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Paranoia

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I don’t know if it’s the general nature of childhood to have severe paranoia of life itself, but as a kid, I feared everything. The smoke detector lights always blinked with a scarlet red eye, evidently signaling danger with its malicious color of warning. I laid in fear, night after night. It took years of staring at the ceiling—unable to sleep, quivering in my Ariel bedding, clinging to my matted stuffed kitten & shabby blanket for comfort—before I could talk myself out of the irrationality. I don’t know what caused my childish brain to defy such nonsense and permanently accept better logic, but the demon glow of that feared smoke detector surely wasn’t the only paranoid fear I fell victim to.
For some reason, it simply made sense to me that a child abductor would sneak into my house and hide behind the shower curtain, waiting patiently for me. Before emptying my bladder each morning, I’d have to check behind the plastic sheet to ensure that I was truly alone. Never mind that it was completely illogical to assume that a violent man was hiding quietly in my home, what I wonder still is how I would’ve reacted had I truly met that returning glance from behind the curtain; it’s safe to assume that my surprise to see him would’ve been no different than if I had not checked. That fateful eye contact with my unexpected kidnapper would’ve been an utter shock, yet I continually checked, as if somehow expecting that guest. How does such thinking permit sanity?
To think in such a way was my daily routine, my frequent irrationality, yet it was still just one of many other paranoids I possessed. Sitting in the car as my mom ran in to pay for gas, though she could see me through the window, was a death sentence; every passerby that so much as glanced past our vehicle was undoubtedly plotting to break into the car and kidnap me. He would hide me in an underground lair, never to be seen again. I slouched down in my seat, sinking below the view of the window, afraid that my fate was near. It was also a terrifying feat to peer through the blinds at night. The eyes of a murderer would glow viciously in the dark of night as the break-in was deviously carried out. Logically, the risk was not worth the reward, even on the second floor. My blinds stayed closed. Riding my bike around the block alone was especially risky as well. Not only would I be by myself for a whole 5-7 minutes, there was nowhere for me to go if I was being chased. I couldn’t just trust my acquaintances’ or neighbors’ homes like they were my own; I needed my own house—a place where I was safe from stranger danger—to flee to in case of emergency. Needless to say, I rarely wandered more than a few driveways down the way.
Of course, to accompany these paranoids I had a systematic plan to conceal my irrational fears of abduction, murder, and the like. If I couldn’t make my fears disappear I had to at least make myself seem socially normal. What kind of child would be happy sharing these insecurities? I became a pro at taking my paranoid reactions and expressing them in ways that seemed less obvious. For example, when coloring with sidewalk chalk at the end of the driveway—near the road, a scary place—one must always be on the lookout for cars. Because any vehicle (particularly the large windowless creeper vans) could potentially propose a dangerous situation, it is necessary to be prepared to flee the site nonchalantly. Some basic instructions: remain standing at all times while you color so you can immediately walk to the garage where you conveniently keep the spare chalk. This allows you to avoid questioning; you’re just restocking on your art supplies, not hiding from the creepy red sports car that has passed by at least three times in the past 10 minutes. There are simple solutions to looking completely fearless while still avoiding all confrontations with potential sex offenders.
These feelings and reactions might seem a bit extreme now, but they surely weren’t at the time. Yes, I was paranoid which may or may not have been mentally healthy for an elementary-schooler, but my 7-year-old mastermind had also perfected the art of covering it. I may have seemed like a typical child (maybe not typical but at least not paranoid) to the outsider, but there were more worries in my little mind than could ever be imagined.





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