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.

OuttheWindowI’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.

StalkerThis 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?


About Piper Vaughn

Piper Vaughn wrote her first love story at eleven and never looked back. Since then, she’s known that writing in some form was exactly what she wanted to do. A reader at the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book—fantasy, young adult, romance, sci-fi, she loves them all! As a bisexual and Latinx person, Piper takes great pride in her heritage. She grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood and strives to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life … even if it’s only in a book.

Posted on May 24, 2013, in piper vaughn and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Choking. I can’t stand to feel even slightly like I’m choking. I can only wear necklaces for a few hours before even the lightest ones start to feel too tight around my throat. I rarely wear anything with a high collar. If someone tries to put a hand on my throat I will freak the fuck out. Someone came up behind me one day and did that and I seriously almost bashed his face in just from reflex.

    I was scared of driving for years and years. I finally had to suck it up and learn and do it, but it was probably the most stressful day of my life when I got in a few hours of practice, took my test, then went and bought a car. I’m pretty chill with it now, but I don’t think it’ll ever be my favorite thing to do.

    And sleeping. I’m not scared of it, per se, but there’s always a dread/resignation to this day. I used to have god awful nightmares – of killing people, of being killed, of watching people die. I’d wake up screaming or crying, shaking. Most nights I didn’t go back to sleep. It’s part of the reason I still suck at getting any sleep, and why there’s always a low level of dread when I do. I keep waiting, I think, for those nightmares to return.

    • I had a fear of driving for a while, too. I usually pass the responsibility onto someone else if I can. I get nervous about merging and driving in heavy traffic/congested areas and about turning left without a light. Seriously. Unless the street is totally deserted, I will turn right and go until I can find somewhere to turn around.

      I get the sleeping thing too. I would definitely dread it if I was worried about constant nightmares. Makes sense.

  2. I have a fear of heights. I can’t get near the rail in the 2 story mall without freaking out. I about died taking pictures at a castle when my husband sat my daughter up on the ledge. There wasn’t a danger of her falling but it didn’t matter. I also have claustrophobia, but not so bad I can’t be in an elevator;) And a huge fear of knives.


    • I get the fear of heights thing. I get vertigo sometimes. About the claustrophobia, I can be in an elevator, but if it gets really crowded, I get short of breath and my heart races. Sometimes I will wait for a less crowded elevator if I see one is full, or if I’m not too high up, I’ll take the stairs.

  3. Deep water other than in a swimming pool. I can’t handle seeing people scuba dive or snorkel. I don’t like going out in a boat on a lake or ocean. My anxiety goes thru the roof. The Titanic about did me in. The Abyss gave me nightmares. Jaws? As much as I love that movie, the scene where the woman is treading water and gets eaten makes me leave the room every time. I don’t like flying either. Probably because the first time I ever flew, upon taking off, burnt insulation came flying out of the air vent down by my feet and the co-pilot made me get up so he could check it out. They turned the plane around and landed immediately. We got another fight and made it to our destination. Then on the flight home, we had an aborted landing. We were almost down on the ground when the pilot pulled up abruptly. We circled for a while before landing again. Only flew once after that. I’d rather drive thank you very much.

    • My husband has the fear of open/deep water too. He went on a cruise once and he said that sometimes he was terrified by the knowledge that they were surrounded by water and so far from land.

      If I had those experiences on a plane, I’d be scared of flying too! More than anything it’s the enclosed space that makes me nervous on flights, but I still fly fairly regularly. I usually do okay, though I admit to having some fear about my upcoming flight across the Atlantic.

  4. Jayden Brooks

    My fear is pretty common and damn silly. I’m afraid, nearly to the point of hysterics of clowns. It started when I was little. We’d went to the Circus and I’d begged for this blue and red clown flashlight, the colors swirled like a police light and the head swiveled with a flick of your wrist. It didn’t bother me at the time… but when I woke in the middle of the night having to go potty – the light had turned on and my movement caused the clown face to swivel, left, right, left – I was trapped in my bed, against the wall, staring into this eerie glowing clown face that was vibrating (from my little body shaking the blue and red thingy) I laid motionless, afraid to move, afraid to blink… for hours. That experience was bad enough… but then I read Stephen King’s IT – and I was DONE! The clown phobia is solidly rooted. My kids have never gone to a circus, never had clowns at parties and never worn clown costumes. I don’t feel bad AT ALL. Honest!

    • I don’t like clowns either! My parents had bought this clown statue when we were young and they had it in my bro’s room on his dresser. That and “It” and “Killer Clowns from Outer Space” pretty much cinched my fear (even though watching KCfOS now, it would be a joke). I’ve taken Josh to a circus but stayed away from them and I admit I might freak out if one came near me.

  5. I’m sorry that happened to you, but I’m glad your dad got you home safely.

    I have spectrophobia (fear of ghosts). Unless they’re super super cartoony, I usually can’t even watch kid’s shows with ghosts in them. There used to be a commercial out there that theorized what happened to lost TV remotes, and one of the ideas was poltergeist. The ghost they showed for it freaked me out so badly that I changed the channel whenever it came on.

    The reason I have it is kind of dumb. I used to be friends with a girl who was very strong, psychically. We were talking and I don’t remember how this came up, but she told me that I was sensitive enough that I could probably talk to ghosts.

    Well, I had just seen “The Sixth Sense” a few weeks prior to that, and just the idea of constantly seeing (or even hearing) that kind of ghost freaked me out so badly that I’ve been terrified of them ever since.

    • I totally get how and why that would be a fear. I don’t think your reason is done. Reasons for different phobias and fears are so personal to the person they affect.

  6. I have an almost debilitating fear of rodents. It feels really, really stupid to me. I’m not afraid of heights, or deep water, or dogs, or spiders, or snakes, dying in any particular way, living on my own, going places by my self. I’m fine with all of that. Any kind of rodents at all though including squirrel, chipmunks, and hamsters I’m terrified of, like shaking, crying, panic attack, paralyzed with terror kind of afraid.

    • No, it’s not stupid. Like I just said to K above, individual fears are so personal. I don’t judge people for the things they’re afraid of. They all have basis in something, whether we’re aware of that thing or not.

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