You may think my sister and I had a lot of things to be afraid of, but you would be wrong. We were both two of the most fearless little girls around. We would stand up to neighborhood bullies and we would be the first to enter the scary empty house. Having said that, we each had our own small fears.
Our mother had ailurophobia: she was terrified of cats. She claimed that they would kill a baby if a cat was left alone with a baby. She said cats were “sneaky” and “malicious.” I don’t know where she got her ideas; all I do know is that she would never enter a home where a cat lived.
As you know, I have ornithophobia: I am afraid of birds. Oh, I love the little hummingbirds that come to my feeder from May to September, but I do not love the larger winged creatures that fly around my yard. When John and I visited California this summer, one of our fellow travelers dropped a sack of popcorn which led to the largest flock of pigeons I have ever seen. It was like something out of the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds” (or so I have heard…I have never seen the movie myself and do not plan to see it).
This sudden gathering of pigeons sent me into one of my bird-based panic attacks. My heart begins to beat really fast and I can’t think of anything except getting away from the flying beasts from Hell.
I used to worry about my fear, but as my son’s father once told me:
You fear nothing else. You are not afraid to stay alone. You don’t worry about robbers or other criminals. If you didn’t fear birds, you might be afraid of other things.
I had to agree with him that my one seemingly irrational fear might be easier to handle than a whole lot of other fears.
My sister Lindy has entomophobia: she is terrified of bugs. She will go into the same panic, screams and hysteria that I do when a bird appears. Only she does it when she sees a bug. We have all learned to squash the offending creature before my sister spots it.
So, we each one have our very own phobia. We do not view it as being crazy or mentally ill. It’s just a Far From Normal thing that keeps us aware of our surroundings and doesn’t limit our lives. Okay, it limits us a little. Okay, sometimes more than a little. My mother would never visit anyone with a cat, I would never step into an aviary, and my sister doesn’t have an ant farm.