This is not something easy to write, but since it's a big part of my life, I'll share it here. But to any of my family who reads it - don't even bother mentioning it to me, 'cause I won't talk about it.

For as long as I can remember, I've been a phobic. A pyrophobic, for the clinical term. Scared of fire. Burning things don't really bother me. But when people become involved, well, you get the picture. I can't even say the words "on f-re" because of the mental images it stirs up.

I don't know why I'm this way. Sometimes I think I had a previous life experience that ended with a horrible fate like Joan of Arc or the witches who lost their lives in the hunts. Because I don't remember when it started. It was always just there.

Every picture I've seen (on TV, the movie screen, or books and magazines) is burned (pardon the pun) into my memory. Even the screams I heard when my eyes were closed still ring in my ears. And when I feel at my lowest, when I'm depressed or upset, they come back to haunt me. Like a scab that you pick - despite the pain you just can't help it.

It's sometimes very cripling to be a phobic. It makes me weigh my choices of TV, films, books, and entertainment (I once made quite a show when I shoved my way to get out of a club to avoid watching a juggler throw lighted torches around. A comedian too, he had to point me out to everyone too.) because it seems that people enjoy watching others suffer (even if it's a stuntman who I know will be OK afterwards) for thrill or humor. I didn't see Mrs. Doubtfire, Backdraft, Firestarter for obvious reasons. But I can even sense when other movies might have scenes I don't like. Like the new Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Man In The Iron Mask. I want to see it, but I won't go. Because of my strong fear about what might happen. And I'm usually right, too.

I know I could get help. I know I could be hypnotized, Systematically Desensitized, Flooded, and a whole host of other techniques designed to eliminate my fear. Except I know that I'd have to experience my fear, visualize or actually see the scenes I abhor, in order to rid the fear. What's the point? I have to see my fear in order to get rid of it? For what? So I can go see more violent movies than the ones I'm able to watch know? To see people suffer (I know they're acting - but it looks so real!) for entertainment? No thanks. I can handle blood, guts, severed limbs, severed heads, the undead, spooks that pop out at you, but not the fire. Everything else but.

It's hard for my friends and Bob. I know that he's told them, when I wasn't around, and that helps. When we're picking videos to rent or movies to go see, and I say I'm not interested in a particular film, they know why. And I don't have to explain myself. But sometimes they still say things that disturb me, in everyday conversation, which I know they don't mean. I guess they don't know that even hearing it ("on f-re") freaks me out. When we were younger sometimes my sister would use it against me, because she knew it bothered me. She doesn't anymore, and now helps me out if ever I get caught in a situation I can't escape. She tells me when it's OK to look. And I trust her. So does Bob. But I have the second sense, and when I get dragged to a movie with all my warning signs blaring, I get resentful.

I hate sitting in a movie and not being able to watch the previews. I hate sitting there with my heart racing, and my palms sweaty, waiting for what I expect to happen. Sometimes it's worse when I don't get my sixth sense and my fear suddenly materializes onscreen in a seemingly tame movie. Bob is constantly surprised by me. I seem to know when to leave the room at just the right moment. I apparently can sense something he doesn't. Maybe I've just lived with it for so long.

In the words of Forrest Gump (saw it, but closed my eyes at certain times), "That's all I have to say about that."

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