Category: Phobias


Image result for nightmare gif waking up

Things are taking a suitably nightmarish turn in ChezG, just in time for Halloween. Like everyone, I’ve experienced the disorientating cold-sweat of a bad dream on many occasions. Sleep paralysis has trapped me beneath my duvet several times too. But over the last few weeks, I’m finding myself regularly trying to shake off a nightmare, and spending the following day in a sleep deprived mind-fog.

It happened again last night. Having lay awake for a few hours I drifted off at about 2.30am but by 3 o’clock I was jolted awake by a racing heart, soaked forehead and thoughts of ‘YOU WILL NEVER SLEEP AGAIN’ drumming in my ears.

It’s hideous.

I’ve got two recurring nightmares that stalk me in my sleep quite often. The first is that my teeth have fallen out (I’ve been told that this is an indicator that I’m either going to come into money or that I’m pregnant. No further evidence for either yet). I’m sure this is a pretty standard nightmare but it always sends me rushing into the bathroom to frantically check my gums. The second is that I’m back in the part-time job that accompanied my Uni days. I’m trapped behind the till, forced to face the mundanity of scowling customers and scanning milk. The incessant call of the petrol pumps. The constantly broken lottery machine. I’m forced to relive a time when my only entertainment for eight hours was a never ending production line of ill manners, reduced pasties and body odour. *shudders*. I know it’s hardly the stuff of a Stephen King novel but I will always remember it as my personal hell.

The recurring nightmares are bad enough but I’ve built up enough a resistance to shake them off after a few minutes of feeling very sorry for myself. But this recent barrage of horror stories created by my own mind, is proving a little more difficult to get over. I’ve had allsorts over the last few weeks – from the death of family members to spooky intruders in the flat – but, sometimes, it not so much the content of the dream but my body’s response to it. That sicky feeling, where you’re not sure what is real and what isn’t, is horrible and impossible to identify in those jolting first few moments after a dream, making it very hard to talk any sense into yourself. Last week I actually woke up shouting, which is alarming in itself when you’re ripped out of sleep by the sound of your own voice. A few times, like last night, I’ve had such an adrenaline rush that I’ve just been totally unable to get back off to sleep, which, although it’s frustrating, I can cope with during holidays but during term time, I panic I’ll be tired for school and then can’t recover the next day because I’m in work. It just ramps up into a vicious anxiety circle. I’ve spent several days over the last few weeks feeling emotional and exhausted because, like anyone, I really bloody value my sleep!

So what is causing it? I’ll admit my bedtime reading hasn’t been the most pleasant recently.  I’ve had American Psycho, Carrie and some very graphic Torchwood novels in the last few weeks but I’ve always been able to cope with anything I read before. I’ll often leave the TV to send me to sleep but it’s always with a light comedy (typically French and Saunders) or a Disney film. I’ve even taken solace in Desert Island Discs! I’ve found the internet is the worst pre-bed activity, because whether it’s twitter or Instagram or BBC news, whatever I read seems to buzz around my brain for the rest of the night. It’s a horrible feeling that I just can’t come down from. A theory from a friend is that heat can trigger nightmares, which is tricky as hot water bottle season is in full swing. I suppose it could be a combination of things. Either way, I’m spending Halloween Eve exhausted, looking hideous and dreading going to bed. Great.

Advertisements

Expecting a review of a musical? Not this week. A tongue-in-cheek critique of this week’s EastEnders? Nope. How about a couple of heart-warming stories from the classroom?  Afraid not.

This week, I’m going in deep. I could pretend I’m not having another mini life-questioning crisis, but I am and it’s all I can think about so settle down, buckle up and get ready to hear me whinge.

So, I’m 27. I have been for a couple of weeks now. And so far it’s vile. January always seems to kick-start a cyclone of thoughts and feelings that pivot around the same thought….

‘WHAT. AM. I. DOING?’

I’ll share something with you and I hope it doesn’t sound too self-absorbed or cheesy because, I’m hoping, I’m not the only one to have this thought. But when I was growing up I always thought I was going to be happy. I was going to be satisfied with life. That’s just how it works, right? You grow up and you’re immediately satisfied with what you have. Wrong! No one warned me that I would constantly be evaluating my life, questioning its direction and finding myself envious of people I don’t even know!

