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My “Irrational” Fear of Birds

Clare Horan

One of my most memorable memories in primary school was not hanging out with my friends or participating in my school talent show, but on a school excursion into the city. My class had stopped in Hyde Park for lunch, and I was sitting on the itchy grass eating my slightly soggy vegemite sandwich. In a matter of moments, I started to feel extremely claustrophobic as numerous birds started to surround me. I screamed and cried louder than all the people in the park for my teacher and she soon came, shooing them away. She found me, a small 9-year-old girl in the corner hysterically crying. To the rest of the people at that park, it probably was hilarious or confusing but to me, my fear had jolted my heart up higher into my chest causing my breathing to become rapid.

My phobia of birds, ornithophobia, still haunts me today. Whenever I am close to birds, I’m on edge, and whenever I’m outside sitting somewhere with food, I am always looking around. You may question, where did this fear come from? Well, I don’t know, but do understand that I’ve always had it since I was young. However, I’ve got a few conspiracies about my fear. As some of you might not know, my last name is Horan and in an interview with James Cordon, notable Horan, Niall Horan said that he too had a fear of birds. So, I fear genetics might have a play. However, who knows, maybe in a past life I was a bird, and it didn’t end so well so all the birds think it’s funny to taunt me!

My older sister, Sara, is afraid of heights. Once when she was 11, an unfortunate game of hide and seek led to her falling through the ceiling, down 5 metres of air onto the hard wooden floor beneath. I will always remember that moment of walking out to see my sister laying on the ground with plaster and bits of the roof laying all around her. Few years later, during school camp, there was an activity of abseiling, where my sister had to lean backwards and descend a vertical wall. Apparently, she attempted this numerous times before she was finally leaning and about to descend before her friend next to her descended too far and fell over backwards over the wall. She ended up embarrassingly walking back down the stairs of shame.

One of my friends has a fear of sea slugs because on a trip to Fiji, her Dad thought it would be hilarious to catapult a sea slug towards her, at full speed. This one moment has forever been sewn into her brain, leading to her phobia of anything that looks remotely like a sea slug, meaning leeches, worms, and jellyfish. Wouldn’t we all fear sea slugs if that happened to us?

My point is that everyone has irrational fears. Irrational fears may seem embarrassing or ridiculous, but not too long ago, these fears kept our ancestors alive and warned them of danger. Scientists believe that humans have developed irrational fears due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors with around 25% to 65% specific phobias having genetic contributors. Also, fears are a part of who we are, they are the stories that can make us laugh later and be anxious in the moment. So, it shouldn’t be embarrassing or humiliating to have “irrational” fears, because fears and phobias are what makes us human and shows a strong legacy of living.

Halloween is the perfect time to have fun with our fears, so maybe some of you should dress up as your fears or push yourself to go to a haunted house. And maybe I should go feed some birds, visit a bird sanctuary, or dress up as a bird but I’m not promising anything!


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