Going to My Happy Place

This is my version of a genius list Zan did a few days ago, entitled “Things I sometimes imagine against my will.”

-Feeling someone’s breath on my ear, and looking up in the bathroom mirror to see a ghost behind me.

-Being pushed onto the subway tracks by an insane person.

-Dead people sleeping in the basement, until they hear me descending the stairs, whereupon they scuttle to their hiding places.

-A hand shooting out from underneath my parked car (my bed, a low table, the basement crawl space) to grab my ankle.

-The hand grabbing my ankle is attached to a dismembered arm.

-Prison guards pulling Hank from my arms while he yells my name.

-Having one of those surgeries where they think the anesthesia is working, but it isn’t.

-It turns out the robots want to enslave us.

48 thoughts on “Going to My Happy Place

  1. I probably think of about half of these too. Add this to the list – every time I drive under and overpass, I wonder if a car will come tumbling off and smush me. Also tripping, falling down, landing on my face and crushing my teeth.


  2. Let me tell you, one book NOT to read if you have two kids (a boy and a girl, to boot) is “Sophie’s Choice.” Because sometimes I imagine that scenario (having to choose to keep just one kid, with the other one dying in a concentration camp) and it’s just intolerable.


  3. The ankle one? My gosh yes. Also, if the shower curtain is ever completely closed, I have to stand back and open it reeeeeeally slowly. You know, in case someone hid a dead body in there.


  4. ooh, the hand one and the hank one, yuck.

    sometimes on the freeway going 75 i imagine my foot hitting the ground. not a good image.


  5. Ewwww! I totally woke up at the end of a surgery! I was being sewn up and couldn’t feel any pain, but I could feel the pushing and pulling of the stitches with the bright lights above… It IS as scary as it sounds. Lets hope that the others on the list never happen too, shall we?


  6. Mine are – being certain that there are GIANT spiders running around just outside my field of vision, and – opening the car door (myself! why would I do that??) and tumbling out when on the freeway.


  7. My list would be similar. I’d also add having *another* car accident but this time rolling the car – while I’m on any and all on-ramps lately.

    Why do our brains do this?!?


  8. -Being pushed onto the subway tracks by an insane person.

    Every time I am on a subway platform, I HAVE to stand next to column or something I can grab in case I get pushed.


  9. I consider myself a very rational person, but I sometimes imagine driving my car off the road into a ravine. What that would be like. What would happen afterward.

    Creeps me out.

    Also, I used to think the TMNT (or the wolf from the cartoon, Peter and the Wolf) lived in my basement as a child. While I loved them (I was a strange, strange girl…) it scared me to death.


  10. I have a very hard time refraining from imagining the bridge I’m driving over is collapsing. I often imagine there are people (live or dead) in the basement and sometimes have to sprint up the stairs two-at-a-time to be sure I’m safe. I sometimes imagine what it might be like to die, even peacefully, and the whole cease-to-exist-on-Earth thing terrifies me beyond belief. And these are just the IDEAS that scare me, to say nothing of all the real-world stuff that is mighty frightening, too.


  11. oooh, I imagine #2 while waiting for BART… more times than I care to admit. I steer clear of the yellow strip.


  12. ditto on the hand under the bed and the anesthesia. Even at 32, I still don’t let my foot dangle over the edge of the mattress.


  13. – Someone punching me in the head while I’m walking down the sidewalk or on MUNI. I get this *a lot*.

    – An earthquake hitting while we’re on on the lower deck of the Bay Bridge.

    – Driving my car into oncoming traffic.

    – Someone walking around the house at night, keeping track of what room I’m in. What route would I take if they broke in? Where would I go?

    – This is a fairly new one: giving a eulogy or a speech at my partner’s funeral.



  14. I share these with you, as well as the thought that I’ll suddenly go mad and drive off a bridge and/or jump off a cliff, not by accident. I usually have these thoughts whilst on a bridge or near a cliff.


