Running Scared

“All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears—of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, or speaking before a Rotary Club, and of the words ‘Some Assembly Required’.”

Dave Barry

Tonight, to celebrate Friday the 13th, my friends will be gathering to collectively shiver, shake, sweat, and scream their way through Paranormal Activity.

I won’t be among them.

The first difficulty stems from that nagging paraskavedekatriaphobia: I’m slightly uneasy about Friday the 13th. While admittedly nothing bad has ever happened to me—or anyone I know—on that day, you never know. And besides, there are lots and lots of frightening things which require a healthy dose of terror-driven respect.

For example, horror movies.

Which brings me to point number two: I don’t do horror movies very well. Like, really not well.

After watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, I slept with the light on and didn’t shower for days. The mere thought of that film’s creepy shower scene brings on a recurrence of that ablutophobia (fear of bathing/showering), which is unfortunate, as it directly conflicts with my automysophobia (fear of not being clean) and bromidrosiphobia (fear of bodily odours).

I don’t do so well camping, either.

Of course, I could always get clean by standing outside in the rain?assuming it weren’t storming, as my keraunophobia (fear of thunder and lightning), not to mention normal safety concerns, would make this an unpleasant experience. But even if it weren’t, torrents of water cascading down on my head could only serve to aggravate my very real aquaphobia (fear of water), which has already prevented me from learning how to swim.

But It’s a moot point, since the sky’s abundantly clear tonight. Unfortunately, That’s also a trigger for the nychtophobia (fear of the dark) that has plagued me since I was a little kid who begged her mom to keep a night light burning just in case.

I draw the drapes and lock myself into the house for safety, although I leave the window open a tiny crack, in case the closeness of the house gives rise to claustrophobia. I shut it after a while, though, because the breeze is giving me a chill, and I have a horror of becoming sick (nosophobia).

So here I am on a Friday the 13th night, slightly dirty and terrified. The curtains are drawn to shut out the dark, and the lights are all blazing, and I’m valiantly struggling with my fear that all the electricity coursing through the walls of the house will cause a short and burn down the place (arsonphobia). I also can’t remember whether I shut the stove off, so I jump up to check that, on the way having a mild panic attack over a small spider grovelling in a corner of the kitchen (arachnophobia).

The walls of my house begin to close in on me. I want desperately to get away from that too-familiar environment (eicophobia), but It’s nighttime, and driving in the dark is particularly scary for the directionally challenged, like me. Sure, my phone’s GPS could guide me, but it also led me to a prison once instead of my hotel, so I’m not keen to trust it—particularly on Friday the 13th.

I decide to stay indoors, but I can’t sit still. The cacophony of the TV and the rustling of the pages of my book and the creaking sounds of the house settling down for the night are making me too jumpy. I’m much too nervous to head for bed, and such a move would be useless, as such situations usually cause somnophobia (fear of sleeping), and fruitless tossing and turning will only create more havoc in my mind.

Then I try to relax my brain. However, fuelled by the nervous terror cycling through my mind, it becomes increasingly focused on the many, many things around me to be feared. The more I think, the more scared I get. The old saying goes that “Fear is more pain than the pain it fears,” but what happens when you fear things a little less abstract?

I’ve become a phobophobe—afraid of being afraid—and my own worst enemy.

I turn, as ever, to journaling. And as I begin to write down my passionate fears and my lingering doubts, they begin to fade into the pages. But something new emerges: the scientific sound of the various phobias conglomerates in my mind in a wild discord, giving rise to a new phantom that haunts the pages of my journal and the dusky corners of my brain.

I’ve been hit by hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (fear of long words).

And so, I’m afraid, have you.