Hannah Johnson ’18
Imagine you are in an airplane, 30,000 feet in the air. How do you feel? Are you nervous? Nauseous? Apprehensive? Overwhelmed? Some people don’t want the thrill of the ride to ever end. Others fidget in their seats uncontrollably, wanting nothing more than to be back on the ground where they feel secure. For those who would rather drive through the night than fly, they may have what is considered a phobia.
According to an article from Healthline called “Phobias,” 19 million Americans experience phobias that govern their day to day activities. That is 19 million people in this country who walk around on a daily basis affected by certain objects, animals, people, or situations that produce fear, anxiety, and stress.
These fears, or phobias, although to some, may seem illogical or extreme, are nightmares for those who experience them.
One of the biggest fears, that is part of the process of life, is the fear of death. In fact, 68 percent of Americans are afraid of dying, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Although this one is most prominent, there are many others that may go unnoticed or are not as common. Some of those phobias plague students right here at South Lyon High School.
For freshman Ava Mac, it’s germaphobia, or, the fear of germs. Although her fear hit its peak in middle school, it still affects her today.
She explained that her fear stems from “the horror stories of illnesses and diseases.”
The freshman recalled her middle school experiences when she said, “I used to carry around tons of hand sanitizer everywhere I’d go… I would wash my hands so much that my skin would be raw and red.”
The second Mac would touch something she considered “weird,” she would immediately go and wash her hands.
While germs get Mac, spiders have gotten senior Jennifer Miller since elementary school.
Miller’s arachnophobia became real when she “learned that when you’re asleep, if your mouth is open, [spiders] crawl in your mouth.”
While Miller does enjoy the outdoors, she does not like to be in the presence of a spider. Everything is alright unless she actually sees the spider. If this happens, she relocates.
Over the years, Miller has been able to handle these situations more calmly. She can now look at spiders and slowly move away instead of screaming at the sight of one.
Another senior Madeline Taylor avoids clowns under all circumstances.
Like Miller, Taylor has had her phobia, coulrophobia, since elementary school.
Taylor can put her finger on the origin of her fear. “[Clowns are] basically made for children, but there’s something…beneath the surface that’s just so creepy about them,” Taylor said. She went on to note that the stories about serial killers dressed as clowns add to her phobia.
For fellow senior Hannah Elandt, tight spaces are a definite no go.
Elandt knows what to expect when faced with small spaces. “I can’t breathe, and I get sweaty, and I shake,” Elandt said.
Her fear becomes especially prevalent during long car rides. “Ever since I was little, [I’ve hated] sitting in the middle [seat] in a car… I can’t do it because I don’t like people being so close to me and touching me,” the senior said. Elandt always dashes for a window seat when she knows she will be on the road for a while.
Even though these fears greatly influence these students’ lives, they are able to offer advice for those going through the same thing.
For germaphobes, Mac suggests thinking about how much it is really necessary to wash your hands to avoid damaging your skin.
For arachnophobes, Miller believes it’s crucial to not let the spider determine your actions.
For coulrophobes, Taylor proposes staying out of any situations that would bring about the fear.
For claustrophobes, Elandt advises taking deep breaths and not thinking about what is happening when in a small space.
While these students offer support for others, they receive varying levels of support themselves.
Miller said she feels supported by her mother, who shares the same fear. Taylor added that others see where she is coming from. Elandt believes others support her as well.
On the contrary, Mac said that her friends and family would not understand her when they would see her trying to protect herself from germs. She explained that people would label her as a ‘germaphobe’ whenever they saw her with her hand sanitizer. Her family would get after her whenever she would wash her hands.
Phobias are prevalent in our world, whether we realize it or not. It is important that we come alongside those who have them and show them that we understand them.
People all over the world have disabilities, illnesses, and fears that are a part of their daily lives. These do not take away from their humanity, and they should not be reasons to look down on them. Kindness and understanding are the best things we can give to people dealing with these challenges. We are all the same inside, and we must use our differences to unite us, not divide us.
Photo courtesy of http://www.hypnotherapykent.co.uk