I’ve written before about the disaster that was my 25th birthday. On said birthday, I found myself driving along the A55, hair plastered to my forehead with rain, wearing clothes which were older than my Godchildren, stressed out of my mind at the workload at the end of the road in front and behind me. Both directions. Book-ended by paperwork. And I just thought….’Why am I doing this? Why am I forcing myself through the day, looking like a stale old piece of toast, living in my grandparent’s spare room and putting any money I acquired (at the time, it wasn’t earned) into my car or my mouth?’ It took a few weeks but I found my answer and, thankfully, after a few changes (which involved a massive shift in the wardrobe department) I found that what I was feeling was a means to an end. Happiness soon found me again.

That was two years ago and the most turbulent crisis I’ve had. It was hard, but I weathered it.

This year, my birthday was a very quiet event. I celebrated with a day trip to London to see The Book of Mormon and the usual restaurant visits with the parents. It was normal. Until a few days later. I was back at work, thinking about London and the show and the people. And….then it hit me.

I always said I’d leave my town as soon as I could. But, I’m 27 and I’m still here. I’ve come up with lots of excuses to stay and distractions from the yearning to leave but, I’ve realised I’ve stayed for all the wrong reasons and it’s becoming toxic to my wellbeing. I don’t neccessarily want to move to the other side of the World but a change of scenery and a chance to build my own life would be very welcome. I think I’ve stayed here for other people, rather than myself. I think the time is fast approaching when I need to go and find my own life.

I’m finding it difficult not to compare my life to others. I know that I’ve achieved a lot and I’m proud of that, but there’s a horrible niggling part of me that just isn’t quite satisfied. I’ve advised friends before never to compare yourself to others but here I am doing the same! Is it normal for me to be re-evaluating, questioning and criticising my life so early on? Am I right to be feeling so envious of people I haven’t even met? Will I get any kind of satisfaction that decisions I’ve made have been the right ones? Who knows?  I’m not looking for answers here, simply venting frustrating. To those feeling similarly lost, you’re not on your own!

The only thing I have to hold on to is one of my favourite quotes (which I have, again, used on friends before, much to their annoyance).

Everything works out in the end. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end.

I’ve got a phobia.

Now, it’s not Whales or lifts or peas or anything like that. (I am genuinely wary of those things but this fear is far more serious. I class this as another level of terrifying.)

It’s not something I really thought about until I was a teenager. Then it slowly started creeping in and over the last couple of years I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. The resulting thoughts have given me nightmares, pushed me to the verge of panic and had me questioning my every action.

I’ve got a phobia of turning into my mother.

Well, sort of. It’s a fear of turning into either of my parents, but many would agree I am more like my Mum than my Dad (*shudders as he types*). We’ve had a turbulent relationship. I won’t air the details publicly but I left home when I was eighteen and I vowed never to go back. Eight years on, we’re still in touch, thankfully the relationship wasn’t damaged completely, but it’s not your average mum-son set up. I would never want to upset her, but she bloody winds me up at times! (as I’m sure, I do to her). It didn’t bother me as a teen but as I’ve grown up it is something that hurts me, as I start to realise just how important that mother figure is in adulthood as it is in childhood. At 26, I still find myself in situations where I just want a mum. Thankfully, I have plenty of surrogates.

My mum has many positive attributes – she can be very thoughtful and funny and, when I was ill a few weeks ago, she came to my flat and cleaned! But, as I’m sure she’ll agree, she can also be very difficult. I find myself querying whether or not it’s inevitable. Will I one day realise I have morphed into one of the people who created me? Will we share adjectives? Will people think of me as they do her? Will I behave as she does? The thought of turning into either of my parents, is not very appealing. I want to be Me.

I’ve got a friend who has expressed similar concerns. His mother was not very kind to him as a child and he ended up leaving, just as I did. He’s still in touch with his mother, but communication is very rare, and he often finds himself avoiding her just to maintain a quiet life. His mother is a trouble-maker. She is notorious throughout the family for causing upset, chaos and drama. She appears friendly and fun to those on the outside, but she is far from kind to those who are close to her. She talks down to her elderly parents and makes very little time for them. On the rare occasion my friend visits, she sits texting on her phone or reading through facebook, barely acknowledging him. At Christmas, my friend was the only one of her children to visit her, and she spent a lot of time in a funk that she wasn’t out partying with her friends but was instead begrudgingly sitting through a meal with one of her sons – a ‘waste of time’ if the others weren’t there! She made many comments about not needing family and being happier on her own. This has left my friend feeling pretty low and he can’t help feel that pang of envy when he sees other people doing things with their families. He longs for a good relationship with his mother – to be able to share things with her, ask for her advice and take her for meals to spoil her – but he knows that is not going to happen because the relationship is too badly damaged. His mother is just not that kind of mum and that sometimes leaves him feeling like an outsider, especially on occasions like Mother’s Day.

