When we finally arrived at the giant black door, the guard greeted us with a simple, but ghoulish, hello. I froze, screamed in terror, and burst into tears. The actor playing the guard apparently knelt down to try and comfort me and convince me he wasn’t that scary after all, but I was scarred. No amount of prodding after that moment could convince me to go into that haunted house. My mother was forced to wait on the bench outside the ride with me until my brother and father were through. It was the moment I became afraid of everything.
A few months later I had to drop out of gymnastics because I was afraid to flip over the uneven bars. One night the babysitter had to run upstairs to check on me because I let out a shriek of terror in the middle of the night: I had used a flashlight to guide my way to the bathroom, and when the globular, human-head-shaped shadow of the banister projected onto the wall, I thought I was a goner. I was terrified of waves in the ocean, and famous in my pediatrician’s office for earth-shattering screams when approached with the finger prick blood test. I couldn’t catch even a glimpse of a scary movie without being traumatized for weeks with nightmares. I fainted at the slightest hint of my own blood and once passed out cold in summer camp because I thought I had cut my finger on a piano, but in fact had not.
My fears were crippling. In the bigger picture, I have always been afraid of the unknown and in a way, I still am. I find myself crippled with the fear of getting hurt in a different way. My heart has been broken before. It’s a pain I know well. But somehow I’m afraid that the next time someone breaks it, it’ll be a pain like nothing I could’ve ever anticipated. It’s as if I’m staring down the castle door all over again.