Fear is the mind-killer: In which Piper discusses her phobias and asks for yours
As some of you know, I’m a bit of a horror movie buff. Gory or cheesy, I love a good scary movie. Most of the time, though, they don’t frighten me. There’s only one that really terrified me, and that movie is “The Strangers.” There’s a really specific reason this movie scared the crap out of me. You see, I have a very intense fear of home invasion, of people coming into the place I consider my safe space and hurting me and my loved ones in what should be our sanctuary. Some might call it Scelerophobia. All I know is, this fear affects a good portion of my life.
I’ve never been diagnosed, but I have some symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. If I set an alarm, I have to check it repeatedly to make sure it’s both on and set for the right time. I always need to know where my purse is, otherwise I feel panicky. If I schedule something to post on my blog, it’s likely I’ll check it multiple times before the date approaches to make sure it’s the right day/time. When I get in my car, I always, without fail, check at least twice to make sure the windows are closed. On top of that, I can’t even get into my car without checking the backseat to make sure no one is there. I check that all the doors in the house are locked repeatedly throughout the day. I can’t go to bed at night without checking on my son to make sure he’s breathing, and if I wake up in the middle of the night, I’ll check him again (no matter how many times it might happen). Add that stuff to some of the other things I feel compelled to do, and I think it’s fairly safe to say if I don’t have full-fledged OCD, I’m pretty damn close. And this leads into my scelerophobia.
I’ve always had this fear. I’d say 99% of the time, if someone comes to the door, whether I’m home with my family or home alone, I won’t open the door. Even if I know there is a delivery coming and I can see the UPS truck through my window, I will wait until the guy has left my front stoop and gotten back into his truck before I even attempt to go open it and get my package. But I can pinpoint how and when this fear intensified from something fairly manageable to being something that will make me go into a panic and literally hide if someone keeps pounding at the door and I don’t know who it is.
When I was newly sixteen and still without a driver’s license, my dad drove me to an interview at a clothing store. He went off to do his own thing while I interviewed. When I was finished, he still hadn’t returned so I went to the Target next door to look around. As I was wandering the store, I noticed a guy who kept appearing wherever I was. At first, I thought it was coincidence, but after a while, I realized he was stalking me around the store. I went to the book/magazine section, hoping he’d go away, but then I see him at the end of the aisle, and this time he actually comes over to me. He asks me if I work there, and I say no (and of course it was obvious I didn’t, what with me not being in their signature red and khaki uniform and without a name tag). He asks me what I’m doing, and I tell him I’m waiting for my ride. So then he asks me if he can give me a ride home, to which I say no.
Naturally, at this point I’d gone from just nervous to starting to panic. He grabs my arm and starts insisting that I let him drive me home. I shake my head and try to pull away, saying my dad is coming for me. I don’t know why I didn’t try to find someone who worked there to help me; I wasn’t thinking clearly at this point. He starts pulling me toward the front of the store and finally I dig my heels in and tell him I have to go to the restroom and if he wants to go pull the car around, I’ll meet him out front. Luckily, the guy believes me and he takes off. The moment he’s gone—when I admittedly should have found a manager or something—I hauled ass across the store and went out the opposite exit back to the store next door where I knew my dad would be looking for me. I got into the entryway of the store and looked around for my dad, still freaking out, and as I’m standing there, I see the guy in a car, driving really slow as he’s searching for me. He spots me and stops the car, trying to beckon me over to him. I panic and shake my head and dash farther into the store where I finally run into my dad. I tell him what’s happening, and my dad being a rather intimidating guy, goes out there and starts looking around for this dude, but by then he’d driven off. My dad took me home, and for literally years I could not go into a Target by myself.
This incident and another one that had happened years prior, which I can’t discuss here, sort of coalesced together to form the impetus for my fear going from what I would consider normal to what it is today. I could be on a crowded street in broad daylight and if a man I don’t know gets too close to me, my heart starts to race and I start to sweat. You can imagine how I am leaving a store at night when there are barely any cars in the lot or that time I was in New York when I had to walk a mile or so to a CVS to get something to take care of my newly stretched ear and wound up having to make the walk back in the darkness because I misjudged the time.
I suppose maybe one day I need to write a character who has all my fears because on top of the ones I just talked about, I’m also claustrophobic and have been known to panic in a crowd. Then on the flip-side, despite these more unmanageable fears, I want to skydive and the idea of throwing myself out of a plane fills me with more excitement than anything. It’s odd the way the human mind works, right?
So what scares you?