Dealing With Irrational Fears

Fear is a primal instinct. It protects us, teaches us caution, and provides a helpful barometer on which situations could hold danger. Fear isn’t something to be ashamed of. There are good reasons to be afraid of the dark, wasps, and murderers. There are things in the world that can hurt us, and it is not the best idea to go seeking them out without at least an idea of what you’re about to face. Fear is in the body as well as the mind; pumping blood and shaking hands, fight or flight.​Facing your fears is a rite of passage, a way to mark growing up. Getting rid of the nightlight and training wheels is part of how you become an adult. For the rational fears, or even the childhood wacky ones, facing them is reasonable and expected. It is when we develop irrational ones, deep-seated, anxiety driven fear, that the premise of just “getting over it” is not always feasible.

I have always been terrified of needles. Shots at the doctor’s office were an ordeal of the most ridiculous magnitude. I’m not saying eight-year-old me threatened to kick her then-pediatrician when she came at me with a needle that I said I wasn’t ready for, but I’m not saying I didn’t either. Point being, up until probably a year or two ago, I maintained a visceral fear of needles. I’m much better with them now, which makes my life a lot easier, let me tell you. I even got my final two Gardasil shots all by myself. I’m growing as a human being, let me tell you.

However, I am not fully grown. So when the Health Center informed me that I would need to get blood drawn, I was high key alarmed. My brain told me that this was important, something I needed to get used to eventually, and that it would take less than five minutes. One vial, Lily, come on, you can do this. And I did it without a problem. The nurses at the Health Center were kind and lovely, and the process was smooth. (The tests all went well, if you’re curious. I’m all healthy.)

I would not say that I got over my fear. I just learned how to handle it well enough because I got older, I guess? I've experienced worse things? I realized the possibility of cervical cancer was worse than three shots? I don’t know how, but I did it. I want to point out, though, that not all fears go that way. Sometimes, irrational fears get stuck in your brain and you can’t just grow out of them. Sometimes, you just learn to handle them quietly and by yourself because people keep making fun of you. Because it’s irrational, it doesn’t make total sense and it can’t be worked through with logic. It’s not about making it go away (though if it does, then that’s great) but about integrating it. And it is certainly not about judgment.

Fear is natural. When you’re afraid, you might lose some of your reason and you might succumb a little to the fear. That, in my personal opinion, is okay. It is totally valid to experience fear and just feel it for a second, reminding yourself that being afraid is allowed. I don’t super recommend letting it paralyze you. Instead, figure out some traveling safe spaces, cultivate a sense of security and steadiness if you can. Find people who when they figure out you’re afraid of needles, cover your eyes for you when there’s an injection scene in a movie. Face your fear if you want and try not to let it control you. Get your blood drawn and buy yourself an ice cream afterward. You deserve it.  

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