“He who indulges in empty fears earns himself real fears.” - Seneca.
For someone with generalized anxiety disorder, I am rarely fearful. Perhaps I have few fears because I have anxiety? I am not sure, and trying to answer that circular question does not get me very far.
I was asked not long ago what frightens me. After a great deal of thought, my deepest fear is that I would lose those I care about.
Not dying? Not really. I’ve already tried to die. Besides, as Mark Twain put it: “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” Because of my, let’s call it proximity, to death I do not mind experiences that others might shy away from.
Stand on top of a 643 ft. tall waterfall? Let’s do it.
Get extorted in Istiklal Caddesi? I have made better decisions.
A friend told me that he was envious of my ability to just jump into something 100%. Sometimes, that inclination is admirable, but I’ve learned that it is not always the best idea. Getting involved with the Turkish mob was one of those lessons.
I have no problem doing something, but I do fear anything that gets me to think fearfully. This is why I avoid horror movies and haunted houses.
My mind does not do a great job separating real and imagined fears. When I am in a haunted house, I can know, intellectually that I am safe, but my amygdala is on overdrive; so the blood-splattered butcher holding a meat cleaver is a real threat.
I am quite envious of my dad, who maintains his disbelief in haunted houses better than anyone. He actually laughs! Except when there is a clown.
He is still afraid of clowns.
Some of my friends really enjoy horror movies. While I consider this a minor character flaw, I like them and sometimes go to the movies to watch some terrifying new spectacle. Well, they watch it. I wear my glasses so I can take them off. I am nearsighted, and my best distance vision is 20/200, which is legally blind. Some may find that deliberately disabling myself is a bit extreme. After all, it’s just a movie, right? Not for me. My mind is perfectly capable of coming up with terrifying images without the aid of Hollywood special effects experts. I do not need more frightening ideas.
I have my fears. The small ones and the big one, what I am grateful for is that my depression and anxiety have given me a higher degree of fearlessness than what could be considered normal.
Maybe that is why I can write about suicide prevention awareness, emotional tunnel vision, and the stigma of mental illness. After all, how terrifying can these things really be if I lived through them and survived?