After writing about my anxiety and panic attacks in previous posts, I had several people reach out to me regarding their fears and anxieties. Most of which involved traveling; Their fears hinder their joy of going places in one way or another. I also discussed how I’ve overcome my anxiety, greatly, and how I’ve battled through and seemingly conquered my panic attacks (which haven’t happened in quite a long time now). With that being said, I have NOT overcome all of my anxiety issues (as I had deceived myself into believing). I’ve moved leaps and bounds in the right direction, but I’m still not at the finish line (who knows if I ever will be). You’ve all been so open and honest with me, I feel I need to reciprocate the same vulnerability and rawness. My biggest fear – a fear that legitimately dictates how I live – is the opposite of the fears that go along with traveling. Perhaps, it is a huge reason why I’m ALWAYS on the move. Needless to say, I’m Mindy and I am a 30 year old who is afraid to…
Cage dive with sharks?
Jump off high things?
Hang out of a Helicopter?
Backcountry camp surrounded by nothing but wilderness?
Stay the night in the famously haunted Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum?
Afraid to go….
Rock Climbing? Horseback Riding? White Water Rafting? Zip-lining? Caving?
No. No. No. No. No.
Afraid of Heights?
Afraid to …
Stay home alone?
I, Mindy, am afraid to stay home alone. Furthermore, this fear has gotten worse over the years. In this aspect of my anxiety: I’ve regressed. Partly due to some unfortunate experiences (which I’ll get into), but also due to my brain taking these experiences to the next level and exaggerating my danger levels.
I was in denial that this was even a problem up until this past weekend when I went home for some bridal party FUN. Doug and I were both in the D.C./Baltimore area for work this past week but I needed to be home by Friday evening for the bachelorette party. He had to stay back for further work. Thus, I hopped on a Megabus (alone) and traveled home. I Uber’d from the bus station to my house in Pittsburgh (also, alone). Furthermore, I Uber’d everywhere that weekend, ALONE. (I even FLY alone.) But when it came time to go home after the bachelorette party and the bridal shower, etc? I couldn’t. Instead, I asked my best friend, Nate, if I could stay with him for those two nights as I’ve done SO many times in the past. Of course, he said “yes”.
HOWEVER, when Sunday came around the corner, Doug informed me that he would be home that night but not until LATE (2-3am). I wanted to see him and I also wanted to sleep in my own bed. Therefore, I concluded I would stay home alone until he arrived. Did I? Yes. Did I freak out? Also, yes. This was when I realized the extent of my problem.
The entire time I waited for him to come home, I laid on my couch paralyzed with fear with every light in the house turned on. Not able to do anything but watch TV and worry; I was a mess. At one point, a pipe in my house shook (I think that’s what it was?) and I convinced myself that someone was in my closet and that the shaking sensation/noise was their phone vibrating. AH! I had a hatchet beside me on the coffee table and clutched it close every time I wandered into the kitchen or went to the bathroom. I also repeatedly texted Doug for updates and assurance.
Overall, nothing bad happened and Doug arrived at 2:30am. I was unable to rest and breath easy until that moment.
Instead of doing NOTHING while I was home alone (except increasing my blood pressure and decreasing my mental health), I could’ve been productive: working on my blogs and vlogs, researching for my documentary or simply tidying up the house. ANYTHING would have been better than the incessant worrying. Heck, doing NOTHING (sleeping) would have been a healthier option. But I couldn’t even calm myself down enough to go to sleep.
This whole occurrence led me to think two things:
- I have a problem. No doubt.
- How did I get this way and why?
How did I get this way?
It’s very difficult to pinpoint one contributing factor to my “home alone” anxiety. I’ve always been nervous staying home alone. However, I never utterly, completely and TOTALLY refused to stay home alone UNTIL…
The Crazy Man Who Lived Upstairs
At our old place, Doug and I lived in the bottom half of a duplex. We lived there for three years and were never bothered until halfway through our third year. Unfortunately, our fantastic old neighbor moved out and we were greeted with a whole lot of unexpected crazy.
