Phobias are interesting. Are there species besides humans that have irrational, yet all-encompassing, fears of things like walking (Ambulophobia) or fear of nudity (Gymnophobia)? No. Most animals walk if they are able without giving it much though and don’t wear clothes unless humans make them.
Animals are scared of rational things, like predators and gunshots. Human animals are scared of these things too, but we have irrational fears as well. Why does it seem that humans have so many phobias? Is it simply a matter of a better developed imagination? For example, I’m not scared of the dark until I watch a horror movie where something terrible happens in the dark. Then I’ll sleep with all the lights on, if at all. After watching the movie, my vivid and spiteful imagination puts scary things there when I know full well I’m jittery because of the scary movie. It’s irrational, yet founded.
Some phobias are rational. Being afraid of heights is probably a survival of the fittest type trait since we’re not mountain goats or birds, and falling off of something high would very much suck. I was attacked by a giant Alaskan Malamute when I was very young. If my family didn’t have dogs of our own for my entire life, I very well might have ended up being afraid of dogs. Admittedly, I am still a little scared of Malamutes.
That’s not the type of phobia to which I am referring though. I’m talking about the outliers, the things that are not anthropological imperatives, fears that don’t really make any sense. Phobias are like Rule 34: If it exists, there’s a phobia of it. Seriously, just do a search for “list of phobias” and you’d be amazed at some of the things humans are afraid of.
I am not afraid of leaving my house, ghosts, the dentist, death, flying, water, small spaces, germs or heights (unless there’s a very real chance that I might fall). I’m not afraid of the dark, spiders, needles, blood, dogs or clowns (unless they’re naked from the waist down. Seriously, can you think of anything scarier than a clown who is naked from the waist down?). However, I do have a secret phobia and I’m not even sure it has a name.
I am afraid of losing my mind. I don’t necessarily mean Maniaphobia, fear of going crazy, although that is scary, too. Pink Floyd’s The Wall is horrifying to me because I am afraid of ending up like Pink, trapped in my own mind with man-eating vaginas and giant marching Nazi hammers.
For a long time, being trapped in my own crazy mind was my biggest fear. My mind can be a terrifying place, especially when I’m unconscious, which I would imagine is what it’s like to be properly crazy. I think that being truly crazy is a little like being trapped in your dreams. Imagine every horrible nightmare you’ve ever had, but not ever being able to wake up. That is scary.
While, being trapped in my own subconscious is still a phobia for me, it’s not as scary as the more likely scenario of losing my mental ability through decay. It’s more far likely because it is already happening. It happens to us all, but for some, faster than others.
When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I was hit on the head with a stage light. This event completely changed everything about me including my IQ and personality. I can’t even remember when it happened exactly since my ability to sort what limited memories I have by year was exterminated, which is why I gave the rather vague date of late teens/early twenties. I lost my timeline. I lost most of my childhood memories. I lost the ability to create new memories for a while. For months after it happened, I couldn’t remember where I was, where I was going, what I was going to do or how I was going to get there. Have you ever walked from the living room into the kitchen to grab a glass of water, and once you got there, you took the trash out, did the dishes or reorganized the cabinets, while completely forgetting that you went in there for a glass of water? That was my entire life for about a year. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever gone through.
I get confused sometimes. I’ll be driving along with a particular destination and suddenly panic because I can’t remember where I was going or why. I got off at the wrong freeway exit to my house last week. I drive that freeway ten times a week back and forth to work, and I got off at the wrong exit. Once I realized it was the wrong exit–not when I first got off, but at the bottom of the off-ramp when I had to pick a direction–I was disoriented and confused. I panicked. That old sense of not knowing anything flooded right back. I had to tamp it down and concentrate.
I still have difficulty finding the right words. I write. That is a problem. My language center was damaged. When I was recovering from the accident, I would say words out of order like Yoda: “Away put your weapon.” I’d forget important parts of sentences like nouns and verbs: “Away your weapon.” I would just skip over them thinking I had said or written them when I hadn’t. There was an instance when I couldn’t remember the word “can.” I said, “What’s the cylindrical object with a pop top that usually houses soda or beer?” I still skip words when I write, usually prepositions and articles, and I still forget simple words. I’ll look up the word “melancholic” just to remember the word “sad.” You, my dear readers, have no idea how much editing one of these blog posts actually goes through before I post it and even after. You are blissfully unaware of how much effort it takes me to put a sentence together.
My fear then, is that of a steeper decline than the rest of you since I already carved out a precipitous cliff in my computational abilities when I was younger. My fear is that all of these words and ideas that peck at my brain will become trapped in my head, jumbled around like a word search, and that someday, I won’t be able to put them in any order whatsoever. I won’t be able to get them out and they’ll just pile up like so much junk in the attic until the ceiling collapses. Or worse, I will think that I have them in order, but to everyone else, it’s just gibberish. I will become one of those crazy people hanging outside the liquor store who tries to engage you in conversation to no avail. I will be trapped inside my own detritus-filled brainpan with no escape ever.
It’s already happened to me so I know exactly what it’s like. Fortunately, the brain has amazing reparation abilities, so I am no longer the babbling zombie that I once was. But, every time I forget a word, every time I get off at the wrong exit, every time I forget why I walked into the kitchen, the fear is palpable, irrational, yet founded.