The Fear Is Real


Fears and phobias can be quite disturbing, and even debilitating, for its victims. I can especially relate to fears that have been carried since childhood. I myself have a couple, and although only a couple, I cannot diminish the impact that they have had on my life.

One such fear is the fear of knives and other objects with blades, such as box cutters and razors. The fear is real. So real, in fact, that I had refused to bring sharp knives into my house, until recently.

My son, Jake, and I have talked about my fear. He thinks, ”I should just try and get over it”. And if I can’t do that, maybe I should buy a few sharp knives and just be extra careful when using them. Maybe he is right, I should at least try and face those life-long fears.

I started by purchasing two knives, and although they were not overly sharp, I applauded my efforts. Sadly, with any accidental cut from a knife, small or large, I am haunted. My brain continues to replay thoughts and vivid images of the knife slicing through my skin, sometimes for hours or days later.

A couple of months later, I decided to further challenge myself by investing in a mandoline – a sharp bladed device for quickly slicing fruits and vegetables. I work long hours and welcome any tool that can help save prepping time in the kitchen.

It was a Monday morning and I was rushing for an appointment while preparing dinner in the slow cooker. Jake watched as I sliced the first few pieces of a large onion on the new mandoline, without using the protective handle. When Jake challenged me on this, I explained that the onion was round and needed to be flattened on one side in order for it to stay in place under the food holder (hand protector). The onion was firm and I was being careful. There was really no need for concern.

I added sliced onions to the slow cooker before moving on to other ingredients. Once again, I continued to cut the first few slices from the rounded bottom of a pepper. The peppers, I noticed, were too soft to stay in place under the holder, so I proceeded while being mindful of the blade as my hand skimmed over it.

Seconds later, I felt the slicing of my thumb as my hand glided over the blade. I rushed to the sink and immediately ran cold water over my hand. Once the blood cleared, I could see that I had cut the entire side of my thumb, and was quickly losing blood. Realizing the seriousness of my injury and knowing my reduced clotting factor (I am a bleeder), I began to worry.

I enveloped my thumb with a large bundle of paper towels. Jake did not hear the calls for help until my voice elevated into an almost panic-stricken scream. He then came running and immediately knew what had happened. By then the paper towel was drenched with blood and I directed him to the first-aid kit.

Jake called Tom and within minutes he was in the house and emphasized the importance of applying direct pressure to the wound. Wanting to avoid a long wait at the emergency he decided to call the Provincial Emergency Health Line. While cradling my wrapped hand into my chest, I began pacing and anxiously cleaning the kitchen. Tom, clearly frustrated, demanded I sit and apply more pressure to the wound. Unbeknownst to him, I was looking for distractions as images of my hand being sliced continued to replay over and over in my mind while immobilizing me with fear.

The help-line nurse advised that I should be immediately taken to the emergency department. Not that they could sew it up, but because of the size of the gash and the continued blood loss. Jake grabbed my keys and offered to drive.

The triage nurse inspected the wound while telling me, “You really did the job on yourself.” I held my bleeding hand over a large open bucket as she poured a full bottle of solution to stop the bleeding. She then bandaged my hand and sent me to the waiting room.

Three hours later my name was called. The attending doctor told me that I had lost a lot of tissue and affirmed there was nothing they could do. The open wound could not be stitched and would take a considerable amount of time to heal. As for the severe pain, the doctor said that the pain would be no greater had I lost the entire thumb. This was a result of the severed tissue and nerves. Additionally, she advised what to watch for, once the bandages were removed.

A nurse gently cleaned my injured thumb as I squirmed in pain. She cut out and applied a brown gauze-like fabric while telling me it would stop the bleeding. She then continued by applying a dressing and painfully pushing a tight finger bandage – similar to a balloon – down over my finger.

The finger was no sooner wrapped when she discovered a piece of the gauze had twisted inside and blood was seeping through. The pain was excruciating. I stood up and insisted on remaining standing as she removed the dressing. Extra pieces of the blood-clotting agent were applied before reapplying new bandages. I was then given pain medication and sent home.

Hours passed before the medication finally kicked in and I was able to sleep. Three hours later, I woke up and had difficulty getting back to sleep. Once again I was tormented with graphic, painful memories of my thumb being sliced as my body flinched and cringed with every disturbing image going through my head. The visuals were painful and I realized that I had to somehow mindfully take control of my brain. I had an idea.

With every visual of the blade cutting my hand, I decided to “override” with another image of my thumb miraculously healing. I imagined the wound itself instantly closing and healing. I remembered a similar scene in a movie and thought it was worth a try. I envisioned the scenario over and over, and over. It took some time, but the mind-game did work.

Where did the fear originate from? As a teenager, my mother often held a sharp knife next to my throat while threatening to, “Just get it over with.” With time, I developed coping mechanisms for my mother’s abuse by stiffening my body and blocking the fear, and mentally challenged her to “go for it.”

Maybe I realized it was only a threat, a scare tactic, and she would not follow through, or maybe I just wanted the misery to end. Either way, I was traumatized by the knife and have lived a lifetime coping with unwanted, disturbing visuals of a blade slicing through my skin.

As a teenager, I was unconsciously “overriding” as a coping mechanism. And It quite possibly took a traumatic experience, such as this one, to help me better understand my fear. For anyone else experiencing this type of trauma, I recommend you seek help or learn similar coping mechanisms.