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Fear is a Mindkiller

Clown

I was reading The Pop-Up Book of Phobias when I came across the page for clowns. I thought clown fear was a rare thing. At least I didn't think it was common enough to be included in a book about phobias, or to have a real name: Coulrophobia

Think about your fears; clowns, heights, darkness, snakes. What are you afraid of? Any idea how you got that fear? Did a clown once frighten you? Did a snake once bite you? Fall off a building? I bet not.

I'm afraid of water - deep water, wide water, open water. Yet I've never had a near drowning experience, nor any kind of experience that would make my brain go into high anxiety mode when confronted with a large body of water. Same with heights or clowns or large crowds of unfamiliar people.

Perhaps your brain comes with all these pre-set modes. It's impossible to turn them on or off or adjust their volume without some serious rewiring. And to rewire those things often means rewiring things that don't need it. In other words, fixing one thing will fuck up something else. So you have to decided at some point, is fixing one fear worth, say, turning off the switch for emotions?

Anti-anxiety drugs are good for some people. They work miracles for other anxiety/panic/fear sufferers. Some brains and bodies accept these things while others reject them. I seem to be a rejecter. Once, I gave up my soul to save my brain and decided in the end that it wasn't worth giving up 90% of who I was to save the 10% of me that was crazy.

So now here I am, full of fear and panic and anxiety once again. Since my emergency episode the other night, I've reconciled myself with the fact that I'm batshit crazy. Ok, not really, but maybe getting there. I figure it's five years before I'm a full blown agoraphobic, or at least one of those people who wander the neighborhood at 7am in bunny slippers and a house coat, collecting stray cats and empty soda cans and talking to hyacinth bushes.

My sister invited us to her block party today. For two days, I've been thinking about nothing but this block party and how many people are going to be there and how many of those people I don't know. I've been thinking of excuses for not going - my mouth still hurts from the dental work, I have a cold, I just don't feel good - and I wish I could be honest and just say to her: I'm not coming because just the idea of it is making me nervous. I don't want to spend all day with a whole bunch of people I don't know. Most of the time I don't even want to spend a whole day with a bunch of people I do know. I just want to be home, in the comfort of my own living room. And if I do go out, I want it to be on my terms, where I want to go, who I want to go with, how long I want to be there, who I want to talk to. That's just the way it is. How do I get people to recognize that without making me feel stupid? How do you say to someone "I can't come to your party because parties make me freak out" without them thinking you're an asshole?

So the anxiety of reneging on an invitation adds to the panic I've felt about accepting the invite all along. And why did I accept? Because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I do have my good days. I have moments where I can take on the world. I've been to parties and gatherings and picnics and concerts. Sometimes it's ok. Sometimes I can do it. Sometimes, not so much. This week has been bad.

The heat is stifling, I'm exhausted and the middle of August brings thoughts of getting ready for school, which always translates into dollars, which translates into anxiety which, at some point, turns into panic. Maybe tomorrow I'll feel like I can tackle that head on and I'll drag the kids school shopping, get it all done in one day and the feeling of accomplishment for having done that will let me ride a crest for a couple of days, until something like the heating bill or the threat of a hurricane or the fact that my 43rd birthday is two weeks away will knock me back down. Mostly, I don't even need that trigger to knock me off the crest. Sometimes, like Monday evening, it just happens, out of nowhere. The panic sneaks up on me like an evil clown, just jumps out of the bushes and yells BOO! and - instant freak out.

My life is a roller coaster of fear and fearlessness, of calm and panic. And I'm afraid of roller coasters.

But you know what? I've accepted it. I've accepted this is who I am and how I operate and how my mind works. I just need others to do the same.

Comments

I think the wide open water fear is a common fear in all people, even those that skin dive. Hell, I'm even a little jumpy in dark unfamliar rooms sometimes. I have found it is about how well you control your emotional response to those fears, that lets you understand the intensity of your own phobias.

Hm, ASV or Friday Naked Mole Rat Blogging, ASV or NMRB, hm, gosh, what a bind!

WTF is your point?

I read that as "naked mall rat". That's just wrong.

