Michelle’s Paranoia 101

I know what you’re thinking right now.

“This girl needs to stop beginning every blogpost of hers with her name.”

I concur. But this will be the last one I promise !!!

Returning to the topic, ask any close friend of mine to describe yours truly in one word, and I can guarantee you majority of the answers would be, “Paranoid.” In fact, a pretty lengthy conversation with Chow during MCYDS made me realise how long the list of my paranoia fears was, varying from heights, the dark, ghosts to insects, ladders and stoves. Here’s a couple of chronological scenes where my paranoia rears its ugly head:

#1. Back when I was a little toddler in nursery, my teacher once told me, “Never go near mice and rats, because they are full of kutus. And these kutus will fly from their furs into your hair if you get near them, and once these kutus make nests in your hair, they will suck your blood and you will get old very quickly and die.” Since then, I never went within a ten foot radius of a mouse (not even those caged ones in a pet shop), developing an illogical fear towards those rodents, until I grew older and knew what my teacher told me wasn’t true. Despite the realisation, the fear remains.

#2. When I was in Standard One, I once told a friend, Hui Ying, that I drew some pictures of Powerpuff Girls, and I promised to bring them to school to show her tomorrow. When I got home, I realised I couldn’t find my pictures and started crying, worrying if this was considered as ‘lying’ and whether my tongue would be chopped off. I was alone at home at the time so I cried and cried, wondering if my tongue would fall off at any second (I took that myth very, very seriously). In the end, I called Hui Ying to tell her that I couldn’t find those pictures and promised that “I wasn’t lying! Really I wasn’t!”

#3. Once, when I was around 8 years old, I asked my dad what those protruding green strings on our wrists were, and my dad told me they were veins. So I jokingly asked him what will happen if I ‘cut’ them? And he told me that they can never be broken, because once they are, blood will start to flow out and we will die. A week later, I checked my wrists randomly and saw that my left wrist was reddish so I started crying very hard because I thought my veins broke and that I was going to die. My grandmother was the only person with me at the time and after countless words of reassurance that I wasn’t going to die and that the reddish colour on my wrist would fade away soon, I finally calmed down and believed her, partially reassured by the fact that I wasn’t writhing on the floor, about to die yet. Since then, I check both my wrists every now and then; I still do.

#4. There was a time when I was young and I went to a church session where Aunty Peh Lan spent the whole session talking about Jesus’s resurrection. When I returned home, I couldn’t stop crying because the resurrection was about a dead man coming alive. It was really bad to the degree that my mum had to ring up Aunty Peh Lan to come over and console me, telling me it was alright and that resurrections don’t happen anymore. Only then was I consoled.

#5. I was about 10 when I watched my first alien-related movie, War of the Worlds. I had really bad experiences with scary movies like that (in fact, I still do) so I spent the next couple of days worrying about aliens intruding Earth at any minute. I thought the worst was happening when a blackout occurred in my neighbourhood one night, and I couldn’t stop checking my phone every few seconds, because in the movie, besides the electrical power supply, even mobile phones and cars couldn’t work in the aliens’ presence, so I was very wary, and then all of a sudden a whirring noise resounded throughout the whole house and I thought WE WERE DOOMED!!! but then it turned out it was the electric current coming back on. Horror movies bring out the worst in me, this was one of the worst post-movie experiences.

#6. Number Six isn’t really an experience but more of a routine. It started circa 2006 when I was 11. I had this ‘routines’ around the house such as touching a painting hung just outside my room 3 times on the bottom left corner and 4 times on the bottom right corner before entering the room and blinking my left eye 2 times and my right 3 times before looking away from the mirror etc. If I didn’t follow these ‘rules’, my brains would feed me with ‘if you don’t do this, something bad will happen’ or ‘if you don’t do this, you will see something bad’ and there was a particular case that went on the longest, which was when there was a huge doll in a glass cupboard opposite my bed. Every night before I went to sleep, I forced myself to blink at it either 5, 7, 15 (I always blink super-fast when I reach 13), 17, 25 or 27 times (I used to believe odd numbers, especially 5 and 7 were ‘better’ numbers) before going to sleep, otherwise I wouldn’t feel safe. I don’t do these ‘routines’ anymore, but the ‘commands’ still remain. Exempli gratia, my brain would always give myself commands such as ‘pick up that towel before it drops to the floor otherwise something bad will happen’, ‘reach the second level of stairs before your bedroom door closes otherwise something bad will happen’, ‘don’t let those two things come into contact with each other otherwise something bad will happen’ (that command just appeared while I was writing 3 seconds ago) (in fact, I think this has more to do with my OCD).

