Sally is at the beach for the third time this summer. This makes me insanely jealous because I have not been to a beach since my Junior year of college – a most memorable Spring Break trip that was three years ago. I complain about this to anyone that will listen. I just want to be at a beach! But here’s the thing – I am terrified of the ocean to the point that I won’t let the water go past the mid-point of my shins. So terrified that I once had a panic attack while snorkling, have gotten heart palpitations while watching movies with water scenes, and yes I am freaked out by the deep end of swimming pools. And I get scared when I’m in lakes. I’m a good enough swimmer so it’s not the fear of drowning that makes me anti-ocean – it’s the vast scale and depth of the big blue and all the sea life living in it that makes me scared beyond belief. Titanic didn’t help the situation, either.
Do you want to know how much grief I get for having this particular fear? A ridiculous amount. I wikipediaed “phobia” to prove that my fear was completely justified… “A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational.” This type of fear is categorized as a ‘specific phobia.’ Sounds about right to me. If clinical psychology can let me live my life in fear of the ocean than why can’t other people? It is so annoying to have people constantly telling you, “There is NO reason to be affraid… Face your fears… Don’t let this limit your life experiences… etc.” Hi, I told you about the heart palpitations but I guess I forgot to mention the nightmares about sharks. Now will you leave me alone?
It just gets me to thinking, we all have irrational fears of some sort. Sally is terrified of getting sick – she’s not a hypocondriac by any means – but her greatest fear is one day having a terrible disease or illness. I have friends that hate clowns, needles, airplanes, escalators (true) – the list goes on. Is it just part of our human nature to try and push people to face their fears? Or to try and justify that their fear is more rational than our own? On some level it’s like we can’t help the comparision and judgement – I legitimately do not understand how someone can have a true fear of clowns. Really, this boggles my mind. But that’s the same kind of thinking people have about me and my phobia…
I was talking with some co-workers last week and one of them said, “I know I’m an intense person, it took me a long time to figure that out about myself and to embrace it… And I knew that I needed to be with someone that liked that intensity and didn’t want to change it but could push back when I needed it.” She wasn’t talking about phobias or fears but she was talking about a sense of acceptance that is sometimes necessary when it comes to relationships and friendships. It’s normal to compare ourselves to others and to notice differences – I’m constantly noticing things about Sally and I that are different – but the “older” I get (or the more mature I become) I’m realizing that we are who we are and “different than me” does not equal bad or wrong.
So yes, I want to be at the beach right now and enjoy the sound of the ocean and the view of the horizon. Just don’t try and convience me that I need to get in said ocean to fully apprecaite it, mmmk?
(Image via Andy Heart)