It all began one night when Doug was home without me. Late in the night, Doug was scared straight awake by a massive thud and banging outside our side door. Long story short: When he went to check (with weapon in hand), he found a bloody man claiming to live in OUR place and trying to push his way inside. Doug was successful in keeping him out but that didn’t stop the man from shouting unintelligible phrases and bleeding ALL OVER our door and patio. Realizing how badly injured this man was, Doug called 9-1-1 to get him help (and off our property, of course).
Had I been home alone instead of Doug, would I have been successful in keeping this man out?
Low and behold, this is how we met our new neighbor. It was the best first impression imaginable *cue eye-roll*.
The man got help and eventually apologized (I guess you could call it that?). Nonetheless, he still lived above us.
Weeks later, I am home alone during the afternoon and I hear a knock on my door. Now, at this place, it was impossible to see who was standing outside my door without looking directly at the person through the window OR without opening the door and answering the knock. Since it was broad daylight and my other neighbors were home, I opted to greet the individual knocking (perhaps it was a delivery). With that being said, I most certainly still had my trusty hatchet gripped tightly behind my back. Wouldn’t you know it…
To my GREAT shock, I opened the door to a man wearing NOTHING but his underwear (tighty-whiteys). Even worse, he had the most dazed and confused look in his eyes and began speaking about..well…absolutely nothing. After many, subtle efforts to get him to leave, I was finally able to close the door when his ringing phone distracted him. Subtle efforts, you wonder? Yes. I wasn’t about to provoke him. He was undoubtedly unstable. I was left shaking and unable to finish the current work at task. This instance absolutely disrupted the rest of my day. After seeing my neighbor for the first time in-person (also already knowing Doug’s first encounter with him), I was terrified and paranoid to be in such close proximity to him. The look in his eyes was uncannily comparable to Jack Nicholson’s in the The Shining.
Though there are countless unsettling encounters with this neighbor afterwards, the most notable was the final straw…
Doug walked out our front door to this man standing on our patio in the outright NUDE and rubbing his private parts while shouting “She has Aids! She has Aids!”.
Yeahhhh…the cops were 100% called and the landlord 100% evicted him (FINALLY). We went on to find out, for a fact, that this man had mental health issues such as Schizophrenia. Which I had figured. And as sympathetic as I am to such issues, I’m also aware of the dangers that they entail – both harmful to himself and to others. And he, indeed, did NOT make me feel safe. He also, indeed, needed more help than living alone could provide him.
Moving onward, my home alone anxieties only seemed to soar further from my reach with continued experiences worsening the fear, deeper and deeper.
At 2:30AM one night, later down the road, we had a couple people BANG on our door with all their might (with no spoken words). Doug, the cat and I jumped up from the couch (where we all fell asleep) and Doug ran for his weapon while I ran for my cell. I dialed 9-1-1 when we began to hear whispers from outside our bedroom window. It absolutely sounded like two or more people plotting and we weren’t taking any chances.
Before the cops arrived, we heard a group of people hop into a speeding and music-blasting car that peeled away seconds prior to their arrival. The cops searched all around our premises and found nothing. We hesitatingly went back inside and laid in bed for a while, unable to calm down (especially me). “WHAT ON EARTH WAS THAT ALL ABOUT”? I ceaselessly wondered. A question I’ll never get the answer to.
And this concerns me! Every time I’m home alone, now, I await for these things to happen AGAIN. Perhaps, even worse!
Okay, now that I’ve explained a few of my past “traumas” …perhaps, you AND I can better see where I’m coming from when I say: Any little noise or out of the ordinary occurrence when I’m home alone causes me to PANIC. My heart races. My palms sweat. My body shakes. IT’S THAT BAD.
Even when I’m home alone during the daytime, I’m constantly checking behind the shower curtain when I go to the bathroom; I’m constantly assuring ALL the locks are locked; I’m continually strategically placing various weapons throughout different rooms (crowbar, baton, hatchet, knife – you get the picture); I’m endlessly cowering at every nearby voice I hear outside AND don’t get me started on every KNOCK I hear on my door.
