Facing one's fears is never an easy thing. If you're arachnophobic, suddenly being face-to-face with a giant, eight-legged creature is never a good thing. And if you're scared of flying, (aka pteromerhanophobia) every time the plane takes off down the runway, your heart skips a beat and your panic doesn't subside until the plane has safely landed. Another common fear that many people suffer from - acrophobia - being afraid of heights - can make someone very anxious. Having astraphobia - being afraid of thunder and lightning - can be quite scary, too. Especially if you're home alone, worried the power will go out at any moment, leaving you completely in the dark... and thinking all sorts of horrible thoughts - well, let's just say, all these fears are very real, and can be debilitating at times. I suffer from all these fears, to some extent.
But there is something I fear much more than all of those 'other' fears combined together. I suffer from mysophobia. The fear of germs. I'm not insane, although I do Purell a bit more than is even recommended. My children know the importance of hand-washing, and my oldest son, after he sneezes and sees my eyes growing as large as saucers, says to me:
"Don't worry, mommy, it's not H1!"
Well, I had to face this fear of mine in a huge way this weekend.
There is nothing like having to take your child to the bathroom for 'number 2' at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere to put you face-to-face with your biggest fear: germs, bacteria and of yeah - H1N1! I was in this situation yesterday, as we were driving back from a day trip to Montreal.
"I have to go to the bathroom!" my 4 year old exclaimed from the backseat.
Secretly, I was hoping there would be no rest-stop in sight, so that he would just have to hold it until we go home, but 'home' wasn't for another hour, so I knew we had to stop.
I contemplated letting my husband take Christos to the bathroom, but I had a feeling the state of the men's washroom - in the middle of nowhere, Canada - would be more... um, dirty than the ladies room.
With Purell and baby wipes in hand, I took my son into the rest-stop, and decided to go to the 'family bathroom', thinking it would the 'cleanest' of all our choices.
I covered the toilet seat in paper towels and toilet paper, and my son said:
"Well, where am I suppose to go to the bathroom?" I had covered the seat so much, the opening was almost not visible at all.
"Right here, sweetie", I said to him, and lifted him up.
I don't know about your children, but my oldest son prefers going to go the bathroom with his clothes off. Yet another challenge in a public restroom, that in my mind, was just swimming in all the germs I did not want to encounter. I took off his shoes, placed them on the counter, and held his pants and underwear.
"Christos, don't touch anything! There are so many germs in here... it's so icky!" I said to my boy.
I realized I was a little insane, as I was giving my son ridiculous fears, fears he didn't need, especially because he's only 4 years old. But I could not help myself... as I imagined little H1 bugs crawling all over the place. I begged him to hurry up, as this was not suppose to be an enjoyable experience, certainly not as relaxing as it is at home.
"Hurry up, darling... daddy and Dimitry are waiting in the car!"
We talked about why there was a shower in the bathroom, and we figured out that it was there for all the truckers to use. Great, I thought to myself, just thinking of all the people who had showered mere inches from us that day.
Luckily, this experience didn't last longer than 10 minutes, and after I dressed my son again, ever so carefully, we washed our hands well with soap and warm water. I then used paper towels to open the door, and told my son that since his hands were so clean, he should avoid touching anything until we got back to the car.
Phew... we made it back to the car in one piece. And we're both fine today.
Note: I have always been a clean person, as I am sure you all are, too, but this 'fear' didn't really enter my life until I became a mom. I can't even tell you how many things have changed since I've become a mom! I mean, I used to be the girl who would have no problem lying down in an airport terminal to wait for her flight! Hmm.
Anyway, so I faced my biggest fear. And we survived. However, it wasn't exactly something I look forward to doing again anytime soon!