontaenous.  I can be fun.  I can be wild and free.  The thing is, that has to be in my leisure time.  That has to be a hobby.  I want home and family and friends and my base of operation (physically and mentally) to be completely stable, firm, and non changing.  I want to know where the light switches are in the dark.  I want to know my friends’ phone numbers by heart.  I want to know that if I go to a favorite restaurant they are going to have my favorite dish that I always order.  Oh sure, I’ll be glad (excited, willing, eager) to try a new restuarant or (if the mood strikes me) order “something different” but I wanna know that the old stand bys are there waiting for me, ready to cushion me, always there - just in case I want them.  Typical Sagittarius behavior, really… I love the freedom of travel and excitement and adventure, but I wanna have my cozy, warm, safe stables to return to when I’m done with my adventures or need a moment to recharge.

Because TDO and I are so different, me literally scared witless by change and him desperately craving it, we’re constantly butting heads.  We refinanced the house in anticipation of remodeling and upgrading the house we have.  He gets a wild hair up his butt and decides we should use the cash in hand to outright buy some property and then sell the house and build on the new plot of land.  Me?  I go into total meltdown because, dammit, that is NOT what we planned.  That is a change in plan and I don’t want changes.  The idea of changing the house was hard enough on me, the idea of changing our plan to change the house sends me into a tailspin from which I really and truly am not sure how to recover.  At one point during our bickering and arguing over the situation, TDO grabbed me by the shoulders, looked deep into my eyes and said firmly, “Change isn’t a bad thing, Liberty!”




As it turns out, both out of respect for my phobias and for other more practical reasons (like, gee, where exactly would we live with no leftover money and only one income while this alleged dream house was being built?) we opted to stick with the original plan to fix up the house we have.  I’m grateful, I truly am, but sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out on a whole new world by not just grimly accepting that change is a part of life, but embracing change and all the excitement and potential it has to offer.  What if by saying no to change, I’m saying no to a better me, a better way of life, a better situation?  Certainly, I have missed out on friendships, hobbies, jobs and other opportunities that have come my way because I was so resistant to change.  I’ve also clung to the unhealthy, the unhappy, the unfit because I couldn’t let go, I couldn’t cope with the changes that would come about by shifting things even just a little bit.

This actually brings light to a lot that I’ve been discussing in therapy.  When we talked about the past, when we sorted through actions and interactions with what I already have going on in my life, I was able to openly accept and move forward.  The progress I made came in leaps and bounds.  However, when I was asked to perceive change and how it would effect me (not even actually MAKE any changes) I went into a two week depression funk that really thrashed my self esteem.  Hm… time to face the fear.  Time to shift, even if it’s slowly and over a great deal of time, so that change isn’t so terrifying or so overwhelming.

Posted by Liberty on 06/02 at 02:54 PM
Posted under: ColorfulWriting Womyn Collab

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Desiree  at  06/09/06 09:22 AM

Liberty, that is quite a list of phobias.  Change can be difficult to face, but, after the fact one can look back and say ‘Wow… should have done that sooner!’...  for instance, the move we made last year, to a new city…. it took a long time for hubby and I to both reach the point at which we’d do it, but really, there is no regrets. 

You too can face change - but, do it step by step and allow yourself time to get used to the change - initially if some little thing goes on one can regret the change, but as time goes on the little regrets can be smoothed out by the overall improvement from the initial change.

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