Phobias: I’ll Tell You Mine, If You Tell Me Yours!

That hairy tarantula crawling around the ranch the other morning would have, by definition, freaked out anyone who suffers from has arachnophobia, a fear of spiders. While it was basking in the sun behind a tire’s worn treads, I so wanted to put it in my palm and pet it, but before I knew it, someone had scooped it up into a bucket and displaced it into a secluded grassy area, away from me and the lethal parking lot.

And come to think of it, one of the last times I impulsively picked up a feral, furry animal, it bit me. Thankfully, that scraggly rat did not have rabies, or I would have been whisked away to the nearest hospital receiving treatment for rabies which, at the time, included 21 injections, with very long needles, into my 10-year-old abdomen.

I am not afraid of 8-legged creatures, but after reading yesterday’s news, I just might reconsider my position. “Invisible Bugs In Kansas City Are Jumping Out of Trees to Bite People, read the headline of the Wall Street Journal.  Apparently, it is oak tree itch mite season in Kansas City, MO and these microscopic arachnids are pouring out of trees and landing on people, making their lives an itchy living hell. Arachnophobes-beware! Don’t hang out under oak trees in Missouri.


Oak Tree Mite

The next news story, Creepy Clown Craze Sweeps the Globe, peaked my interest.  I do not suffer from a fear of clowns (coulrophobia)…yet, but if I keep reading the news, I may have to ask for a lifetime prescription for Valium.


While we are on the subject of phobias, here is how I addressed my new-found support group of phobic cohorts:  “Hey everyone. My name is Elizabeth and I’m afraid of inclines.” Inclines? Yes, inclines, also referred to as slopes, ramps, hills, gradients, or ascents. “Welcome, Elizabeth,” they all chanted in a monotone kind of way.

There is a word for my malady. It’s called bathmophobia. For over a decade, this phobia has severely limited my ability to function well in this world. I avoid walking on even the gentlest of slopes. I’ll walk backward up a hill, but no way will I attempt to walk forwards. Sounds weird, right? Well, if you’ve ever seen me walking backward up the jetway to the airport terminal, it looks even weirder.  People stare, make jokes, avoid eye contact and get irritated at my slowness.  Generally, I ignore people by pretending to be pulling a very heavy, wheeled carry-on, or feign looking for the rest of my family who has already escaped to the terminal so as not to be associated with me.

20 years of chronic foot pain can mess you up a bit. Over the years my brain has learned to avoid potentially noxious stimulus. Protecting the area of the body that hurts is a normal response, one which is deleterious if left to linger for an extended amount of time. Muscles, tendons, and fascia tighten, and rigidity sets in. My gait has changed. There is little heel to toe motion.  My calves are tight. I’ve been walking as if I had big blocks of ice on my already very large, size 11 feet-bang, bang, bang. You can hear me coming for miles away. And you wonder why you never see me in a dress!


Up until now, I’ve been half-heartedly facing my bathmophobia. Like everything else in my life, if the consequences are not dire, the task or challenge will most likely remain at the bottom of my never-ending list. Here’s the thing – Gilles and I own horses who have to move to a new pasture soon, a pasture where I will be faced with a 6 percent grade incline. Oh my……

A little bit about Athos: He is more canine than equine. Initially, Athos belonged to Yohan who discontinued riding because of CMT-related fatigue and pain. Then, I started looking after him and he quickly became my primary reason to get up early in the morning to walk and exercise.  Athos, lacking the 2 inches necessary to earn the title of horse, is technically a pony (shhhhh, don’t tell him), but he thinks he’s a Clydesdale, or maybe a Great Dane, depending on the day.  I ride Athos too, but standing 5’9” tall, with daddy longlegs limbs, my ice blocks nearly touch the ground when I get on his back. I can almost break with my frozen heels… joke!




He loves kids, and kids love him. He is particularly fond of my 9-year-old “niece”, Bella, and vice versa.


Athos loves performing.  In fact, he’s clicker trained and knows a lot of tricks, from nodding his head, “Yes” to pushing a ball around the arena to picking up sticks and retrieving. Athos will do almost anything for a carrot!

Watch the video below where Bella and Athos are playing!



So, I need to get moving in the upward direction. I have my mind set on conquering the 6% grade hill below (it’s steeper than it looks, folks).  It’s become my Everest, my K2, my Annapurna. If I can do this, I can do almost anything I put my mind to.  I’ll keep you posted.



PS: And in the meantime, stay away from 8-legged creatures, clowns, and oak trees!