I don't think anyone who's opinion matters would have a problem with you saying, "I can't come to your party because parties make me freak out." In fact, they'd probably feel worse if they indirectly contributed to making you feel uncomfortable. (Pssst! People like you. Maybe not me, but I'll bet there are some somewhere.)

Anyway, you've only got so much energy to spend. If you split it between trying to get people to understand you and understanding yourself, you'll run out. Concentrate on yourself first.

Parties, ugh. On the other hand, if there's free food, I'm there. Usually in the corner with a book.

Bees, wasps, hornets or basically anything that flys and stings. No idea why. Extra bonus creepy points if they swarm, too.

Winnie-the-Snarky-Commenter obviously has some kind of fully-justified inferiority complex.

I do NOT like clowns - possibly a bit afraid of them. I can't even stand looking at Ronald McDonald. I blame that Victor De Salva movie "Clownhouse" and John Wayne Gacy for it.

That goes for mimes too.

My friend had a very real fear of clowns. He's been to a couple of pro head shrinkers, and they have never found a root cause or tramatic experiance that would bring this on.

I have this paralyzing fear of being scotch-taped to the hood of a 1978 Buick Roadmaster driven by Ruth Buzzi.

23 years of therapy, and it still persists.

I used to have panic attacks in my early twenties. I worked offshore back then, and I recall several instances where I was flying out in a helicopter and staring at the floor thinking "oh fuck, beneath that 3/8ths inch-thick sheet of aluminum is 1800 feet of nothing!" But I could just as easily get them while sitting in my apartment watching TV or eating a sandwich.

I turned 40 this year, and I don't recall having a panic attack during the past ten years. I think overcoming them had mostly to do with internalizing a few truths. Number one, the whole heart palpitations and shortness of breath thing is a reaction to adrenaline, nothing more. Number two, fear isn't real. It's a thought in our heads, existing completely within the confines of our skulls, a bean bouncing in our bucket, nothing more. As such, it's impossible for it to harm us or anything else that is real. And number three, the world and our thoughts about the world are two entirely different things, meaning that at any given moment we could be absolutely, 180 degrees wrong about anything. Realizing this last part helps us to keep from investing too much of ourselves in our own bullshit. We are not our bullshit. We're ourselves, and there's nothing wrong with us or the world when we're wrong about something. And that's what most of us fear the most; deep down we all dread that there's something wrong with ourselves.

:peter

I've never been fond of clowns. They are just too weird for me.

I recently bought a t-shirt and two magnets (one for work) that has a drawing (done by a friend of mine from Upstate NY) of a terrified kid up at night clinging to his blankets with the caption "Can't sleep, clowns will eat me!"

Fears are taught, in most cases. By family, friends, television, etc.

God, I hate panic attacks.

Oddly enough, after I got over the insanity of being a new mom, they seem to happen less than they used to. For some reason I'm less afraid of people -- something about having a kid makes me not give a rats ass what anyone thinks anymore.

Okay, I do. Of course I do. But not as much. Not as paralyzing.

I have to say, for the rest of us, thanks for putting stuff right out there. It helps me know I'm not the only one who can work themselves up into a frenzy of crazy over a party. I hate parties too. I have no idea what to do with myself at one.

I think your camera thing is a good idea. I think that's why my mom got into photography. I think I'm too worried the camera will get me more attention.

Hope you're feeling better and you manage to rest.

I miss the climbing clown at Adventureland.

IíM B-AACK!

Clowns are terrifying, that picture especially so. Once I found an antique metal clown bank in a Hertz Rent a Car. You put the coin in the dogs mouth, pressed a lever, and it flew threw a hoop that the clown was holding, and into a metal barrel.

I put the bank on the top shelf the entertainment center in the living room. Not long thereafter, I fell asleep on the couch after work one day. I had a dream that evil clowns were falling. I opened my eyes startled. Next, I heard a large thump. The clown that had been on the shelf above the TV fell off. My hair stood on end. I got up, picked up the clown, left the apartment and disposed of it.

I don't know where that clown is, but I imagine it's one of those things like the monkey's paw, that keeps getting passed around.

There is evil. There are clowns. THERE ARE EVIL CLOWNS!