I was maybe 8 or 9 when I came across a tree that had fallen in my backyard. There had been a thunderstorm and a big gust of wind knocked over the young tree. A feeling of fear and panic took over my body and I ran inside my house. I was powerless to my fear, it had taken over me. Ever since that day, I can not look at a fallen tree without some kind of fear gripping my body. Over the years I have been able to control myself and rationalize my phobia; that was until last week.
We were in the midst of an ice storm and the power had gone out late in the evening. My mind was left to it’s own devices as I watched everything outside become covered in a thick coating of ice. Transformers were blowing up in the distance and you could hear the pops and booms as each one were meeting their proverbial makers. It was ominously dark outside and the trees around my house were gently swaying to the weight of the added ice on their limbs. I could feel the fear gripping me with every sway.
It is called Dendrophobia: a fear of trees. I learned this as I was frantically trying to get my mind off what I was feeling by playing on my phone by learning what I was feeling. I could not rationalize my fears as the wind picked up and I could hear every creaking sound outside my bedroom window. Then, around midnight, I heard a huge crack followed by a crash. I immediately shot out of my bed to look out the window to see what had happened. My neighbour’s maple tree had split in two and was laying across the road. That was it! I was done. My phobia was on full throttle. I began to tremble. My heart was pounding and I began to sweat, even though the house was very cool. I felt as though I was being hunted.
We have a fairly large maple tree on our front lawn and it stands a mere 15 feet away from our house. As each gust of wind blew, I could hear it creaking. In my mind, it was only a matter of when -not if- our tree was going to come crashing down on top of us. It was now 2 am, another crack and another crash. My other neighbour’s tree split in half. My anxiety has now taken on a whole new level. I almost began to cry. The rain at this point was pounding on my window, “please, don’t me more freezing rain, I don’ t think I can handle this anymore!”, I pleaded in my head. I am not a man of prayer, but on this night, I was close. Time was slowly passing on, 2 am became 3 am, then 4 am and 5. Over 5 hours of torturous anxiety had gripped my body, I hadn’t slept, not even a wink. My muscles were sore, my shirt was damp from the sweat, I was a mess! I had kept a pillow over my head all night to dampen the sounds from outside, it too was damp from my perfuse sweating. It was the only reason I didn’t lash out in fear at some point in the night. It was now 6am, the wind had died down, the storm was tapering off. I survived the night… barely.
Since that night, I spent a little time researching phobias. I have a better understanding of irrational fears. I always believed that you can control those fears like you can other anxieties. But on this night, I could not control my anxiety. None of my anxiety tools worked. This was a deep down in my soul phobia. I was reminded just how gripping an irrational fear can be and now I will no longer joke when someone is in the midst of a phobia. Some phobias are stemmed from a traumatic event, some can even be hereditary and some are just inexplicable. Provided we are not killed, life has a way of providing us with bits of wisdom in every situation. It is our job to look for them instead of turning our head and just accepting what happens to us. Yes, I have a phobia, but it doesn’t mean I just need to accept it. Like a fear of heights that I had years ago, I need to face this one and learn how to handle it.
My tree stood strong that night, even when it was covered in ice and being pushed to it’s limits by the wind, it didn’t crumble. If it could feel fear, I am sure watching it’s buddies around it crashing down would have had to make it scared, but it didn’t give up. I was safe inside my house, what did I have to worry about? While phobias are a strange phenomena, we hold the power to not allow it to consume us. By sticking to the present and easing the anxieties, we have the power to control the situation and not allow the situation to control us. I learned a lot from a 50 foot maple tree. We are not powerless from fear; we only fear that we are powerless.