Hey kitties! I wrote the following guest post for my author pal, S. Usher Evans' Slay Your Fears blog series for her new release Empath. You can read it and other awesome posts about overcoming fear over on her blog!
We’re All Afraid of Something
I don’t know when it started. The racing heart at the mere glimpse of it across a screen. The hurried rush past the door when they would visit the school. The inescapable nightmares. I wasn’t always this way...it just sort of happened.
What am I talking about? Does it really matter? Because without even realizing it your subconscious just filled in the blanks with your own fears in the sentences above. It’s one of the unavoidable truths of life—we all fear something. Even if we like to pretend we don’t.
And why do we feel a need to pretend this idealized fearlessness? Fear is nothing to be ashamed of. It is merely a learned reaction—something brought on by a trauma you have suffered in your life. A dog biting you when you were five. A broken arm from a fall off the monkey bars when you were seven. Nearly drowning in a pool when you were nine. No matter the reason, they all have the potential to become the origin point of a fear. Something that this bad experience—this trauma—has taught you to have an aversion to. But it is also something—that with enough determination—you can learn to overcome. However, if you are one of the millions of specific phobia sufferers worldwide, you know that “just getting over it” is not as easy as it sounds. And in fact, might be deadly if you even tried.
But why is that? Because unlike fears, specific phobias—a type of documented anxiety disorder—tap into our ingrained evolutionary response of self preservation. And interestingly, sufferers of specific phobias have a greater level of risk assessment because they were born without the genetic mutation that suppresses this visceral reaction in other individuals. Much like how it not those who are lactose intolerant, but those who are not, that possess the mutation to properly digest dairy.
So what is my specific phobia? Trypanophobia—the fear of medical needles and injections. How do I know that it is not just a fear, but a phobia? Well for starters, I wasn’t always this way. Nothing bad happened to me as a child to make me fear needles. In fact I spent from age four on with a best friend who had Type 1 Diabetes and required daily injections. But when I was seventeen—before the phobia had really sunk its teeth into me—I got my navel pierced. Why? Because it was super trendy and my boyfriend at the time bet me I wouldn’t do it.
I wasn’t scared or even nervous as she marked my skin with the dye, and really the needle didn’t even hurt when she plunged it into my stomach. But for those brief few seconds after the needle made contact with my body it felt like someone was trying to crush my heart within my chest—like I was dying and was helpless to do anything about it. And though that incident was only a few small moments of my life, it was the ignition point that released a chain reaction lying dormant within me until it spread into a full blown phobia. And so today even just putting these words on the page has made my heart race unevenly and a cold sweat break out across my skin.
So in knowing this, it might come as a shock to you that I write Urban SciFi that at least in part focuses on genetic engineering. Or that one of my main characters in my Marked Ones Trilogy, Patrick, much like me, suffers from trypanophobia. So why would someone with trypanophobia want to include such things in their fiction knowing full well that they would have to do research on things like Epipens, genetic manipulation, and blood transfusions? Well, other than I might be slightly demented? Because I know what it is to be afraid. Because understanding that irrational, uncontrollable, visceral reaction makes me a better storyteller. It infuses my characters with a core of genuineness that makes them transcend the page and become real. Because knowing what a character wants tells you a lot about them, but knowing what they fear tells you even more.
And I realize “that it must be a kind of rebellion, to arm your fears like soldiers and slay them” (All I Ever Wanted by The Airborne Toxic Event). That I am essentially adding fuel to a fire and then trying to put it out. But what can I say, I’m a rebel who’s too stubborn to give up and give in. But the question is: do you want to join the rebellion?
About the Author
Alicia Kat Vancil is the author of the New Adult trilogy The Marked Ones, and a super geek extraordinaire. When not crafting new adventures to inflict on her characters she can usually be found running amuck in the imaginary worlds within her head, or frolicking in her general geekiness.