Monday, April 11, 2005

Conquering Phobias

I had two phobias up until about a year ago - heights and worms. I know, I get the same reaction every time. Worms? Heights is quite common, but worms? Snakes don't bother me, in fact, I find them fascinating. Insects and other creepy crawlers don't bug me either. Worms, though. Damn. I like to tell my brother it's because he and another friend from our youth used to throw them at me and they would end up in my hair, but I seem to recall the reason they did that was because I was so insanely afraid of them. Kids - they are blessed at finding exactly what your weaknesses are and abusing you until you never want to leave your room. Which may explain why I am such a geek. I never left my room because I was studying and reading all the time!

The interesting thing about phobias is that people who have them (I've asked) know that their fear is completely irrational. It doesn't matter, though, because when faced with said phobia an anxiety comes over you that you can neither explain nor control.

The straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, came when I was camping with some friends. Everyone brought their kids. I was holding one 5-year-old girl when a 3-year-old boy found a worm and decided to chase me with it. Well, I damn near threw the girl out of my arms to escape this little boy who wasn't going to hurt me, but in my mind it became "worm moving at a high rate of speed toward me - must escape danger any way possible". My friend finally intervened and told him to stop. It was funny until they realized it was a horrible phobia. The father, feeling horrible, made his son apologize to me. When a 3-year-old comes up to you, ashamed, and says, "I am really sorry". Then when he touches your knee and says in complete seriousness with compassion, "worms can't hurt you, ya know", you feel like a complete moron. But, again, that fear is irrational and uncontrollable.

I thought about hypnotherapy because it didn't involve drugs, horrible expense, and it was alternative which is what I am working toward in my health care. I truly expected to be one of the percentage that is not able to be hypnotized. Turns out my yoga practice helped me to relax and be in the moment. Thank you yoga!

Hypnotherapy turned out to be a complete saving grace. I didn't have any expectations and it's probably a good thing. I sat in my therapist's office in a comfortable recliner while he played soothing ocean wave's in the background and talked me through my 10-point scale of fear. 1 being not afraid at all (in my case, thinking about being someplace high and thinking about my backyard), to 10 being not able to cope with reality (standing on a cliff or the top of a high bridge looking over or standing with worms in my hand and more on the ground). Using your own emotional and mental resources, you rationalize your way to rational.

The amazing thing is that when he told me I should be good to go, I didn't know what to think. I had never not been afraid of either so I had no idea what would happen. I would find out. On my bike trek to Lake Tahoe, there were plenty of heights. None of them bothered me. My recent trip to Letchworth State Park also proved that heights no longer seem to be the issue they once were. The interesting thing is that now I have a healthy fear and understanding. I am not about to stand on a precipice that could be dangerous, but that doesn't make me afraid, it just makes me smart.

Worms, on the other hand, proved to be my success. The fear with worms was much more acute than heights. I would see them and have to go into the house and lock the door. If it was raining outside at night , I wouldn't walk to my car or other destination without a lighted path so I could see any worms in my way - horribly debilitating.

I saw one in the backyard the other day and I found myself looking at it like a science experiment - marveling at how interesting it was that this creature lived underground and did so much for us. That's how I chose to rationalize worms - they are helpful and pretty damn cool. My neice held one the other day and I thought she was going to throw it. Last year I would have raced to the house and locked myself in the bathroom. This day I simply told her to put in down in the garden where it would do some good. No anxiety, no elevated heart rate. I was elated! Make no mistake, I have no interest in holding worms and bringing them in my house or even putting them on a fishing line. I suspect that in order for me to touch one, I would have to be wearing garden gloves, but that is still huge!

I suspect only someone with phobias will appreciate or even understand this post, but that's ok. I recommend hynotherapy for everyone! It worked wonders for me and I think, all told, it cost about $500 to rid my fear of two life alterning phobias.

When you play in your garden, or hike in high places, you may find that your hands and body need some of their moisture back! May I recommend Wild Mountain Organic's Body Polish and/or Hand and Body Lotion? Scented with essential oils, these pleasures will have you hydrated and feeling like you just left a spa in no time!

1 comment:

Shygurl said...

I loved this post! I only have one phobia and it's needles. I understand where you are coming from with this post.