When I was five, we had a spider living in our house.
This spider was – I kid you not – twice the size of my adult hand (which for a young child, is entering into Eight Legged Freaks territory) and had an uncanny knack of knowing when I was at my most vulnerable.
On one occasion he approached me across the bubble mountains when I was having a bath. On another occasion, my parents ran frantically around the house terrified I’d accidentally severed a limb with a chainsaw such was the primal terror of my screaming. The moment they found me, casually sitting on the toilet doing my business whilst the spider approached centimetres from my foot, they collapsed onto the floor in riotous laughter.
I’ve had a morbid fear of spiders ever since.
This is something many people have issues with – but the thought of being in an intimate situation (such as cuddling, sex, receiving massages, serious conversation) fills me with a dread I cannot explain.
A psychologist once posited that it may have stemmed from my sister’s belief I was ‘contagious’, something my abuser re-confirmed when she used the same word to describe me on multiple occasions (going so far as to describe me as a cancerous tumor that needed to be removed with radiation therapy.)
Factor in the various abuse I’ve received, the social isolation, the anxiety and discrimination and it’s no surprise that I fear human contact more than virtually anything else.
3. Dogs (including puppies)
When I was six I was chased up a climbing frame by a vicious Doberman.
Okay, it was less a Doberman and more a baby Highland Terrier.
And if I were being honest, it was less vicious and more overly friendly.
But it still chased me up a climbing frame and refused to leave for what seemed like hours. When I first watched the movie Tremors and saw the scene where they discover a dead body clinging desperately atop an electricity pylon, I flashbacked to that day, fully aware that had someone not come along to take the puppy home I would probably have died of starvation atop that climbing frame.
I have had a fear of dogs (including puppies) ever since.
4. Being alone
The isolation and loneliness I’ve endured over the years has crippled my ability to communicate, think, interact and forge ahead with my life – regardless of all I’m doing to counteract it.
To be living your worst fear is something I wouldn’t recommend under any circumstances.
5. Crowds (and society in general)
All those judgemental eyes. All those critical thoughts. All those opportunities for embarrassment and humiliation. All those perfect people scrutinizing every aspect of my being…three cheers for social anxiety disorder, everyone! Hip hip…
6. Gin and Tonic
The night I was raped I was drinking gin and tonic. Do the math what my mind does when it encounters this alcoholic beverage.
Having spent years calling parks, alleys and random outdoor locations my ‘home’. Having spent years without the safety, comfort and love of what most take for granted. Having enjoyed near daily verbal abuse and the all too frequent reality of physical assault.
Is it any surprise I’ve developed a morbid fear of ending up back on the street?
8. Bad literature
When I was thirty-three I read Fifty Shades of Grey.
I have had a fear of bad literature ever since.
“It is of course mischievous of reviewers to pick out a sentence from a novel and offer it for the reader’s amusement; mischievous but often far too tempting to resist. Just like Mr Grey himself, it seems.
Anyway here he is on the job, urging the heroine to try harder: “ ‘Come on, baby, give it up for me,’ he cajoled through gritted teeth.”
Cajole means to “coax” or to “tempt by flattery” and, though it’s rather a literary word to be employed in the circumstances, I suppose this is what he is doing.
But cajoling “through gritted teeth”? Just try it. Grit your teeth and speak the line. It will come out as an incomprehensible buzz.
Memo to Romantic novelists: gritted teeth and lovemaking don’t go together.”