#7. Just last year, a doctor came over to my school to give a talk on diabetes, and while I usually wouldn’t pay attention to these kinds of talks, this one in particular attracted my attention because I was experiencing most of the symptoms listed. So when I went home, I started Googling symptoms for diabetes and started crying when most of the symptoms fitted my condition then. I told my parents what I thought and they scoffed at me because no one in my lineage had diabetes but I was still adamant, still convinced that I had diabetes so the next day my mum proposed sending me to Uncle David’s clinic for a check up but in the end I chickened out at the thought of needles.

#8. I think it’s safe to say my paranoia affects me the most where supernatural cases are concerned. There was one night during MCYDS and I was sleeping on the floor in one of the dorms at the school when I heard a sort of creaking noise. I thought it was the door at first and that the noise would stop soon but it persisted, too persistent for a door, in fact, so I froze, not daring to make even a move, afraid that whatever ‘it’ was would realise I wasn’t asleep yet. So I made a casual turn to the left– and found myself staring straight into Sya’s flapping white uniform she’d hung on her bedpost. I averted my eyes quickly only to have them rest on the empty space below my bunk bed. (I wasn’t sleeping on the bed, I was sleeping on the floor next to the bunk bed, for those of you who didn’t read my MCYDS post.) Heart gathering speed, I made another casual right turn and could only stare at the ceiling, refusing to look at the dark corners of the dorm, afraid of what I might see. That was probably the worst night I’ve ever had in my entire life because I was so, so afraid that I started to sweat cold sweat and I had half a mind to wake Aifa or Anum up for company while I calm myself down before returning to sleep. But none of that happened because I was also too scared to move so in the end I shut my eyes tight, ignoring the persistent noises, repeating “It’ll be fine. It’ll be fine.” (which is what I tell myself repeatedly whenever I feel frightened) to keep my paranoia at bay.

EDIT: The next day, the daily summit newsletter we received told the legend of the green ghost that haunts the dormitories. I almost fainted.

Another instance happened just two mornings ago. I was preparing for school and was checking the Twitter timeline when I stumbled upon a Twitter profile with an image of a ghost as its avatar. I switched off my phone immediately and started to dress in a rush, avoiding the mirror at all costs, while my brain convinced myself that the image of the ghost would pop up in the mirror or at the window at any time while I mutter my “It’ll be fine” mantra over and over again. In the end, I left my room in a rush, forgetting to bring along my name tag and a book but refusing to return to my room to retrieve them.

I know what you’re thinking after having read all of those: “Michelle, you’re doing all of this to yourself!” I know, and that’s the worst part, to know that I’m the one scaring myself silly all the time. Whenever people ask me, “Why are you so scared of ghosts? Do you believe in them?” I tell them no, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it, because that’s what it’s all about; I can’t stop thinking about it. Once my brain acknowledges something, it never fades. It’s all my brain’s fault, always managing to turn something harmless into something lethal. And sometimes my paranoia doesn’t only work in situations where supernatural existences, illnesses and pests are concerned; sometimes it sticks its nose in my relationships with other homo sapiens, which is worse because there are times when I am absolutely convinced, without a doubt, that everyone I have ever known hated me.

In fact, now that I think of it, that conversation during MCYDS made me realise that there’s nothing much that I’m not paranoid of. Some people say it’s better to think the worst of every situation to prepare yourself for the worst possibilities, and I see where they’re coming from but sometimes too much is just…well, too much.

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Michelle Teoh

26-year-old cynical Asian, book enthusiast and purveyor of fine sarcasm.

6 thoughts on “Michelle’s Paranoia 101”

  1. I nvr thought u’re tht paranoid 😛 anyways, i do hv sme of paranoia such as with spiders and close place. i always had my hairs behind my neck shoot up when thinking about spiders crawling on my skin and slowly crawling to my head eeee nvrtheless, urs are very interesting. Like it ! 😀

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