The Hell Butterfly

On fear and why I’m her slave

Fear.

It is crippling. It can be the cause of panic attacks, of anxiety attacks and can be the root cause of the human race turning around and saying, “No thank you, I’m good, really.” Fear can stop us from doing the things we want to do because of that one thing that we are terrified of. Fear is often irrational, though is sometimes based in sound reasoning. For example, a fear of spiders is common though a large number of them are completely harmless. Whereas if someone was locked in a box for hours, this traumatic experience may trigger claustrophobia. They are all types of fear, and are equally terrifying to the individual.

I am Fear’s bitch.

I could list here everything I’m scared of, but I don’t think I’d remember everything. Maybe I’ll have a crack at it in a minute. I have been hindered in so many ways because of my fears and anxieties. Sometimes I can get so nervous about something that my legs will go completely numb. This happened an awful lot during college and less at university for one reason: I don’t contribute anymore. Whenever I had to speak up in front of the whole class, I would get so nervous I would get the shakes, feel sick, sweat like a beast and eventually lose all feeling in my legs. It was embarrassing all the times this happened when it was unavoidable. If I wanted to contribute of my own free will, I could back out if the nerves got too bad, but when I didn’t have a choice, I would have all eyes on me, a sweating, nervous mess, flushed as a beetroot and I would always develop a stutter. My mouth would take over most of the time, and almost always I would forget what I’d said as soon as I’d said it because my brain was so scared it had blocked it out. There was really nothing to be scared of, but that didn’t stop my body shutting down.

It can be really hard to do simple tasks if you’re scared of something. It can seriously impact a person’s life. Agorophobia can stop people from going outside completely, fear of the dark can be the cunning, evil ally of paranoia. It can drive a person crazy.

I would be lying if I said my fears and anxieties didn’t affect my life. They do. They affect every single part of it. Let’s have a go at that list, shall we? and then you can see for yourselves why I struggle with everyday tasks and interactions:

The dark – particularly powercuts
Wasps/bees
Moths
Spiders
Cats (though weirdly not kittens)
Public speaking – a major one this is
Taxis
Buses
The Underground/The Tube
Clowns
Large open spaces – not a fear so much as an anxiety that makes everything else worse
Crowds
Anuptaphobia – Fear of being single (Yeah, that one kind of explains itself)
Related to the above, being alone forever. That would just be sad.
Failure
Falling
Children/babies/childbirth – just, no.
Ridicule/public humiliation

I find it incredibly difficult to cook in front of people and it is almost physically impossible for me to eat in front of anyone who isn’t my immediate family. Equally, public eating, and particularly the cafeteria, self-service style places, are basically an impossibility.
Going into a shop just to ask for something makes me feel sick.
I can’t make eye contact with people when I walk because I end up feeling that they’re staring and judging me.
I’m so scared of being wrong that I’ll doubt myself even if I know what I’m talking about. I even doubt my own birthday sometimes.

All these things add up to basically make functioning like a normal human being a task in itself.

This isn’t me trying to get sympathy. I’m just trying to highlight the problems people face everyday because of fear. I won’t go ahead and say that if you’re scared of something you should face it head on. That would be nauseatingly hypocritical. Until I can take my own advice, its not for me to tell people how to live their lives. No, all I’m saying here is that people should be aware of how difficult it can be to live with a fear and anxiety of something that other people may be completely fine with.

Take this situation: I recently got invited to a house party by a girl on my course. It’s for her housemate’s birthday. I’ve never met this housemate. I want to go. I want to change things up and be sociable. Actually get a life. I never get invited out, so it would be a waste to throw it away now, especially as I’m always complaining about not getting invited to things. But I don’t want to go. I don’t want to walk around outside at night by myself. I won’t know anyone there except for the girl who invited me. I don’t drink so I’ll likely be the only one sober. They might want to go to a club – I’ve never been to one and don’t have any desire to. I’m scared of getting a taxi alone so even if I could skip the walking outside at night, I’d be stumped for another way to get home. All of these anxieties are stopping me from having a good time. I should just say “Fuck it” and go. So what if I’m the only sober one that leaves early if they want to go clubbing. But I’m so socially awkward that I know I can’t do it. I’ll be in a small area with people I don’t know and I can almost guarantee you right now that it will trigger a panic attack.

I’m probably not going to go.

Fear, as I said at the start, can be crippling. It has stopped me from doing so much in my life. I couldn’t even buy a single bus ticket from my house to the town centre until I was 17. And the other thing that stops us where fear is concerned is this: our comfort zones. We don’t want to leave them. It’s perfectly understandable – why would you leave somewhere you feel safe for a situation you would feel threatened in? Our comfort zones are what make us feel secure. We stay in them rather than do the things we’re scare of because in our bubbles, were untouchable. My bubble is my bedroom. I have my laptop, my teddy bear – who has actually helped me ride out three major panic attacks in the past – and I have food, so I don’t have to leave very often to cook when I get hungry. And most importantly of all – it has a lock. This is my safe haven. Nothing can hurt me here except myself.

We should never underestimate the power of fear. It can shape a person’s life in a completely different way to someone elses and can often ruin them. For those of you out there struggling with fears and anxieties, this is for you. Know this: you are not alone. And don’t let anyone tell you to get out of your comfort zone. If it’s the place you feel safe, unthreatened, happy, you should not be made to leave it. Stay strong.

Have any of you been affected by your fears and anxieties in any way? I’d be interested to hear some of the ways you have dealt with them.

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