Me and my friend were talking recently and the fear became very real. The thought of turning into that person fills his blood with ice. To be regarded as his mother is would be too much to bear and he worries that he might struggle to resist his genetic destiny. He worries that over the years he will push people away and become the lonely person his mother has become. He worries that, without knowing, he will begin to treat people as she does.

Many times I’ve opened my mouth and my mother comes out. I remember the time I laughed and my Grandad told me I sounded just like her.  I remember the time I delivered a sarcastic comment to my brother and clasped my hand over my mouth in horror, because that is just what Mum would say. Are these just things we have picked up from being around these people or are their traits infused in our blood? Is it genetics or environmental?

My answer is…I don’t know, but I suppose I need to accept that, naturally, I am going to pick up my parents’ traits. Good and bad. I might be very thoughtful, but I might also become obsessed with whinging about the weather (it WILL be cold in the Winter! Why complain?!). I might be very jolly around my friends, but I might also be grumpy and unsociable at times. I hope that I can take on board their positives and pick out the good from those around me. To tell the truth, I don’t spend much time with my parents now that I live alone, and I’m far more likely to see my Godmother, or the caretaker at school who wants to adopt me. Is it possible that I can become like them? Bubbly, fun and full of kindness? Can I magpie traits from others as well as my parents? I don’t see why not.

I think my main worry is that I will take so much from my parents that I won’t end up being Me.  I’ll be a mash-up of Mr and Mrs H. I hope that, in years to come, when I’m no longer here, I can be remembered for being a product of the goodness of both of them. But, most importantly, be remembered for being Me.

Absolute Bedlam

Back to school bedlam has struck!

This blog is brought to you today by stress, anxiety and internal swearing.

Let me just take a breath and take you back about ten days.

So, picture the scene. It’s the end of the first half of spring term. Heavy eyes, chesty coughs and snotty noses are rife. You can’t take a text book from a child without reaching for the anti-bac hand wash. You can’t take a bite from your chicken salad sandwich on wholemeal without aiming your face away from a germ-ridden, sneeze-propelling colleague. You find yourself leaning backwards when talking to a senior member of staff, as even the risk of toppling head first into the Celts display is more appealing than catching said staff member’s flu-y symptoms. You have survived six weeks of viruses, colds, bugs and flus and you’re determined not to succumb in time for half term break, even if it does mean spending twelve minutes scrubbing the rim of your favourite mug, just in case it has come into contact with scabby, cold-sore infested lips.

Alas, as the half term finish line creeps into sight, you feel the crippling lethargy quake through your body and your nose begins an unhealthy relationship with Kleenex. You push through Friday, determined not to weaken that positive, professional, sponsored-by-Disney classroom persona you have striven to perfect. At twenty past three, you resist the urge to nod off in the resource cupboard. By nine thirty, you’ve sacked off your plans to hit the gym and are almost comatose on the sofa.

Sound familiar? Well, it seems that’s the standard end of term routine for teachers. I’m not saying it was mine, but it just might have been. Probably. Thankfully, for me, it got better and I had a lovely half term break. We’re very lucky to have these breaks so I always feel the least we can do is bloody enjoy them. So I did. The week whizzed by and before I knew it I was carrying out my Sunday Shirt Ironing ritual. Things still remained pretty calm. In fact, the bedlam only really began at around 8.17am this morning.

At 8.17am I arrived at school, (turning down the power ballad as I entered the car park) actually pleased to see the place after a week-long break. I started to think about the term ahead. It’s a short term. Four weeks and four days. It’ll be over in a blink. And we’ve got the eisteddfod next week. Then I’ve got that Effective Teaching course. Then there’s the observation from my mentor at the end of term. Oh, and I needed to book in some observations of AfL this week. Oh and I need to make a space for my welsh observation at some point AND make sure the children are up to speed before that happens. Then there’s that Parent’s Evening…and I need to pick my train tickets up from the station….and make that appointment….and send of that letter…

The list went on and a cold film of sweat developed on my forehead. As I entered the school, I realised I wasn’t the only one. Back to School Bedlam was spreading from classroom to classroom like a superbug, infecting even the most laid back teachers. Yes, the holidays are great, but it’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘Oh, I’ll worry about that after half term’, which makes the first day back horrendous. As I type this now, it’s not looking so scary, but at nine o’clock this morning the agenda for the next few weeks had me considering climbing into my car boot.

I’m not pigeonholing this to school workers. I know this is the same for everyone. My point is, where the hell does the time go? I seem to spend my life gearing up to one event (half term, in this case) and then once that’s over I have big fat panic about what lies ahead (the next four weeks!). Before I know it I’ll be in post-Easter panic and the whole process will start all over again!

