I try to avoid watching things that frighten me. For many years I engaged in movies and shows that would put me in a state of panic, not realizing that my brain didn’t know the difference. The fight or flight response was unknowingly triggered, so while in the thrall of the plot, my mind was recording events and sending out signals on how to protect me. I recall many sleepless nights of “what was that noise?” and “is that shadow in my room the main character who terrorized the town?”
It wasn’t so fun after dark. But sure enough, in broad daylight, I would tune in, telling myself the torture of the night before wasn’t going to occur again. And then it would.
After repeated sessions of this, I had a legitimate adverse reaction to heights. I had viewed multiple scenes, I am sure, of someone being shoved over a cliff, planes crashing into mountains, and cars plummeting down treacherous hillsides. There was no other explanation for my sweaty hands, racing heart, and an overwhelming feeling of wanting to run away when I was subjected to higher ground.
I had to combat this for a long time and pretend not to be bothered, especially when my girls were young. I didn’t want them to pick up on something and have the impression that high places were to be avoided. I continued to white-knuckle it so that they wouldn’t know.
Just before I went to a water park one day, I was silently suffering before leaving because I would have to climb ladders up onto platforms to take my kids on various rides. It’s an old psychology trick to do the action that makes one afraid. I tried to see this as an opportunity to overcome this entrenched idea that my death would come by plummeting to the ground. I heard that still, small voice say:
“Keep putting yourself up high, and you will see the end of this.”
The anxious feelings were a little less that day, and I didn’t have to fake enjoying the scenery.
I obeyed and also employed Emotional Freedom Technique(EFT). It took a while of administering this self-care to overcome the problems, and I recall getting on a plane feeling calm. I waited for the usual uncomfortable emotions to overtake me, but they didn’t. I had reprogrammed a part of myself to feel secure when I was safe all along.
After all that work, you would think that I would never put anything that would elicit fear before my eyes. It’s interesting how we forget and go back to doing something, maybe a bad habit, because we convince ourselves that it’s not harmful.
So I found myself planted in front of the tv one dark and stormy night. In the back of my mind, I kept reminding myself I needed to throw a bag of junk away. I had been cleaning earlier that day, and instead of taking it to the bin, I pitched it into the garage. I didn’t want to leave it there overnight.
The show began, and I felt the old familiar twinge of suspense coming on me. All it takes is sound effects and music to start the process. A few times, I shut my eyes and took a deep breath. This was entertainment? But, I forged ahead, convincing myself I just had to see the outcome as I binge-watched. Right at the height of an intense scene, I heard her say,
“Mom! There’s a spider on the wall!”
I hit the pause button.
“It’s big, mom. It’s big. Mom, you have to get it!”
The repeating of my title “mom” or “mother” doesn’t thrill me when I’m physically exhausted. I don’t have as much compassion at times when others have their irrational fear. Can’t someone else be the leader for a second?
Again I said,
“On the wall.”
“There’s a lot of walls. Where?”
By now, she was clutching her blanket and peering over the edge of it like a herd of tarantulas was attacking us.
Sighing, I got up and started to scan the room. Normally, I do a catch and release type of mission, but our temperature had dropped outside to frigid numbers, so this would not end that way.
“I see it!” She squeaked, pointing straight ahead.
I got a tissue and appraised my options. Slowly taking small steps forward, I thought I would end this quickly. It knew its number was up and made an attempt to flee. After darting and traveling miles around the living room, it was apprehended.
I told her she could uncover her head.
“You got it?”
I showed her the dark form in the Kleenex. Satisfied that her nerves were back in order, I walked to the wastebasket and put it in there. I thought momentarily about the story line of the show we were watching and that I should remove the bag with the dead spider if it resurrected itself. I was feeling jumpy. An episode of the Twilight Zone flashed in my memory. The one where the guy puts the arachnid in the tub and rinses it down? Ya, that one. It comes back up through the drain and strangles him? I didn’t want that to happen.
While pondering all this, I didn’t realize she had snuck up behind me. She leaned close to my left ear and whispered in a low, growling, inhuman voice,
I dropped the bag and screamed at the top of my lungs! I should have recorded it, sold it, and made millions; it was so well done. Who knew I had a hidden talent for horror movie acting? Whipping around, I found her laughing hysterically.
“Did you really just do that to me after I just made you feel better about a tiny bug?”
She couldn’t catch her breath to speak as the giggles came harder and in bigger waves. My other daughter, who was in the basement, had heard my blood-curdling shriek and sent me a text.
It was comforting to know that she would at least check in on me from a distance if my life were in danger. She had surmised I was okay because her sister’s merriment was ringing through the entire house.
I picked up the contents of the spilled bag off the floor and stepped past my child, who thought this was the funniest thing of her life. I found myself shaking my head, trying not to join in on her glee. Her laugh is infectious, but I didn’t want her to think she was off the hook.
Before going out the door into the garage, I turned and said,
“I will get you back! When you least expect it, this will come back to haunt you!”
She laughed louder.
As I took the step down, it was like something pushed me from behind. I tried to regain my balance, but there was no stopping my momentum. I was going to fall headfirst into a concrete floor, and I was very aware of this as it was happening.
Instinctively I threw what was in my hands to the side to free my arms in an attempt to break my fall. I landed straight on the big bag of trash that I had tossed out there earlier. The impact was like a bomb going off as all my body weight smacked into it.
“Kelsey, help me!” I yelled as I was going down like a freshly cut tree. But apparently, she hadn’t heard me.
I lay unmoving, facedown in the aftermath, doing a physical assessment to see if anything was broken. I felt the cold floor on my right shoulder, but the majority of me had squarely hit the bag like a gigantic pillow.
I tried calling her name a few more times, but there was no response. After a while, I sat up, hoping nothing was out of line or aching. To my amazement, I was all in one piece. I got up and went back into the house. My chore of taking out the trash could wait.
I found her to be calmly looking at her phone, seemingly unaware of my near-death experience.
“Didn’t you hear me calling your name? I could have hurt myself!”
“I fell off the steps. Full on with nothing to stop me! I was out there calling for you!”
“I thought you were trying to scare me. I heard you say my name, but on the way out the door, you said you were going to get me back! I thought you were doing it when I least expected, so I pretended I didn’t hear you!”
This brought on another round of laughs by both of us.
“I wouldn’t try to get you back that fast!”
“Exactly! That’s what I thought, so then I thought maybe you were! You fell?”
“Yes! And my shoulder is getting sore, but the trash bag stopped my crash.”
We burst out laughing.
I was so thankful I had put off moving that bag; otherwise, my night would have ended in the ER.
That chain of events proved to me once again that fear is a state of mind. We attract unpleasant things to ourselves by not taking charge of our thoughts.
The Bible has many scriptures that remind us to fear not.
Why? Because it’s not necessary and just a bunch of garbage.