I decided (possibly naively) that this year I was going to face some of my fears. Bold move! But I turned 30 and thought: now or never.
I’d like to say I don’t have many fears. But I do. And as a start, I wanted to tackle 2 of the biggest ones.
That, good friends, is a picture of the entrance to my loft. Behind the trap door is the entrance to our office/spare bedroom, so you can see how bright and sunny a day it is. Up in the loft, it is pure darkness.
I’d like to say that I was a little girl who was terrified of the dark who grew up to be a woman who scoffed at it, but I’m not. I don’t know if it’s the films I’ve tortured myself with my whole life or my over-active imagination (probably both), but I still struggle with the darkness.
I used to, as a child, read under the covers for hours and hours with a light – any light I could find. I’d get tired enough that I couldn’t stay awake, and then I could finally sleep. As I got older I have used lamps, hallway lighting (coming a bit into my bedroom) or, well, Dave to help me sleep in the darkness. When he is on shift, the hallway light stays on until he is home. He makes me feel safe enough to handle the dark the rest of the time.
I don’t know anyone else with these issues. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just because I don’t ask anyone about it, but I doubt that the majority of my friends panic when they hear a weird noise and burst into tears when in their panic they can’t find a light switch.
So I’m working on it. My first step is that I tell myself it’s okay. I try to breathe normally. I let my eyes adjust for longer. I know evil presences are not in my home, and things are fine. It’s working a wee bit. I came down from the loft last week holding a box in my hands and I was so very very close to dropping it and jumping down from the ladder just so I could get away from the loft. Instead, I took deep breaths, carried on slowly down, and slowly used the pole to close the trap-door. It was small, but a step.
My other, major, more pressing issue is my fear of the dentist. I’ve discussed this before, but it’s not a nervousness or a hassle to go, it is panic attack territory. Crying in public territory. Taking 6 months to work up the courage to walk in territory.
When I was a kid, I had a dentist. She wasn’t kind. She wasn’t gentle. And she didn’t believe me when I told her I was in pain: that her injections were not working. She didn’t believe that she had cut the side of my gums when she slipped with her drills until she realised how much I was bleeding. She told me to “stop crying”, that I was “being a baby” and that she’d treated kids in Guatemala who were braver than I.
I’ve never forgotten that feeling – being told that my feelings and fears were invalid, that I was stupid and small and a baby for putting my hand up to say I was in pain. I lived in fear of this every time I went, and together with the fact that I knew it would cost me thousands (living in America and then New Zealand, where socialised medicine unfortunately does not cover dentistry), I eventually stopped going. I think it has been well over a decade since I last went.
Well. Today, I walked in. I’ve been in pain for days, and I’ve been so scared to do anything about it, but I can’t put it off anymore. Luckily, we have the NHS, so it will be affordable, and everyone I met when I registered today seemed nice. I asked for an appointment with a dentist who was good with nervous people, and hopefully she will be. I go back on Wednesday.
Part of the motivation for all of this fear-facing is that it’s likely that I might be pregnant at some point next year and become a mother, and if I can’t look after my own teeth or cope with my own home then how am I going to chase away the big bad for my little ones? How am I going to convince them that dental hygiene is important if my teeth are rotting away and I’m ignoring the pain?
And I think what makes me break down over these issues and cry is that I am so hurt by these two things that are so very irrational. I know there is nothing in my loft or waiting in the dark for me and I know that I need to look after my teeth and not all dentists are horrible, but my own brain is fighting me on it. It’s like my own mind is failing me, and that is so disappointing. I need to stand up and say that I am bigger than these fears.
I need to be able to be brave. And so I go. Wish me luck.