I suppose the only antidote is to chill and enjoy it. I love being busy and I love my job so the best thing is to take each day as it comes, enjoy it and appreciate bedtime. I was thinking today about how we wish our lives away. In my old job, I would pray the shift would go quicker. When I was in school, I would pray for the weekend to hurry up. I’d hate to look back on my death bed (I’m hoping for a bed – not a pavement or a canal or something) and think ‘I wish I’d enjoyed my life more’. 2016 is already becoming the year that I got things done. I’ve found myself taking risks and ticking bucket list boxes faster than I ever have, all because of that one fear – fear of regret.

Anyway, whatever your job, – teacher, sales assistant, stay at home mum, pole dancer (or perhaps it’s all four!) – I’m prescribing positivity, power ballads, a bit of silliness and something to look forward to, to combat everyday-itis.

So three weeks ago I went to watch Jurassic World with some friends. All I wanted to do was enjoy a relaxing Friday in good company, have a few drinks and see some dinosaurs. Instead I was forced to confess an embarrassing secret fear…

Those of you who have seen the film (and for those of you who haven’t – spoiler alert!) will be familiar with the scene were a pteranadon attacks Claire’s British PA. One minute she is chatting away to her fiancé on the phone, the next she is swept up by a winged menace and being tossed perilously above the park. Now birds don’t bother me (moths, however, are a different story) so as much as I was concerned for the PA I wasn’t too panicked at this point. However, just when it looks like she is about to be pecked to death, the poor woman is dropped into a large tank of water. Phew. Thank goodness. A nice soft landing….

‘Oh my God….Oh no! Oh Jesus Christ! I know what’s coming! Oh this is horrific! I can’t look! This is a horror film!’ I cry, clutching my bewildered friend’s arm and preventing her from reaching the popcorn.

The SeaWorld-esque tank is home to a Mosasaur (see above for terrifying image). After lots of gut-wrenching screams and splashing about, the dino-whale leaps from the water and the British PA is swallowed whole. And I am left, peeking through my fingers, totally disturbed.

Because I have a secret fear of whales.

I’m generalising with ‘whales’. It’s more ‘large underwater creatures that could kill you in a heartbeat’. Now, I can’t really pinpoint the origin of this fear. Jaws freaked me out a bit but I think it is more closely linked with my childhood fascination with Shamu (SeaWorld’s killer whale). When I was a child I longed to visit SeaWorld and would spend evenings looking at Orlando brochures and glossy pictures of killer whales. (Don’t judge. It was the 90s). At one point I even found a website with a live video link to Shamu’s tank! I eventually met the whale himself when I was thirteen and remember being completely shocked by his size. He was huge! A bloody big whale! Seeing Shamu made me realise just how dangerous he could be and the fascination twisted into a deep fear. The ‘Wow! He’s amazing!’ became ‘Yes, yes he’s great. Lovely. Thank you. But please don’t make me swim with him’.

I’ve awoken from many a nightmare where I am suddenly attacked by a killer whale or drifting in whale infested waters. When I go swimming (brace yourself for crazy) I always shudder getting into the pool as my mind imagines a dark, brooding shadow waiting beneath the surface…..

I don’t think this is an irrational fear. Whales are beautiful, majestic creatures but just imagine being trapped in a tank with one. How terrifying would that be?

So watching Jurassic World got me thinking about fears and how things change as we grow older. My fear of whales started in SeaWorld and has got worse as I have grown up. When I was a child I was terrified of Bigfoot (and obsessed with the idea that he was in my attic) but now, you’ll be glad to hear, I can look at pictures of him without hiding in the bathroom cupboard. I get freaked out now by more rational, fact-based problems and events. Talking about 9/11 gives me goosebumps. I shudder when I think about losing a family member…..

I started thinking about whether including our fears in our writing can be good for our work and wellbeing. Would it be cathartic or disturbing? Would it enrich my writing or reduce me to a quivering snotty mess? Lots of writers draw on personal feelings and experience within their work – could writing about your deepest fear be a recipe for success or disaster? In Reset there was a whale but I kept it tranquilised and buried in a vault beneath Cardiff (just in case) and I don’t think I’m quite ready to unleash the crazy in novel form just yet (title suggestions always welcome). This particular whale was also a harmless sub-plot but maybe it should have caused more chaos and been given the chance to be utterly terrifying.

So, having been forced to face one secret fear (thank you Jurassic World) the seed has been planted to utilise my phobias in future work. Perhaps writing about another unconfessed fear will prove to be an interesting project….