Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty.
Bertrand Russell

Fear is one of the most consistent themes that follows me throughout my daily life.
I guess I was always kind of a scared kid. The highly strung, over anxious type that got ‘sick’ in the middle of fun sleepover and wanted to come home. I grew out of the phoning my parents to come and get me as I evolved into a teen, but the urge to do it was always there when I slept at someone else’s house. I don’t know what I was scared of. I was never afraid of the Boogey Man creeping out from under the bed. It wasn’t the dark that haunted me either. That typical kid stuff didn’t bother me. It was just an overwhelming sense of foreboding that coursed through my veins until I was home safely.

25 years later, and it still happens when I’m away from ‘home’. But unlike the years of my youth, ‘home’ no longers offers the protection it once did. I’m afraid there too. It follows me everywhere I go these days, intruding on the places I’ve always felt a sense of safety. I’m afraid of things that are completely irrational to other people. Some of them are based on paranoid beliefs and delusions I hold because of the Psychosis. Others, due to my Anxiety and OCD. I cover my webcam so no one can watch me. Sometimes, when I’m really sick I’ll put my phone in a drawer because I’m afraid of someone watching me through it’s camera. I know these things sound insane. A large part of me knows when I do those things that they’re completely irrational, but I can’t stop myself from feeling the fear the thoughts create. I’m scared when someone comes to visit my house and uses the toilet, because that means I’ll have to it use after them and they might have contaminated it somehow. Rationally, I’m completely aware that you don’t catch diseases from a toilet seat. I know that. I know it. But the fear remains.

Dettol Hand Sanitizer Gets Plenty Of Use

Dettol Hand Sanitizer Gets Plenty Of Use

I’m fearful every time I touch my face, that I might previously have touched something I could potentially contaminate myself with. Especially my eyes. For some reason, Ocular Herpes is a really strong fear for me. God forbid, my eye should look even slightly red, I freak out and disappear into the bathroom for 3 hours, standing in front of the mirror, just staring at it. Rating it’s redness. Trying to watch for it’s progression. Sometimes, I even have to resort to taking a photo of my eye so that I can leave the bathroom finally, but still maintain the ability to keep checking. I might take another photo every hour, until my phone is just filled with insane random images of my eyeballs. There have been times that this is happened, and I literally have myself so convinced I have eyeball herp that I’ve had a complete emotional breakdown. Then I’ve gone to doctor, had the dye put in my eye- No Herp. This same thing goes on with my genitals. Checking and rechecking. Inspecting an ingrown hair until I’m morbidly satisfied and completely sure it’s the Herp. Has to be. There’s no other explanation, I’ll convince myself. Until I go to my doctor, drop my pants and say “I definitely have it this time!” for the hundredth time, and she’ll sigh with exhaustion at my antics but take a look, assure me it’s an ingrown hair. I’ll beg her take a swab test to be sure, and even though every time it come back negative and the fear eases for a few minutes, it quickly begins again with thoughts like “What if she just didn’t get enough cells on her sample?” “What if they stuffed things up at the pathology clinic?” “What if I’ve got the wrong persons results and mine are really positive?” The worst part of the whole equation, is that rationally I’m entirely aware that Herpes is for most, just a minor skin condition that’s inconvenient and incredibly common. But rational thoughts and OCD are like 2 magnetic opposites, constantly fighting one another for space. OCD is honestly a lot of scary ‘What If’s?’ that swim around in your head like sharks, ready to ruin a pool party. I even feel fear when I make my dinner. I can’t touch raw chicken without gloves, because I don’t believe I’ll truly be able to wash off the contamination afterwards. And I cook it until it’s done plus another 20 mins, just to be safe. I’m also compelled to ask someone around me if they’d eat it or if they agree it’s cooked well enough. Reassurance seeking is common to OCD related fears. I’ll ask over and over again, completely annoying the people around me.

There’s the intrusive thoughts which create incredible amounts of terror for me. Thoughts that can and do attack me in the place I’m suppose to be safest, home. They used to come a lot at night time, when I’d lay down to sleep. I’d close my eyes and be confronted with weird, unwanted and often terribly frightening images, thoughts or scenarios that rushed through my head. Mine are mostly based on me harming people in some way or another. They’ve been thoughts such as the vision of a sledgehammer smashing down on someone’s head and it exploding, brain matter splashing everywhere. It just played over and over. To get that one out of my head I had to sing a Carpenters song over and over to myself, as I lay there in the dark. It was terrifying because I didn’t know where these thoughts were coming from. How can they come from my own brain when they disgust me so much? These days I take sleeping tablets so I don’t have go through evenings like that every time I hop into bed.

I’d like to say sleep is fear free, but I can’t. It catches me even there. I have really terrible night terrors that cause me to thrash about, and scream obscenities at the top of my lungs in my sleep. It’s always embarrassing things like “Fuck you!” “Fuck off!” “Get off me!”, those kind of things. This current medication regime I’m on has done a good job at making them recede to only every second or third night, which is better than every night of the week like it was, but it still sucks and is incredibly embarrassing when it rouses other people.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be free of fear. I dream of a life that isn’t based on all the things I can’t do because I’m afraid. I’m constantly trying to work on it, exposing myself to things that create anxiety and doubt and learning to sit with the discomfort, but it isn’t easy. My Psychologist refers to it as ‘Holding The Bunny’. You have to hold him gently, and not squeeze too tight. If you hold your fears, aka The Bunny, too tight his head pops off and then you’re in all kinds of trouble. I’m trying every day to hold the Bunny loosely. Learning how to accept the fear in my life, but not be beholden to it. It’s a tough road filled with lots of self doubt and uneasiness. Some days are better than others, so I just have to learn to treasure them as they come and not squeeze the Bunny to death on the days that aren’t so good.

Mark Ryden's Bunny

Hold him softly.