On an ordinary day in Placerville, California, I walked into the Library at Markham Junior High to listen to a presentation to be given by high school students about HIV and AIDS. I was not fully aware of my problem with phobias, but I had a sense of my own intense sensitivity and worry. The main point of the presentation was to scare us about AIDS, and to teach us to be careful because anyone could get it. They told our class to wash our hands after handling products in the supermarket, touching doorknobs, not to share drinks and to make sure our hands were always clean. It was a perfect set up for an unknowing obsessive compulsive like me. I've had other fears: death, injury, insulting others, being accosted, embarrassed, germs, etc. I had heard things about AIDS, like gay people harbored the disease. The presentation included passing around cups, some of which had reactive ingredients, to all of the children. Certain cups had markers indicating an HIV infection. I did not hold one of the infected cups and was relieved, but still horrified. Soon my fear of blood and contamination grew (more into high school) to the extent where I was afraid to touch everything, especially if it had a red mark or substance on it.
There came a moment in time when my phobia of blood and AIDS was wearing me out to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. I decided I didn't care about germs; this was stupid and nothing was going to happen. More importantly, I didn't care about anything at all. What resulted was a loss of personal worth, a dramatic drop in already low self-esteem, and a new battle with drugs and alcohol. Today I still have a long-time fear of death. I take medication for panic attacks, ocd and anxiety. When I was about 13 I had my first panic attack after watching a movie about a couple who had a disease that caused them to age very rapidly. Ever since the incident, I've been afraid to die. I cannot stop the ageing process, or prevent death, which means I have no control. When I have a panic attack I lose all control and sink into the bordering depths of what I feel is insanity. Yet as time went by and my pain and suffering worsened, I could not continue on. I told myself I have only one life and it will be short. I will die like everyone else. But I'm not going to waste another 25 years worrying about crap I can't change. I am who I am, I learn from my mistakes, I am human, vulnerable, and will perish one day. I finally decided that the only thing I could do was try to enjoy my life-right here, right now. I had spent a monumental amount of time fearing, hiding, and being ashamed and hopeless. I battled drug addiciton and won, and decided to go back on medication, forcing myself to thwart every thought of death as it came. I'm doing quite well now (knock on wood). Sure, the thoughts try to creep back into my mind when I'm not paying attention, but I've found a secret switch which only I have the power to flip on and off, and I use it to keep my "sanity" and perpetuate my livelihood.
I no longer waste my time wondering if AIDS is lingering on every surface of the Earth, or dwell on death. I have overcome, and I will remain triumphant.