Thoughts. . .

Karin Greenberg

Karin Greenberg
Long Island, New York, USA
April 12
freelance writer and full-time mom


Karin Greenberg's Links
MARCH 8, 2010 9:30AM

An Unusual Fear

Rate: 13 Flag

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. 




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Phobias are very real. I am irrationally afraid of sharks. I cannot even touch a photo of one.
My mom's phobia is to lizards. We did poke fun at her expense once in a while. Once she had the weirdest nightmare. She dreamt she was marrying a lizard wearing a top hat.
I won't even begin to try and analyze the origins of this. I would be afraid of a moldy, shriveled up balloon. I could guess what that would mean. Otherwise, I'm in the dark.
At least you can manage your phobia, though in my fridge you might be driven to despair at time. (My Daddy, the biology teacher, maintains that you can just slice the mold off of cheese or bread and eat it anyway. I admit that sometimes, since I love cheese....) Now I am trying to think what my weird fear might be! Great post!
Fears don't need to make sense. But someday something will happen to help you understand the why of it. I loved this piece. "r"
hmmm ... I guess the "white, fuzzy growth " on my face is not going to be a huge turn-on, eh? (yeah, I'll give you a moment to cycle through all of the visuals)

: )

Sorry to hear, about the fear, but it's sorta queer, Karin my dear.

Good luck with fighting the good fight and clean refrigerators.
Oh my word. I had no idea there were other people in the world who were terrified of shriveled up balloons.

I first remember touching one that had been in my room, I must have been four or five. It felt like warm old skin, but wrong. The consistency was wrong, my finger sank into it, ugh!

Mold I can manage. But not balloons.
Yikes. But if you could learn to overcome this phobia, couldn't you apply that skill set to your other fears as well?
In spite of your fear, you have so much insight into your phobia--all that therapy is providing a great return on investment. I work with someone (in a library) who must shelve periodicals. If there is a picture of a snake on the cover, forget about it. Really interesting post.
Maybe you could think of mold as a necessary component to Penicilin or medicine? Something that can be useful in healing bacteria and illness? We have all taken this medicine at some point in our lives? It makes us feel better. Or, think of it as a natural part of the life cycle of food...fruit...etc...And a reminder to buy some new fruit! Berries are the sneaky ones, right? The ones on top look all perfect and fresh and you look under that first layer and you find some dark spots or the white fuzzy elder berries that ruin the whole basket! We all age, as do the foods in our fridge. All natural and normal. We can look at this fear, perhaps, in a more forgiving light and know that it is just part of life.
Maybe you're actually allergic to penicillin? . . . . Whatever the cause, you describe your phobia with great humor. But maybe you can recruit the kids to get rid of the moldy stuff for you?
Hey, this is not that far fetched at all, I'm actually with you on that one. Rated.
Karin, your post is great and honest and really, if people knew all the strange anxieties and phobias so many of us have, you would so know how not alone you are! The problem with trying to get to the root of the "why" the mold bothers you so much can be likened to peeling an onion to find out what the core is made up of. And we all know there is no core to an onion. We can come up with our theories but they can never be proven. It sounds like you've made great progress with your mold phobia. And an easy solution to just keep a clean refrigerator. I myself, and I really wouldn't all it a phobia but it's the same thing, cannot tolerate picking up any kind of dog poop. I'm a horrible friend and when I'm hiking with my girlfriends and our dogs, I refuse to clean up my dog's mess...the thought of it produces instant nauseousness. My friends are quite gracious and do the dirty deed for me. And I have no desire to spend a minute of my life wondering why. It just is. Fear is real, our thoughts produce our realities. And it sounds like this mold phobia is really something you can live with. Thanks for sharing!