Fears and phobias may not be so frightening

Late last week, I was enjoying a cup of coffee when suddenly my internal alarm system went off. Something was wrong. Oh, no. I soon discovered I had a nosebleed. I have not had one in decades. I could feel my pulse quicken and goosebumps popping out on my arms.

I got to the bathroom and ran cold water on a washcloth. I grabbed the box of Kleenex and headed to the couch with Mittens close behind. Once I reached the couch, I felt a bit better knowing if I passed out I was on a soft surface.

The common sense in my brain said, “Lorna, its okay. You have lots more blood, you won’t run out.” I tried to deep breathe. The mere sight of blood instantly gives me the feeling of fainting. Reasoning doesn’t seem to help. Common sense didn’t register as I told myself, “Lorna, for heavens sake, you are not going to die from this nosebleed. It’s not even bleeding very hard.” None of that mattered. The fear was there, and I could not seem to control it.

I resisted the thought of calling my hubby and asking him to come home from work. I turned on television as a form of distraction. I talked with Mittens who sensed my fear and stayed next to me. Sound somewhat ridiculous? I couldn’t agree more.

Fear is a emotion that everyone has experienced at times. I did a little research and learned there is a difference between a fear and a phobia. The fear one experiences from a phobia is so strong that it interferes with one’s quality of life and the ability to function. Thankfully my fear has not reached the level of being a phobia.

Actually, phobias are said to be quite common and having one does not mean you are weak or cowardly. It is important to recognize the difference between a normal fear and a phobia.

A normal fear could include feeling anxious or nervous flying through turbulence. A phobia would include not going to your relative’s wedding in Hawaii because you would have to fly there. A fear would be getting nervous or frightened when you see a pit bull. A phobia would keep you from going to a park because you might see a dog.

Most fears develop when we are children. Childhood fears are natural and develop at specific ages. Many young children are afraid of the dark and might need a nightlight in their room. Most will grow out of the fear of darkness as they get older.

There are four basic kinds of phobias and fears.” Natural environment phobias “include fear of storms, the dark, heights, and water. “Situational phobias” are triggered by a specific situation such as flying, tunnels, or crossing bridges.” Animal phobias” include the fear of snakes, spiders, rodents and dogs. “Blood-injury phobias” include the fear of blood, injury, illness, needles or other medical procedures.

There are some phobias that don’t fit into the four common categories such as the fear of clowns or the fear of public speaking.

The good news is a phobia can be treated, either by self-help or by therapy. While we try to avoid our fear, it prevents us from learning what we fear may not be as frightening as we think. It is said the most effective way to overcome a phobia is by exposing ourselves to what we fear in a safe and controlled way.

I have decided I am going to do that when I have blood tests in February. I am going to watch the procedure; normally I close my eyes or look away. I’ll be in a safe environment and I hope it will be a step in getting over my fear.

I learned another way to help with a fear is to build a fear ladder. To do that, you make a list of the frightening situations related to your fear. The list should be arranged with the least scary to the most. In example, if you are afraid of dogs: take a picture of dogs, watch a video with dogs in it, look at a dog through the window, stand across the street from a dog on a leash, stand beside a dog on a leash, pet a small dog someone is holding, pet a larger dog on a leash. Pet a large dog off a leash.

“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.” Mark Twain

Question: In what year did WTCH go on the air?

Clothesline Conversation Answer: Sept. 3, 1948

Lorna Marquardt is a former Shawano mayor.