  15. The subway one actually happened in Toronto a couple of weeks ago. Three 14 yr olds were shoved by a mentally ill person. Two fell in front of the on-coming train and managed to roll under a ledge in the nick of time. The one needed surgery on his foot but otherwise all were physically okay. A round of therapy for the entire City of Toronto!


  16. I am glad that i am not the only one who has these kinds of thoughts. I sometimes wonder just what would happen if I yanked up the emergency brake while we are driving down the freeway at 65. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if the cable snapped in the elevator. Interesting phenomenon, does everyone have these thoughts?


  17. I did the hand under the bed thing to my younger brother when he was 4 and I was 9. He was brushing his teeth before bed and I climbed under his bed and waited for him. The poor little guy was still wearing footie pjs. He still hasn’t recovered and has not let me forget it.


  18. To nothing but bonfires re: your comment a tree frog once jumped on my ass from inside my toilet. They are unimaginably cold and wet and have the most amazing ability to cling on.


  19. (long comment ahead, sorry)

    Courtney!! I have the teeth thing too! I don’t worry about falling down and breaking my neck, or breaking my arms and being unable to work or care for myself – just the teeth.

    When I was pregnant and my center of balance was altered, I’d approach ANY steps – even just one little teensy one – with one hand on the rail or the wall for stability, and the other hand over my mouth. “Hey, big pregnant belly with a baby inside it? You’re on your own, I’m busy here with trying not to fall and protecting my teeth.”

    I have a lot of random “oh please get out of my head” thoughts, but the one that causes me the most trouble is: Driving on the highway. An 18-wheeler is passing me (or I’m going past it to its right). Unbeknownst to any of us, one of the lugnuts on a front tire* has come loose, and the vibrations of the road over the last hundreds of miles have jiggled it so that by now it’s only hanging on out of habit. Finally the lugnut gives up and falls completely off the tire/wheel, hits the pavement, and bounces at the precise angle to send it rocketing through my windshield or window, whereupon it slams into my skull and I die instantly.

    I can actually SEE all this happening, even to the spatters of blood on the inside of the windshield. It’s to the point that I almost believe in reincarnation, almost believe that this actually happened in some previous life; it’s that clear and vivid. And I have no idea where the thought came from; to the best of my knowledge I have never seen nor heard of this happening anywhere, even on TV/movies/books. I try to always stay to the LEFT of any 18-wheelers, these days…

    Very creepy (IMO) story: When I lived in Japan, I worked – as they say – “on the economy,” for a local business. There was a gym-style bathroom for employees, with an area sectioned off for showers and changing. One of the shower stalls always gave me the creeps all the way to my toes. I was CONVINCED that I’d turn around and there’d be a body hanging from the shower nozzle rail-thing. Even when the curtain was wide open, still the thought persisted.

    I couldn’t communicate well enough with any of the other employees* to explain why I acted so weird – whirling around with my eyes wide to stare at… nothing, walking out of the room sideways so I could keep an eye on the stall, etc. Finally one day it happened that one of my English-speaking coworkers was there, noticed my discomfort, and asked what my problem was.

    I was embarrassed but confessed that I had this crazy, bizarre feeling I’d see a body hanging in that shower stall. She stared at me for a few seconds, then said something in Japanese to the other employees – I guess repeated what I’d said – who immediately all started freaking out.

    Turns out that about four years before I’d come to work there, one of their employees HAD in fact hanged herself IN THAT SHOWER STALL. Two of the older ladies avoided me like the plague from that day forward, and I never was very comfortable working there, because now I was afraid that instead of just getting a creepy feeling, I was going to SEE something.

    Anyway, that story? Is why the “unbidden thoughts” really f*ck up my head when I get them. So a big sarcastic “Great, THANKS” for the dismembered arm and the bodies scuttling around in the basement!!

