Fear Factor

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.





Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

8 thoughts on “Fear Factor

  1. Bravo! You are one spunky and courageous pantophobe. I don’t think that bipolar disorder and phobias are necessarily linked. I am not particularly phobic, beyond a reasonable fear of heights. Some people do have co-occurring anxiety disorders. This is top secret, for they are very private, so don’t tell anyone, but my husband is claustrophobic and my son fears moths and having the insides of his ankles touch or even get too close (very specific phobia).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You know, I was thinking about that (anxiety) as I was writing this and just never got it into the post. I have a LOT of anxiety, although meds have calmed me down a lot and I’m nowhere near as easily freaked out as I used to be. I don’t have a formal diagnosis of an anxiety disorder (Dr. A puts everything under the bipolar umbrella) but every woman on my mother’s side of the family developed it in her 50s. Weird, huh?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have often wondered about the parallel with bipolar and fear, I don’t think it’s necessarily a side effect as such but perhaps those with bipolar are more sensitive to pain and therefore scared of it in it’s various forms. I relate to this post, some would consider me a ‘ballsy’ woman but inside i’m terrified of almost everything and feel like a bit of a fraud. The more I learn about myself and bipolar the more of a grip I get on things so I’m hopeful I will learn a way to battle the fraidy cats. All the best

    Liked by 2 people

    1. See, that’s how it is for me too—people think I’ve got all this courage, and inside I’m a total wimp. I guess I fake it pretty well. Thank you for posting. 🙂


      1. It’s funny isn’t it, i think it’s because i don’t suffer fools well so people think i’m all tough but i too am terrified. It’s always good to know we aren’t alone in this kind of ‘quirk’ 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hearing you! Wrote a post called Fear Not? a while ago about my experience of fear. Fear is like a second skin to me, and most things I do are in spite of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I’m sure glad I’m not the only one who deals with fear on a daily basis. Like you, I do things in spite of it and I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I do, but for some reason that doesn’t stop me from being afraid of the next thing.


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