Did I ever tell you that I’m afraid of everything?
Pantophobia is its formal name, which makes me feel a little better since I know I’m not the only person on earth who experiences a deep and abiding fear of life, particularly its more unpleasant aspects. I’m serious. I’m afraid of spiders. I’m afraid of birds. I’m afraid of heights and enclosed spaces. I’m afraid of the telephone. And I’m absolutely petrified of failure.
I was always fearful, even as a child. I remember having night terrors way back when I was kindergarten age, and it never got any better. I take that back: the nocturnal festivities eventually ended, but I’ve basically gone through my entire life being scared of a hell of a lot of things.
That’s not to say I haven’t faced down my fears and even conquered them in many instances. I may be a fraidy-cat, but I’m far from timid, and that has served me well in life. Sometimes I can even use the fear to my advantage, such as the times when I’ve stepped way out of my comfort zone and benefited from the experience. Nursing school comes immediately to mind, as do getting married and having kids—all of which were as exciting as they were terrifying, and vice-versa. I’d never call myself an adrenaline junkie, but in craving excitement I also have to deal with the fear factor, and there’s something ultimately satisfying about doing something because it’s scary.
Some say it’s a bipolar thing, that it’s “normal” for someone like me to be afraid of so much. Well, I know a few people who don’t have a mental illness of any kind, and yet they lack intestinal fortitude even more than I do. In fact, I have one friend who has never married because she’s too afraid of being vulnerable; of course, growing up in a home where her father treated her mother like crap didn’t help, but she’s had a grand total of two boyfriends in her entire life and she’s pushing 40. It’s awful when your fears keep you from having the life you want.
Unfortunately, being afraid of everything means taking a lot of risks, especially with your heart and your emotions. I have trust issues because of the way I was brought up—if you can’t trust the woman who gave birth to you, who CAN you trust?—and am skittish about relationships, even ones which have proven to be reliable and good for me. It’s like I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop…..like what am I going to do if my husband dies? If something bad happens to one of my kids? If Dr. Awesomesauce leaves his job at the clinic? How am I supposed to carry on?
This is where the wee little bit of bravery allotted to me comes in. Some things in life have to be faced; there are no exceptions to this rule. I take the chance every day that something awful might happen, because it would be hellish not to have the people in my life who make it worthwhile. My nursing career may have imploded, but I don’t regret for a minute having had those 17 years (even though the last two really sucked). And every time I write something that opens my ‘self’ up to scrutiny, I’m risking having my fragile psyche crushed under criticism….but I do it anyway because not to do it is unthinkable.
Yes, life is scary. But I’ve never known anything different, and as long as I can stand up to the fear, I have the feeling it will all work out in the end.