Given that we’re all humans, I think we can all agree on this: every one of us is imperfect.
(The only exception is the first time one falls madly, deeply and impossibly in love with his or her utterly unflawed partner. But this, too, shall pass.)
Now I’ll go a step further: I believe that each of us has at least one phobia.
Perhaps it’s more of an irritant to your spouse, like making absolutely sure the closet doors in a bedroom are completely closed before going to sleep, because who knows what sort of nocturnal presence is lurking beside our jeans and shirts? Or it could be something that messes big time with our everyday lives, like the arachnophobia The Teenage Daughter once endured. Her panic in grammar school after glimpsing even the tiniest spider was so acute—hysterical screaming, running and weeping—that she saw a school counselor for an entire year.
Lest you think you’re phobia free, trust me, that’s impossible.
Indeed, you’re sure to find at least one perfect fit at www.phobiasource.com or www.phobialist.com, both of which list hundreds of fears.
As a matter of fact, the former says phobias are the most common type of emotional disorders in the United States, and gives this simple definition: an intense fear of certain situations, activities, things, animals or people. The site goes on to say that while the person knows the behavior around his/her fear is irrational, their behavior is also out of his/her control.
So it’s here, in alphabetical order no less, that you’ll find familiar phobias like dentophobia (fear of dentists) and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces/fear of leaving a safe place). But who knew about kynophobia, the fear of rabies; katsaridapobia, the fear of cockroaches, and bufonophobia, the fear of toads? There’s also octophobia, which is fear of the figure eight, and pupaphobia, the fear of, you guessed it, puppets.
Then there’s my brand new phobia.
Not coincidently, it began about three months ago, right after my child got her driver’s license and began going places
And even though she is very, very good behind the wheel, and gets around in the sturdy, boring white Saturn sedan I handed down to her, I’m still uneasy.
One reason is that her traveling isn’t limited to getting to work and college classes. Nope, The Teenage Daughter traverses all over our wide open county—a total area of more than 3,000 square miles, including curvy canyon roads and crowded freeways—to do things like bowling, swing dancing and late night meals with her crew.
It gets worse.
That’s because my phobia isn’t limited to simply hoping that my girl stays safe.
Nope. It’s because I absolutely believe that every single time she backs out of our driveway, I will never see her
Lest one thinks this is a tad extreme, regular readers know I come by this fear honestly.
After all, her first dad, who was also my longtime partner, left our house one night to kill himself—which he did with frightening efficiency. (That story is here, at http://hilaryrobertsgrant.weebly.com/blog/a-shot-in-the-dark.) Yup, it’s another new psychological scar that has reared its not-so-pretty head, although it has no doubt been buried deep inside me, a full 17 years after the suicide.
And, while I knew that I couldn’t be the only person in the world with this issue, I assumed that only a handful of people suffer from this. After all, even I’m aware that it’s a bit extreme.
Then I heard a recent radio interview with Rabbi Susan Silverman, the older sister of the brilliant comedienne
The eldest Silverman voiced that she, too, once suffered from the identical crippling phobia for decades, but never knew why. To say it wasn’t easy on her husband and children is an understatement.
But then, after more than a few years with one therapist, she casually mentioned that her infant brother Jeffrey died
in a freak accident in his crib when she was two years old. Her mother and father were away at the time, leaving the
baby and herself in the care of grandparents, who discovered the body.
While Silverman had no memory of the event, the therapist explained that on some level, she still remembered the
death; consequently, her phobia began rooting then. After years of counseling, the once-constant fear is now much subdued. (The entire interview is at www.npr.org/2016/05/23/479150041/susan-silverman-on-anxiety-adoption-and-making-a-family-in-an-uncertain-world.)
Given that I’ve only just become aware of this same phobia, I still don’t know how I’ll go about fixing it.
For now, I am extremely grateful for cell phones, and the fact that my daughter almost always texts back within five minutes of receiving a text from me making sure that she’s okay. (Although I’ve never mentioned this fear to her, she went through the same death, and perhaps that’s why she responds quickly. Also know that I make sure to never ever text while she’s in class, at work, or especially, driving.)
Furthermore, I now have a ritual that happens if I’m home when she’s leaving .
I tell her to drive carefully, and I tell her I love her, in that order. I know that these words are no more than a talisman, but saying them makes me feel better, and who knows, maybe they do act as some sort of magical, unseen protectant. I also pray, out loud and in my head, many times during the day,that she’ll have a really good day, and be safe in every way.
So far, it has worked.
Still, I also know that becoming a parent means becoming a hostage to fortune.
And that probably means that while I can put a band aid or two on this phobia, it isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. While I’m not exactly okay with this, I know that I have to live with it… at least for now.
What’s your phobia, and have you come to terms with it? I look forward to hearing your stories and comments, especially if you’re a parent!