Junior shares traumatic story behind irrational fear

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I have a strange irrational fear. I know what you are thinking: all irrational fears are strange. But mine is one of a kind. I don’t have arachnophobia, agoraphobia, acrophobia or claustrophobia. Those are what I like to call “rational irrational fears,” and mine doesn’t fall in that category. I promise you will never meet another soul that is haunted by the same abnormal fear as me. So, are you interested now? Are you going to keep reading? This is the story of how my irrational fear came to be. 

It all started on a Thursday morning; I was a first-grader, and life couldn’t have been better. I always had friends to hang with at recess, I was in the advanced maths group and my mom finally understood what the cool snacks were (animal crackers, duh). Life was good, amazing, supreme, excellent — whatever you want to call it, but this day changed everything.

I woke up to sunshine, rolled out of bed and put on a purple and white sequined Justice shirt. I like to believe I was a bit of a fashion icon back in first grade. I went downstairs for breakfast: bacon and eggs, my favorite. Shortly after my sister and I finished eating, we were off to school. 

It was February so I was wearing my puffer jacket, and at the time my mom believed in buying everything a size too big. My mom always said, “I would grow into it,” but I never did. The sleeves of the jacket covered my hands entirely, the torso was too long and the hood concealed my entire face. I waddled to the car and struggled to buckle my seatbelt. At the time, I was still in a car seat, and I barely fit with my coat on. 

That Thursday was important because I had a spelling test, but not just a normal spelling test. I made it on the challenge list, and I was quite proud of myself. While we drove, I forced my mom to quiz me. 

“How do you spell pineapple?” Mom said. 

“P-I-N-N-A-P-P-L-E, pineapple,” I said. 

I was quite impressed with myself, but then my mom shot me down by saying that pineapple only had one N. I didn’t believe her. My mom dropped my sister off at preschool, and then she drove right past my school. 

“Mom, where are you going?” I said. “School is the other way.”

It was almost like my comment didn’t mean anything. 

“MOOOOM, I have a spelling test,” I whined. 

“Don’t worry about that sweetie,” she said. “We are going to take a different test and you will be back at school real soon.”

I was so confused. I had worn my favorite shirt for my spelling test — everyone knew that sequins are good luck — and now she wants me to take a different test. My 6-year-old self did not see where she was going with this, but I should have known it was a trap. 

“What kind of test isn’t at school?” I asked. 

“Really important tests,” she replied with a forced smile.

I pondered about what could be more important than a spelling test — especially when you are on the challenge list. I complained a little more until my mom told me to hush. 

Around 10 minutes later, we arrived at a gigantic building that was at least 15 stories tall. Now, I knew where we were. The doctor’s office. Before this point, the doctor’s office did not bother me at all. Shots, whatever. Poking and prodding, whatever. Cold tools against my skin, whatever.

“Mom, what kind of test happens at the doctor’s office?” I asked. 

“Lots of tests,” she claimed.

I began to think about what kind of test could be at the doctor’s office. I had to pee in a cup once, could that be it? Maybe a really hard math test? Maybe a blood test? Maybe I needed a flu vaccine? But none of those seemed quite right. 

I crawled out of the car and waddled like a penguin because of my huge jacket. We walked through the lobby to the elevator, and then we traveled up to the third floor where the pediatrician was. While we waited for my name to be called, my mom continued to quiz me. 

“How do you spell starfish?” she said. 

“S-T-A-R-F-I-S-H, starfish,” I replied. 

“Ava Valdés, the doctor will see you now,” a nurse said. 

My mom and I walked — well, I waddled — to room two. Little did I know, room two was going to appear in my nightmares for at least the next five years. My mom continued to quiz me, and I continued to get the words right — except pineapple. It was quite toasty, so I took my coat off. Then Dr. K arrived.

“Hi Ava, how’s my favorite patient?” he asked. 

I was really into one-word answers so, “fine,” was all I said. 

My mom talked to him about the test she wanted me to take, but she was very secretive. She kept leaving out important information, and saying, “you know what I mean.” But I didn’t. At that point in my life, I believed adults had a secret language, and this was proving my point. Dr. K left and a nurse came back in. 

“It will be really fast,” she said. “I promise.” 

I started to freak out. I mean, I went berserk. I asked 20 million questions, but I got no answers. She held me down, without any warning, she shoved a strep test into my mouth

I sobbed uncontrollably until I threw up. 

I know. The strep test isn’t that bad. But every time I think about it, I lose my mind. My entire body shivers, and sometimes I start tearing up. 

I passed out on career day in eighth grade because an anesthesiologist intubated a CPR mannequin. In seventh grade band class, kids would shove pencils down their throats just to freak me out. Some of those kids are in my current classes and continue to torture me. 

My current nervous tick is to protect my throat. 

This is my irrational fear. It started as a fear of the strep test and has evolved to fear of throats all together. It’s common to have a fear of the strep test, but is it common to fear other people scratching their necks? I didn’t think so. 

After the event, I went home to change into a less fashionable Justice shirt, and then I headed to take my spelling test. The one good thing that came out of this situation is that I now know how to spell pineapple. P-I-N-E-A-P-P-L-E.