One of my top 3 fears?

…has to be asphyxiation (a very tricky one to spell as well). However, this isn’t really a run of the mill kind of suffocation-style death. Ever since I was capable of cognitive thought I used to have this really strange fear that one day I would forget how to breathe.

As a toddler I eventually got to the annoying stage of child development where you continually ask “But why?” in an extended whine. Mostly I think I did this as an attention seeking exercise but potentially some part of me was trying to fathom out the world around me.

Unfortunately some of the larger questions in my world remained unasked. I.e. how do we breathe? – I didn’t remember consciously telling myself to do it and yet it was happening. I couldn’t quite get my head around the fact that things were happening in my body that I wasn’t thinking to make happen. Hence I developed this horrible fear that if I fell asleep I would stop breathing and die. This developed into a concurrent fear that my heart would also stop beating when I fell asleep.

This led to me lying in bed trying to stay awake until I would catch myself dozing off, initiating a massive FEAR which would cause my heart to pound and my breath to come in gasps. This confirmed my belief that I?d sleepily forgotten to breathe/beat my heart, and hence my heart and lungs had to work hard to catch up.

This situation was made much worse by my father’s explaining how you died from asphyxiation; you breathe in Oxygen (good gas) and out Carbon Dioxide (bad gas), so if trapped in a lift or enclosed space you would, sooner or later, run out of Oxygen. Don’t know why he told me this but it really didn?t help. Now my primary fear was coupled with the knowledge that should my head ever get stuck under the bedclothes I would suffocate due to lack of Oxygen. My bed was a death trap.

I must of somehow got over the fear but suffice to say that on a few occasions where perhaps my mental capacity has been somewhat compromised, coupled with the knowledge that I may have ingested compounds with a known sedative effect e.g. alcohol, this fear can rise again. Jolly silly and irrational it is too, but I have to admit to still paying homage to it from time to time. And I guess that’s a salient point about fears ? particularly childhood irrational ones, they just don?t ever go away.

(by Lou Dann)