In college, I had a psychology professor whose favorite question was, “What are you afraid of?”
The fears, phobias and paranoias of others were endlessly fascinating to him. In fact, over the years, he had written down the name of every student he’d ever had and a brief description of his or her phobia.
The funny thing was that the strangest phobia he’d ever come across was his mother’s. When she was pre-school age, her older sister put ink in her tea as a practical joke. But when she looked in the mirror and saw that her teeth were dyed black, she suffered a severe panic attack because she was too young to understand what had happened.
For the rest of her life, she would and could only drink clear liquids. If she tried to drink anything else (juice, coffee, wine, Pepsi), she’d start to have a panic attack. It is such an odd phobia that it doesn’t even have a name.
As for myself, my phobia isn’t anything so interesting. I suffer from a garden variety case of aichmophobia: the fear of needles. How serious is my fear of hypodermics? Well, you decide.
I pass out when I have to give blood, get a vaccination or go to the dentist (novocaine).
I can’t even watch fake doctors administer fake injections on TV. I’m the only person alive who covers her eyes for the “scary part” while watching Grey’s Anatomy.
When I had my wisdom teeth removed, they had to give me laughing gas before the anesthetic because every time the nurse came at me with the needle, my heart rate jumped into the red zone. I actually had to be sedated so that I could survive being anesthetized.
Last year, I flew 3,000 miles to my hometown to get the flu mist (every D.C. clinic I called was out) rather than experience the pure joy of getting a traditional flu vaccination in my office conference room, 18′ from my desk.
When I was four, Dr. McCarthy (a lovely man, may he rest in peace) was about to give me a standard vaccination shot when I punched him in the face and ran from his office like a newly freed refugee, making it all the way to the parking garage before my Mother grabbed me by the strap of my purple, corduroy Oshkosh B’gosh overalls and carried me back inside.
So as you can see, I’m not just a little afraid of needles, I’m positively petrified of them. Given the choice between natural child birth and the epidural, it’ll be a really tough call, the kind of decision that makes adoption seem like a great idea.
What are you ladies and gentlemen afraid of? And exactly how afraid are you? Or if you’re one of those lucky people with an iron constitution, what is the strangest fear that you’ve ever heard of?