My Relationship with… Fear

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CW: Violence.

I think I’m quite a scared person. I jump at a the sight of a shadow down a corridor, I scream if someone appears 10 ft away, I’ll spook if someone even comes over to ask me a question. I cover it all up with a laugh because it is funny, but I think it’s about time to understand why I am so afraid.

I think everybody has their own horror story. Something that they think back on with total unease and the trepidation of ever being in such a position ever again. My horror story came to me in January of 2018, where I was working at a now-liquidated technology shop in the middle of a retail park. It was around 6:30pm, I was doing my crosswords because we had no customers, and we were about half an hour from closing. All of a sudden, the chime of the door swung open and three very tall men in balaclavas holding knives as long as my forearm barged into the shop. I remember hiding my crossword booked first, then my own phone, embarrassed that someone had seen me not doing my job. The embarrassment quickly subsided when my other colleague ran around the small shop trying to shut the door, knocking over the displays, and us being ushered quite aggressively into the backroom…

A similar incident had happened a few weeks before, on the day of my sister’s birthday. Two men had come in and ripped £400 worth of accessories off the secured prongs. We finished work five minutes later, but got home after two more hours. I immediately got changed into an outfit to hit the clubs and told the story without fear, but with only excitement.

I did the same thing during the second retelling, and enjoyed getting the sympathetic looks that I could bat away with the ease of how I felt. But something about everyone else’s worries got into my head, and all of a sudden, I was finding myself having nightmares of black figures reaching above me and all I could think about was cowering into the same turtle-esque position that I had previously found myself in. Any moment where I felt a bit scared, a late walk home or the call for an answer in a seminar, my mind flashed back to the moment that that door was blasted open. Any time I felt scared, I would feel more scared.

It felt silly, especially since I had told people so many times how fine I felt. The reaction to what I had experienced took several months to even appear. Not only did the nightmares and intrusive thoughts begin, but I found myself becoming jumpy. It was funny to people who didn’t understand, but I had suddenly found myself a different person. I wasn’t as carefree, I wasn’t objective to life – I was emotional, I was anxious, and I was absolutely stuck.

When you have something that so expertly fits at the start of a new chapter, it is easy to place blame on it and dwell on how one experience has completely changed who you are. But I have found blaming something on one particular moment and not doing anything about it more damaging. We didn’t have security cameras in the shop, nor did we have any sort of security in the park. For a week after, the manager allowed us to keep the door locked once it started going dark to stop storms of criminals, but things had to go back to normal, and I had to leave. I didn’t stay in a place that felt bad for me but just assumed I would have to get over it.

I was confident in saying that this wasn’t good enough and I wore that as a new shield of confidence. Now if there are moments where I feel uncomfortable or scared, I am more than happy to say that it just won’t do, and that is something positive I can take from my experience. I can’t remove my fear but I have learnt to accept it and tried to take positives, even if it means I momentarily panic at the sight of a crossword book.

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A philosophy student with a penchant for uncertain puns. Pause Editor 20/21, i.e. a funny sausage

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