The art in which (I am creating this definition, please don’t quote it in a paper) someone stuffs the lifeless head and/or body of an animal (typically deer, raccoons, etc.) and showcases it.
I was around it. But I’ve always had my struggles.
Anytime the opportunity presents itself to inform someone of my “issue” with animal heads I have one of two options, neither of which has an awesome result.
1 – I can say that I don’t like them.
Result: It’s hilarious to everyone and a present goal to get me near one.
2 – I can say they truly make me uncomfortable.
Result: I come across as a brat with an unsettled fear from my childhood/the sickly girl with anxiety who needs her meds STAT.
While neither result is preferred, both options are true.
I don’t like them.
As a little girl I thought it was just an “I’m scared” thing. Growing up in a family of dear hunters there were rooms in my grandparents’ and uncle’s houses that i just wouldn’t enter. If I saw the deer head I would immediately become anxious and find the quickest escape.
I even remember one time going out to eat with my mom and sister to a restaurant with a full bodied stuffed buffalo. I stood at the cash register and cried hysterically as the hostess silently laughed. I was 14.
Second, they truly make me uncomfortable. As I got older I realized it was much less of a fear and more of something I genuinely didn’t like. I grew up afraid of the dark, all bugs, the zoo and most movies. Over time I’ve forced myself to get over these fears as a result of not wanting to be “that girl.”
The Summer before my freshman year of college I would stand in my room at night and turn off the light. I would count as high as I could before I started losing my breath and “needed” to flip the switch back on. I started by barely making it to 1. By the end of Summer I could count to 60 seconds. It was difficult, challenging, I had to sing a lot of worship songs through July nights, but I made it. I did it. And now if I’m staying with friends who need darkness to fall asleep, I can get through it. Something I once thought was impossible.
I hate telling people about my fears.
I’m 22 years old and I don’t like the dark.
I’m so mature!
But something I hate more are the things that genuinely make me uncomfortable.
I hate talking about them.
I hate telling people I don’t like animal heads because I’ve had anxiety for 13 years.
I hate admitting that I’m “that girl” that’s had panic attacks about it. That hasn’t experienced certain restaurants because of the way they choose to decorate. That sat in the car for 2 hours while my sister texted me pictures of cowboy boots to wear to the Grammy Awards because I had a mini panic attack trying to go in the store after seeing the amount of taxidermy inside. This was 2012.
I’m working on it.
But it’s hard. And honestly, humbling.
I can write songs and sometimes be nominated. Sing them pretty decently in front of thousands. Play six instruments, some on my record. Chat with Reba on the phone. But you put me in a room with a moose head and I’ll have a full on panic attack.
This fear. This anxiety. It sucks.
I have narrowed it down to being uncomfortable with something that was once alive, but is now dead. This “issue” can control my life. And I hate it.
Because of it, I have never been to a funeral. Including the one of my own grandfather’s and three of my uncles, one of which I was really close to. I have tried. I’ve gotten in the car, I’ve even walked into the church, but the anxiety of seeing life lost was too much to handle.
I hate it.
No offense to PETA or vegetarians but I do not think the life of an animal is nearly as important as the life of a human loved one. But the vibe of being around a life lost is one that I’ve never been able to handle.
I don’t know why lifeless animals or people freak me out. I don’t know why it makes me cry. I don’t know why it forces me to have to take conscious breaths. It makes no sense.
But there are two things that I do know.
1. Fear is not healthy.
I don’t enjoy being fearful, as mentioned I have overcome many things I once thought I couldn’t. While I am working toward getting better, however, I do ask those I love to be respectful of the process. I won’t be “fixed” by throwing me in a hunting gear store. People have tried it and it ended miserably.
But I won’t give up trying. I will keep praying, singing worship songs and working toward not letting my anxiety control my day.
2. I am not alone.
You may be reading this and facing a fear yourself, irrational because of an illness or maybe because of trauma. Or you may be reading this feeling emotional (empathetic, saddened, humored, etc) thinking of someone you know with a similar issue.
Thing is, it’s not just me. And if it’s you, I want you to know that it’s not just you. I know sometimes people think it’s a joke, they don’t take you seriously, they think you’re being immature… I know it’s hard. But know that they have something in their lives too that even if they’re afraid or frightened there is something that makes them upset or frustrated. It’s not our job to learn what those are but put yourself in their shoes and compassion will come out of nowhere.
This isn’t a plea to be fixed.
This isn’t a blog to gain pity.
This is simply a note to let other people know that they’re not alone in the fears they’re facing and someday we’ll all face them together.