    *I was a ‘greeter’ – part of why I was hired was because I am a tall American, a Texan to be exact, and I was a bit of a novelty. They made me wear a denim mini-skirt, boots, and a cowboy hat to maximize the effect. (I had my picture taken more during the year and a half I worked there than in the 20 years since.) I learned enough Japanese to say the equivalent of “Welcome, please come in” and “Thank you, please come again,” and for the rare occasions that customers wanted to ask something, “one moment please,” and “Someone is coming to assist you.” Only a few of my coworkers spoke English well, and one of them taught me a few phrases here and there, but I never really was able to learn anything of substance.


  20. 1. On airplanes, I always locate the nearest exit as instructed. But then I play out exactly what I might need to do to make sure both my kids get off the plane should it be on fire — i.e., begging people closer than me to let me pass up the baby.
    2. When I enter a bathroom in a public place or party, I often think that I might find someone passed out or dead in there, and my biggest fear in this case is that this would be very embarrassing for both of us.
    3. When using the bathroom at a party, I always check behind the shower curtain.


  21. Ooh the ankle grabbing is a big one for me- but they don’t just grab the ankle, they slice the achilles so I can’t escape!

    My husband woke up in the midst of reconstructive surgery on his hand. He said he woke up and started looking around then heard “Whoa! He’s awake!” The anesthesiologist (had to look that one up) quickly got him back to sleep. I don’t think he could feel anything, thank goodness.


  22. Whenever I pick up a big knife, I can’t help but think of that scene in Fatal Attraction where she has gone ’round the bend and starts cutting her leg without knowing it. Thankfully, I don’t do much of the cooking!

    Whenever I walk by a stream or a river, I think about Virginia Woolf and the rocks in her pocket as she waded in. . . Ghastly.


  23. -Having one of those surgeries where they think the anesthesia is working, but it isn’t.

    Imagine getting ready to have an emergency c-section.. they give you the drugs, run a needle on your side and ask if you can feel it, you say yes, and they start cutting ANYWAY! OUCH! True story.. St. David’s Hospital, Austin, TX


  24. I’m another who woke up once during (minor) surgery. They were operating on my hand, so I was totally numb from the elbow down and under light general anesthesia. I woke up at one point enough to know where I was and see the surgeon working on my hand, but felt no pain at all. I heard the anesthesiologist say, “She’s waking up!” and the surgeon say, “Well, give her some MORE.” Not sure, but he might have added, “…duh?”

    I have a fear of developing some kind of condition where I’m completely unable to communicate but totally aware of everything going on. This fear existed even before this exact thing happened to someone close to me. Seeing it play out was even worse.

    During the 1996? San Francisco earthquake, someone driving on a bridge video’d (videoed?) a car in front of them driving head-on into a suddenly exposed expanse of concrete when part of the bridge gave way under the car. Ever since then, it crosses my mind sometimes what would happen if a bridge I happen to be driving across were to give way.


  25. Interesting discussion. Some of these fears are quite irrational, but to the person who has them, they are quite real.

    For example, I was afraid of general anesthesia and fought having it for about 20 years. I found that pre-surgical electronic music put together by Linda Rodgers (daughter of the famous Richard Rodgers) helped a great deal. Then, I had to face an operation where I had to accept it. Wow! The drugs have completely improved since I was 4 years old and they used ether and a cone over my nose to put me asleep!

    I used to be quite afraid of flying. I gripped the seat so hard my hands would cramp up. In my 40s, my husband purchased the Fear of Flying course that was given by U.S. Air at the time out of Logan/Boston airport. Every week for nine consecutive weeks, I would drive to the airport and receive instructions from a clinical social work and an ex-pilot. We had a book to read, and “thought-stopping” exercises. Luckily for me, it worked very well, and since then, we’re been on travel all over the world. The pilots usually say that the only time they are frightened is during their drive to the airport (many more people are killed in car crashes than in air disasters).

    Last December, we went to Palm Springs, CA and visited the Living Desert. Since growing up in Florida, I’ve had a great fear of roaches. After seeing many of the animals, an attendant near the EXIT gate had a couple of “hissing roaches” which I believe were from Madagascar. She said they wouldn’t fly or bite, so I actually took one on my hand. No problems. I’m not sure I will go searching for roaches to cuddle (!), but the fear has been ameliorated a bit.

