intense, sharp, overmastering fear or anxiety. (Dictionary.com)
The word terror is such an interesting word. Just hearing that word strikes fear in my heart. There is an intensity to the word terror. Terror is more than fear, horror, anxiety. Terror is worse than your worst nightmare. I think of “terrorist attacks” and the “war on terror”. 9/11. Iraq. Afghanistan. I think of school shootings. Columbine. Sandy Hook.
I was told in my creative writing class that everyone should write about what terrifies them the most. I guess that’s why I spent so many years writing about my blood disorder and the treatments that I went through in childhood. As a child my biggest fear was easily needles and the pain associated with them. That is why I lost it every single time I entered a doctors office, I was literally terrified and I literally couldn’t handle it. The terror I felt pushed me into fight or flight mode and it all went down hill from there. And to me the needle represented all of my fears, the rest of the experience wasn’t pleasant but that needle was the concrete object that I could identify as the cause of the pain that I hated. I couldn’t really express it then which is why I have written about those experiences over and over and over again, giving myself some form of therapy, trying to come to grips with that primeval fear of my childhood. I was always a cautious child and it was because there was always in the back of my mind this fear that I might do something that might cause myself to go to the hospital and have to get needles and confront that fear again. If I ever sensed even the slightest possibility of pain coming from an activity I wouldn’t do it, whether it was the possibility of falling off the monkey bars and hurting myself or crashing my bike and hurting myself.
As a teenager I was better able to understand my terror. I realized that my fears stemmed from a fear of pain. In my young teenage years I still was not able to handle my fear, but as I grew older I became better able to manage my anxiety in hospital situations. I began to feel more control as I learned more about the health care world, my own body, and the “why” questions that had somehow plagued me without me really even knowing it. I still had moments late at night where I would be paralyzed in the fear of possible future hospitalization, with my muscle memory taking me right back to the hospital, but they came fewer and further between until they ended. Through the information I was learning, picturing myself in a place of power in the health care world, and writing I was able to identify and manage my fears more effectively. They still bubble up from time to time, and certain experiences can still bring up new fears and anxieties associated with my childhood experiences that I had either forgotten, never dealt with, or never even realized were there. But I’m better able to handle them now. The hospital is no longer a place of terror for me.
I have new terrors now. Can I write about them? I’m not sure. It might be too close to me now. The distance of my teenage years were able to give me a lot of perspective of my school age days. Maybe I’ll try. My current fears still stem from that original fear of pain I have struggled with my whole life. When I was a kid that fear focused on physical pain, I would do anything to prevent physical pain. Now my fears revolve around social and emotional pain. What terrifies me the most in this exact moment is my fear of rejection. I have gone through my life with very few, outright rejections. But I’m always afraid that people will see through me and reject me. This fear especially comes into play in my relationships. I’m sure that many people from my friends and family have wondered why I don’t date a lot, and they probably have some really insightful theories as to the why. When I was in high school I thought it was because boys were stupid and I was really hurt and angry and bitter about the whole experience. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that the problem isn’t the guys. In the past year especially I have met some absolutely amazing men. And I realized they weren’t the problem, I was. It could be my lack of flirtatiousness (which I’ve tried to learn many, many times). It could be my shyness. It could be my lack of beauty. And I think those things probably do play into it to a certain extent. But I think more than that, the problem is my lack of confidence, the negative way I view myself, and my crippling fear of rejection. I just assume all guys that I meet couldn’t possibly be interested in me. And I don’t want to go through the pain of actually being told that they just aren’t that into me. So I tell myself that they aren’t interested in me. I slam the door shut on any possible relationship before they have the chance to shut the door on me. Because I don’t think they could be interested in me and I don’t want to go through the pain associated with rejection. I don’t think I could handle the pain of the rejection. So I reject myself in order to prevent the pain. I have a mile long list of reasons why a guy would want to reject me. At the top of the list is the fact that I even have the list.
I’m in a sort of relationship? right now. And it terrifies me. He’s amazing. I really want it to work out. So badly. I’m terrified it won’t. Can I put myself out there enough to actually go through a rejection? Can I take that risk? I’ve never been a risk taker. If it doesn’t work out I’m sure it’ll be because of me. And my baggage. Maybe I should make a list of reasons why he wouldn’t want to reject me?
Insecurity. That’s the root of it. I know what the problem is. Now how do I fix it? How do I break myself out of this cycle of dysfunctional thinking?
Oh the terror.