Let’s talk about clowns, people.

They’re the worst, aren’t they? Yes. They are. Now, I was planning on starting this whole thing off with some sort of introductory post about myself, but this seems more time sensitive given the season. Also, I hate trying to describe myself so…win-win.

I have coulrophobia. It sucks. And it makes life extremely challenging when you’re a horror junkie. I’ve always hated clowns but I wasn’t always scared of them, and I never had any sort of childhood trauma to induce it. At some point (maybe 6 or 8 years old?) my hatred developed into a fear. I don’t know how or why; I was just terrified to see or be near one.

I was probably in my mid-teens when I was able to begin desensitizing myself. Seeing a clown in person was a definite no-go, but I started to tolerate seeing them on TV, in illustrations, etc.  I watched Killer Klowns From Outer Space on TV (with all the lights on, in the living room, in the middle of the day, drenched in sweat, but still). It seemed to always get a little easier and then…… the incident.

I think I was about 19. I was driving with my boyfriend. Let’s call him Asshole. We were in my car when Asshole decided he wanted to stop to get some Italian ice on the way to wherever we were going. As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed it was rather busy and the local radio station van was there. They were having some sort of event. They had a clown.

Let me say at this point that Asshole was well aware of my issues. But remember I was starting to feel more confident, so I figured we’d just walk on by it.  I’d keep my head down and we’d be ok. That worked until we headed back to the car. Here’s where the trouble started. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that we had caught this clown’s attention. He started following us. My heart started racing and I walked faster. That’s when I heard him shout to Asshole, “Hey, can I talk to her?”. Knowing well and good that was the worst idea ever, Asshole says “Yeah, sure.” That’s when I started running. I got to my car, jumped in, and let out a sigh. That was close.

All of a sudden there’s a knock on my window. Instinctively I turn to look and I am face to face with a clown practically pressing his face against my window. I screamed. Asshole started laughing. The clown wouldn’t go away; he kept his face in my window, shouting at me. I couldn’t tell what he was saying because I was sobbing with my face in my hands, cringing and wincing every time he spoke, as if he was actually touching me. I’d cry harder, Asshole would laugh louder, the clown still wouldn’t leave. I was so panicked, at some point my brain chose flight over fight, and without even looking I threw my car in reverse and hammered the gas in a crowded parking lot. It took me hours to calm down. Years of work down the drain, my phobia was back in full force.

Fast forward about seven years later. I’m living in a new state and have a new, wonderful boyfriend, Adam. He knew about my clown issues even before we started dating. It was much easier navigating Halloween events, costume shops, horror conventions, etc. with him there to shield me from things I didn’t want to see. He didn’t get annoyed or frustrated with me when I again attempted to watch Killer Klowns and immediately burst into tears as soon as I saw one. He stayed by my side when I collapsed on the floor, crying and hyperventilating at a convention. He’s been so supportive and I really can’t say enough about him. Anyway, jump ahead another few years. Adam is now my husband and I decided to tackle this thing once again.

About two years ago I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s IT at a used book store on the way to the beach. I figured that was the best place to start. I had seen the miniseries, or at least part of it, as a child but I pretty much blocked it from my memory. I thought it might be easier to deal with in written form. I read a few chapters that day at the beach, but I didn’t pick it up again for another year. Then I found out IT was being made into a new movie. I had an internal panic attack realizing that, since most things I follow on social media are horror related, I will be forced to see many, many pictures of clowns. This is on top of last year’s clown panic that gave me more than a few nightmares. I decided it was now or never. I needed to read the book.

I liked it. The book shows IT as much more than just a clown, so it was definitely easier to handle. After reading it I knew the next step would be to watch the miniseries again. One night when I was feeling particularly brave (and maybe a little drunk), I suggest to Adam that we put it on.  I cried most of the way through it but I survived. Afterward, surprisingly, nothing really changed. No anxiety, no nightmares. And then it happened. The movie was released in theaters. All of my horror loving friends were raving about it. I knew it was inevitable; Adam asked when we were going. A little coaxing and a lot of whiskey later, we were sitting in the theater.

I had forced myself to watch all available trailers, so I had some idea of what to expect. I settled down in my seat and got comfortable. We had gotten there early and the theater wasn’t crowded, yet, with three seats available to my right, two girls had to sit right next to me. Who does that?? Adam graciously gave me his arm to squeeze, a bag of Reese’s Pieces, and a flask of whiskey. All were very much needed. There was a lot of arm squeezing, lots of tears and shaking, but I made it through. Not well, but I made it. For the next week or so, I was tense, constantly looking over my shoulder, running out of dark rooms after I switched off the light, having nightmares.

Now that some time has passed and most of the nightmares and paranoia have subsided, I think I’d like to see IT again. It’s taken thirty-two years but I’ve finally made it to this point. I guess the whole takeaway from this post is, if someone truly has a phobia, be respectful of it; don’t push them to “get over it” because it’s really fucking hard. It’s avoiding functions, having nightmares and panic attacks, and always being on alert and having your guard up. It sucks. And for fuck’s sake, if someone trusts you enough to discuss their phobia with you, don’t put them in situations with or send them pictures of their biggest fear because you think it’s funny. It’s not funny. You’re just a dick.

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