I am no stranger to fear. Having suffered from depression and anxiety disorder, I learned long ago to live with fear coursing through my blood. I have a mind, like that of many creative people, that won't seem to quit. Through therapy, I've trained myself to shut down the damaging thoughts that often run through my head.
They range from existential (I can actually die right now and I will cease to exist. How is that possible? The universe is endless but my life is not. How can there be no end to collective existence?) to situational (If I die when my children are in camp, they will be devastated. I see them weeping at my funeral. Who will talk at my funeral? Will they say that I was a strong person?)
There is another fear, however, that I have never discussed in my years of therapy. It is a fear that only my closest family members know about. It is a fear I can laugh about but also one that can make my heart race faster than any thoughts of death. I have a phobia of mold.
For as long as I can remember, the sight of white, fuzzy growth on an old peach or lemon can send me to the edge. I am a pretty even-tempered person, one who does not fly into rages very often. The handful of times that I came in contact with a moldy piece of fruit in the refrigerator I screamed so loudly and fiercely and jumped so quickly away from the object that my pets reacted as if there was an intruder in the house.
I have attempted to psychoanalyze my fear. It may stem from a day in 1975 when I was 6 years old. My great-grandmother had just died of cancer. My mother was on the phone with my grandmother. She wouldn't tell me any of the details that I asked for. I remember hearing the word "growth."
Or it might be born from a need to keep things the same. My beloved father, the funniest and most giving person I knew, changed into someone else after he had his 2 drinks at night. He was still the same daddy to me--nice and loving and thoughtful--but something was changed in him. There was an unfamiliar sloppiness to his smile and jokes. When things stay in their original form I am more comfortable. This makes sense when thinking about another ridiculous fear of mine: shrivelled up balloons.
Regardless of the root, my fear of mold is real. I let my husband and siblings poke fun at me, but deep down my fear remains this nagging mystery to me. I've made some progress: when there are moldy foods in the fridge, I am now able to pick them up with a paper towel. During the entire 10 second walk over to the garbage, though, I can hear my heartbeat loudly in my ears.
Will my life suddenly change for the better if I can get to the bottom of my fear and overcome it? I'm not sure. It may be so deeply settled into my psyche that my best bet is to keep a very clean refrigerator.