    I still struggle with claustrophobia in elevators — and I have been stuck in two of them in the time since I took the fear course. The mantra for the airplane fear is to take a deep breath, and say, “You can do anything for a short time” over and over until the car reaches your floor.

    I don’t usually have a fear of crossing bridges, but we are projected to have a 9.0 earthquake here in Portland, Oregon. It could take place either five minutes from now, or 500 years!

    Another thought that someone passed along to me is:

    99% of the things we fear never come to pass.

    If I am having a very bad reaction to something, I turn off all talk (radio & TV) and use a couple of techniques. Soothing music from a CD is very helpful. A brief period of repetitive and controlled breathing is wonderful. A short walk can help clear your mind.

    Of course, I find that a very small amount of anti-anxiety medicine helps a great deal if my thoughts get out of control periodically. I use these tablets just to take the edge off of these kinds of (usually irrational) fears.

    Blessed be,

    Ellen Kimball
    (Woman, wife, former radio broadcaster, mother, stepmother, grandmother, stepgrandmother)
    PS. I will be 70 years old in May 2009.


  26. While lazing about in the bathtub, I spy the razor on the edge of the tub and imagine myself shaving off my eyebrows. I usually have to get up out of the tub and put the razor in the cupboard where I can’t see it anymore so the image will go away.


  27. I have found that I have weird thoughts like this when I am either PMS-ing or right in the middle of my period. I have described them to my ob-gyn, and she just told me it’s not uncommon. I don’t have the bizarre thoughts all the time. But when I do, and I think about it, it’s most often right before my period. Fortunately, I take the pill for three months at a time specifically because of the mood issues and PMS I was having. Bonus: I get periods only 4 times a year! WOO!


  28. Imelda: Thank you so much for giving me one more reason to freak out if I ever get pregnant…

    Every time I get on a “down” escalator, I always get the mental picture of missing the step somehow and falling head down. Needless to say, escalators kind of freak me out.


  29. I always expect to see a severed head in the toilet every time I lift the lid. I don’t know why. When that day comes, perhaps I will be prepared (NOT).


  30. For whatever reason, for me the falling-off-platform phobia has less to do with someone pushing me and more with me accidentally tripping/spraining my ankle/stepping off the edge onto the tracks. What does that say about me trusting myself less than strangers? I guess either scenario is about a lack of control in a sense.

    I’ll second the earthquake while on Bay Bridge one, and also, while in the BART tunnel going across the Bay. That thing is long, dark, scary and without exits.


  31. I had an emergency C-section with a botched epidural. I felt everything up until the point where I heard my baby cry. I was screaming the whole time and the anesthesiologist said he was giving me something to knock me out but it wasn’t working fast enough. Once I heard my baby’s little voice and knew he was okay, I mercifully passed the hell out! I woke up again when they were wheeling me out of the operating room. Nightmare, definitely, but other medical problems (like IVs and mammograms) seem so trivial now. It definitely puts things in perspective!


  32. Holy shit, you freaked me right out. However it’s nice to be in the company of 40-some-odd other wackadoos just like me who can’t keep The Freaky from popping into their heads at all the wrong times. Dead things scrabbling around right outside my field of vision; the seductive urge to toss myself (OR ONE OF MY KIDS) off a high place or chop a finger with a kitchen knife, just to see what it might be like; being watched or followed…. I always figured it was because I read a lot of Stephen King as a young impressionable girl.


  33. Tucked into bed, I glance down at the foot of the mattress and see the head of Killer Bob from Twin Peaks peeking up.


  34. Mimi Smartypants (y’all know her, right?) once posted that she doesn’t drive because it’s not that she WANTS to veer into oncoming traffic at 80 mph or drive off the edge of a bridge, she just can’t be sure she won’t.

    It’s no coincidence that she and I share a birthday, I think…


  35. oh man! I do things like this allll the time. My husband thinks I am nuts! After I read this I ran downstairs to show him- look! I am NOT the only one!


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