After listening to Roz Chast’s NPR interview about her new book of alphabetical fears, What I Hate From A to Z, I felt inspired to pen my own list. It started as an innocuous activity to help me get to sleep, strangely enough, but turned into a very reflective list of fears.
It was easier than I’d thought (letters K and Z notwithstanding). Constructing this list allowed me to revisit a few fears from my past and realize a few fears I didn’t fully know I had.
Please read with caution if any item on the list is personally triggering for you!
1. Anxiety. Yes, I am afraid of anxiety and afraid of being anxious. This complicates all things.
2. Blood. I’ll never forget my first (and last) time donating blood to the Red Cross. That big red bag, those glass vials, that gymnasium ceiling, that gymnasium ceiling slowly turning black…and then, that ammonia inhalant.
3. Clowns. See Pennywise from Stephen King’s It. That’s all.
4. Dentists. I’m not sure what I hate more — getting needles poked in my gums, dealing with a partially-numbed face, or simply not being able to get up and run away after a dental procedure has begun.
5. Emails. They pile up like dirty dishes, don’t they?
6. Freezing temperatures. This might seem like a strange one. But perhaps it seems less strange when you consider that many panic attacks include a shivering or shaking component. When it’s cold outside and I start shivering, it reminds me of the discomfort of a panic attack.
7. Grocery stores. The endless aisles. The bright lights. The lines. All of it.
8. Heartbeats. One of the relaxation apps that I have on my iPod includes a heartbeat sound. To me, this is far from soothing. I suppose it’s supposed to remind you of the comfort of being in the womb, but to me, it just makes my own heart race.
9. Ipecac. I’ve never had to take this, but since vomiting is a fear of mine, then a puke-inducing medicine like Ipecac makes the list.
10. Jokes. It’s okay if you tell me a joke. But if I try to tell you a joke, not only will I forget a key line, I’ll also flub the punchline. I just can’t deliver them well.
11. Kissing. Once upon a time in middle school, I was at a school dance with my First Real Boyfriend. He tried to kiss me during some corny slow song and I casually turned away to admire the rest of the gymnasium. I was too nervous to kiss him. The next day, he broke up with me. (Also, I’m thankful that I’ve since gotten over this fear.)
12. Lightning. I’ve always sort of bowed to its awesome power to light up the sky, but this incident had me shaking. (In retrospect, knowing that not a single soul was hurt, I’m no longer fearful — just awestruck.)
13. Manhattan. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of traveling from Brooklyn to Manhattan to Philadelphia with the stomach virus. The leg from Brooklyn to Manhattan was the worst part — a half-hour subway ride, a dizzying underground trek to the right exit, a walk up the steps to street level with my heavy bags, and then almost blacking out at the top of the steps. Manhattan is a big place, and I feared that no one would stop to help me if I had passed out. See the concept of “social proof” to understand why.
Stay tuned for the second half of my list and a rundown of what this little exercise did for me.
What are you afraid of? Do you and I share any of the same fears?