Seeing Clearly is Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

When I received my first pair of eyeglasses in the fourth grade, a vivid and surprisingly clear world unfolded before me. I could actually make out the facial features of the people across the street. Each leaf had a shape, a form, a color, and an outline. Birds in the sky were no longer blurry, flying blobs, but creatures with discernible wings and beaks. I was SO excited… until I walked into school the next day.

“HaHaHahaHahHa,” my “friends” jeered and pointed as I walked into the classroom. “Hey four-eyes!” they howled. “Whatcha’ got there? Coke bottles for glasses? HaHaHaHaHa.”

Message received: Eye glasses were for losers.


Within a split second, I decided that I could see just fine. I put those spectacles in my desk and squinted the rest of the year. If only my dad had allowed me to get those round, John Lennon-style, wire-rimmed glasses my 17-year old half-brother wore. But, there was “no way in hell” (his words)  his 9-year old daughter was going to look like a 17-year old hippie or rebel British pop music icon. I came home with very square and dorky tortoise plastic rims. I hated them. By fifth grade, I was wearing contacts.

Which do you prefer?

These?                                                                                            These?

glasses-wire     glasses

While my eyes were dilating in the ophthalmologist’s waiting room today, remnants of the past hit me right upside the head. I started to get a headache and put my sunglasses on to shield my brain from the light shining through the window of my extra-large induced pupils.

The first part of eye exams always stresses me out. First, the doctor puts the super-complicated, multi-lensed mechanical “glasses” in front of my face, directing me to look at an eye chart, one eye at a time. My ophthalmologist systematically flipped the lenses in front of my eye until the letters were more or less visible. “I see an A, then a G, no wait, that must be an O. Hold on. Is it a Q?”  I hesitate.  Instead of responding, he answers my question with another question (don’t you hate people who do that?).



A Phoropter is the name for the big, mechanical, multi-lensed monster.


Here is the conversation that ensued:

Doctor: Looking at that same line of letters, which is clearer, #1 or #2?

Me: Honestly, they looked about the same. If I have to choose, I’d say, ummmm, #2 is clearer.

Doctor: Okay, how about now, #1 or #2, as he flips the lens once more?

Me: Uhhhhhh, can you do that again? I think I heard him sigh.

Flip flop, flip, flop, clicks the lenses.

Doctor: #1 or #2?

Me: I don’t like either of them. Is there a #3?

Doctor: No, there is no #3. Look again, #1 or #2? Which is clearer?

Me thinking: OMG. #1 and #2 are so close. I can’t see a difference. I don’t know. I can’t decide. This is way too stressful.  Enough is enough.

I peeked around the machine and looked my doctor, quite appropriately, right in the eye and admitted, “This exam is making me anxious.  What if I choose #1 and the right answer is #2, and then my prescription comes out all wrong? I cannot be responsible for my vision mistakes. I’m here because I cannot see. You’re the eye expert, not me.”

He reassured me that this part was really only a matter of personal comfort, and tried to calm my fears. “Don’t worry, we’ll get it right.” Then he simply pushed on with the exam which makes me even more anxious.

The next device of torture is called a tonometer, measuring eye pressure.


As I placed my lower jaw on the chin rest, he told me to look at his ear while the miniature gun came closer and closer to my eyeball. The thoughts in my head became louder and louder, “How close is he going to get? What if he misjudges and pokes my eye out. What if I sneeze and poke my own eyeball out. Is he going to puff air into my eye?”

I mentally closed my eyes and waited for something to happen. Before I knew it, he was on the other eye and when he was done, both eyes were still intact. Just for effect, I did ask him if he’d ever poked someone’s eye out with that thing. He answered in the negative, “That would be bad for business.” Yeah, it would be bad for someone’s eye too!

I was not happy when he handed me my prescription: -8.00 in the right eye and -9.25 in the left, which translates to: you are still a loser and blind as a bat, to0.


Before I left, I asked if he did eyeball transplants. He looked at me as if he were thinking, “Why are you still in my office?” But he humored me and admitted that the eyeball transplant technology has not yet been invented. Then he warned, “In any case, if you do hear of doctors performing the procedure in the future, don’t be the first in line. That’s never a good idea.”

Fair enough.

Now I have to decide if I want bifocals, progressives, or two separate sets of glasses, one for distance and one for reading. Since I don’t like change, I probably will do nothing and continue to push my glasses to the end of my nose when I need to read. Who needs to see clearly anyway?