I spent my childhood on the left side of the sofa, my father on the right. Sat in-between us was a bowl of popcorn, always strategically placed closer to myself. We would sit in complete darkness; the only light poured in from the television screen. Dad’s makeshift surround sound system would permeate the room and ring in our ears; the sound turned up full volume until mum would bang on her bedroom floorboards (her way of politely asking us to turn it down). Request ignored. And as though from nowhere, the movie would begin. UNIVERSAL PICTURES. Ba Baaaa ba ba ba baaaa baaaa.
My living room was my very own cinema.
I was most content and safe in my literal picture house. My Dad's cinematic influence has completely shaped my relationship with music, the cinema experience becoming an ingrained part of who I am. But... I now place all blame upon my father for any childhood scarring and future mental problems that I may or may not already possess. When I say we watched films, I'm not talking about Beauty and The Beast or Bambi (although completely devastating in itself) nor did we watch films about a baby elephant with giant ears who joins the circus. I think our official title would be Horror Film Enthusiasts.
We watched The Exorcist and Halloween and The Thing and anything else with a rating far above my own fragile age. We would scare the shit out of each other, most notably by hiding under the dining room table whilst it was pitch black and grabbing his leg and he innocently walked into the kitchen to re-fill our popcorn bowl. He would often refer to me as the anti-christ itself. This was something many people didn't understand. My Granny would ask what happened to my fascination with Doris Day. The thing that always shocked me was that I was never afraid. I would endorse gore, never suffering from nightmares or bad dreams. I enjoyed horror films.
Saying this, film has been my main influence growing up. I learned a lot of values from characters and plots (High School Musical wasn't completely accurate as I quickly discovered) and film often shaped the way I thought. When I was six years of age my mother and I went to Australia for the Summer holiday. She says that travelling with me was easy. Nonetheless, it became apparent, that although I wouldn't suffer from nightmares, these horror films were definitely ingrained in my being. I was in awe of the beautiful seas and beaches that baked in the sun. I would dip my tiny toes in the sea. AND THAT WAS IT. I would not go further in complete fear that Jaws, YES THE MECHANICAL SHARK, would eat me. I was a small child. I could have definitely been mistaken for a baby seal splashing and frolicking about. Why would I risk it?
Reflecting on this pinnacle moment in my childhood, I realised that I'm scared of the most bizarre things. I am genuinely terrified of fish. All fish... except Mermaids. But I will not go near, eat or smell fish. I’d rather swim fully clothed to avoid any possible contact. I then started to think about my fear of certain patterns and sequenced holes. There are certain shapes and objects that are so aesthetically displeasing that it makes me feel physically sick. I think the fear is called Trypophobia. (I don't know how to spell it but I'm too scared to even google it - Don't)
I know I’m making a joke of my fears but I have always been an anxious person. There are few times where I pride myself on this. My anxiety makes me observant. I will assess people and situations before I fully immerse myself into them. My anxiety makes me weary. I’m cautious when walking alone late at night. My anxiety means that I don't swim with sharks. I see all these qualities as good things. But I do have less "logical" fears that often lead to panic. For me personally, my fears have surrounded food. I can confidently say that in the past I have been scared of food. This may be a stupid concept to many of you but what I ate and my weight were constant thoughts for me. More so when I moved out. I had to cook for myself and, as a result, sometimes I wouldn't eat. I would avoid the kitchen completely. For me, it was ten times worse eating in front of other people. Fears come in all different forms and I don't think we should ignore the things that we cannot understand.
I've had people say to me, why do you SAY that? Why do you THINK like that? Why do you DO that? Why DON'T you DO that? All because they don't understand that some things aren't as easy for me. I know people who struggle to speak publicly. I know people who struggle to speak at all. Why do you stutter? "Just spit the words out," they're told. Some people have a fear spiders and some people fear needles. I, personally, don't swim with sharks. I think that there is a stigma around anxiety and mental health. It’s not something that people wish upon themselves or want for attention. I don’t understand when people comment on mental health like it’s something you can just switch off. I get upset about things that although may seem silly to you, are completely real in my eyes.
What I'm trying to say is that horror films didn't scare me. I wasn't overcome with fear or night terrors when I saw gruesome images like many people are. There are different things that effect me. My point is that we shouldn’t undermine the things that people are scared of. We shouldn’t be ignorant to the things that we can’t see. We all struggle and maybe something I find ridiculously easy is an anxiety catalyst for someone else. I guess my point is, we’re allowed to be scared. Don't fear it...