Now, to an outsider, this may all seem dramatic AF. Hell, I KNOW it’s dramatic AF but…
I 👏 CAN’T 👏 HELP 👏 IT! And that’s my problem. Now that I am aware of this controlling/consuming fear, I need to begin the “fix-it” phase. But how?
Do I…stay alone at home despite my debilitating fear? I’m a huge advocate for “feel the fear, and do it anyways”. I’m also a huge advocate for believing “fear is born from a story you tell yourself”. Soooo, is it as easy as telling myself a different story? A story where I cannot be vanquished and where I am a badass who will destroy whoever intrudes into my home (IF anything even happens because the chances are still slim)?
I’ve tried this!!! And I’ve walked into another room despite shaking in fear to pick up my laundry, etc. I’ve checked on odd noises down the hall despite every fiber in my being screaming “No! Don’t!”. But I legitimately panic every time. Thus, it got to the point where I’d rather save myself from this pure, panic hell and just stay over at a friend or family members’ house versus staying home alone. Hence, where I currently stand.
Again, how do I get over this?
It’s so odd to me that I am able to get past any other fears I have. The fear of failure used to considerably control my life. I almost opted out of accepting great jobs and attending auditions because of this fear. However, I OVERCAME IT! Very successfully. And it ultimately lead me to some of the best things in my life (you can read my other post: Let Us Most Past Fear + Anxiety for more on this subject).
Perhaps overcoming my home alone fear is as simple as heeding my own advice:
“Fear is the culprit of all that holds us back; anxiety cripples our lives and hinders us from living the life we so desire. I’m no different from the rest of humanity – fear exists in ALL of us. What separates us is how we DEAL with our fears and anxiety. How do we overcome them? You fight of course. Facing your fears is a battle you must conquer, head-on, on a daily basis. Give in, and you could lose something great. After all, every time I’ve done something I was afraid to do, it ended up being one of the best moments / decisions of my life. Ergo the reoccurring theme: “Without risk, there is no reward”.
Or, perhaps I’ll come to find out I have this specific, crippling anxiety for good reason? I mean, is it possible that I’m afraid of this so much more than anything else because…it’s my internal being’s way of forewarning me of a future disaster? Is it foreshadowing? AHHHH. So many possibilities.
What it comes down to is…
I don’t know how to rationalize this fear or disect it in a productive manner. I don’t understand it. If I don’t understand it, how can I fix it?
Though not totally convinced this will work, my current solution is:
Fight through the pain and panicked feelings until I’ve stayed home alone enough times that it begins to feel more comfortable with each passing night. The nights will feel like hell at first, but over time they will begin to soften. I’ll slowly sleep better and breath deeper every night I get through. Through familiarity grows comfort and calmness.
Q: How can you tell that I’m on the move so much?
A: When staying at my own house equals pushing myself OUT of my comfort zone. WHAAT?
Absurd. Yet True.
If you’ve managed to read all of this, you could be wondering “Why are you writing this; What is your point?”
I’ve contemplated this, myself, and I’ve reached the realization that making this public and admitting it to other people actualizes the issue. It becomes REAL and forces me to deal with it – it holds me accountable.
Furthermore, maybe I’m not alone and this will resonate with another person? Perhaps we can join forces and fight this battle together!
Lastly, perhaps I just wanted to give my readers/viewers insight into my life that isn’t all rainbows + sunshine. I wanted to show I’m willing to be vulnerable and REAL for my readers. I value authenticity and truth and what better way to prove this than being raw and opening up about a somewhat embarrassing and tough issue. After all, how many 30 year olds do you know who are afraid to stay home alone (to the point that they DON’T do it)?
Just so you all know, I am here for any one who suffers from fear and anxiety and I am more than willing to talk with you further! You can always reach out to me via social media or my “contact” page on this site.
Much love and happy…fear fighting!