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Jeruba's avatar

What first-hand experience has terrified you the most without actually doing you any harm?

Asked by Jeruba (41856 points ) August 8th, 2012

This isn’t about false alarms and imaginary fears. You didn’t make it up. Something took place outside your imagination, and it could have been bad. (And this is about you, not about fear for someone else.) It just ended up without damaging you after all.

An extreme amusement park ride? a risky adventure?

A tumor that turned out to be benign? a narrowly averted loss?

A close call in traffic? witnessing a crime?

The key here is that nothing bad actually happened to you—you came through unscathed. But you were scared half to death anyway.

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19 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

I don’t know if this counts, but I recently found out where some images came from that occasionally invade my dreams – in the form of nightmares.

I was looking up some pictures of my Grandparents church, where I spent the first 6 years of my life, and I remembered. When I was a pre schooler, my grandmother would walk into the church with me, and there were two staircases just inside the door, leading to the basement.

We would always walk down the right hand one, into the dark basement. It was her job to turn on the lights and get the place ready for services later in the day. Somehow, I got the idea that the left hand staircase led to Hell. I was terrified of it.

As an adult, it turned up in my dreams, and left me with a racing heart and always woke me up. I had no idea where it came from until this week.

shego's avatar

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at a stoplight, and the light had just turned green; and as the SUV in front of me started moving, east, and a car coming from the south ran the red light and hit the drivers side tire, causing a major accident. It closed down the street, and seriously scared me. I kept thinking that if the SUV in front of me had gone a little faster before the light and actually gone through, that would have been me, and where they hit on the SUV would have seriously injured me.

andreaxjean's avatar

When my daughter was three months old, we were driving home from her daddy’s house. We were stopped at the traffic light in my hometown next to a Turkey Hill gas station, first in line. The car opposite of me was stopped but then slowly started inching forward while the light was still red (keep in mind that this light was a “No Turn On Red”, and that’s what I thought he was trying to do… however he didn’t have a turn signal on).

The car kept inching further and further out into the intersection and then suddenly, SMACK!! A car from the intersecting street t-boned the vehicle and they crashed into the corner of the building to my right, three feet in front of my car. My heart jumped into my throat! I honestly thought they were going to drift further toward me than they did. And the fact that my daughter was in the back seat made the whole situation worse for me. I felt sick to my stomach and I was shaking from head to toe.

I immediately called 911 and reported the accident because no one was moving. Luckily there was an off duty EMT at the Turkey Hill and saw the whole thing happen. He ran over and cared for the injured people until more help came.

CWOTUS's avatar

Does marriage count? Being a father – deliberately? twice?

augustlan's avatar

I’ve always had insomnia (or been nocturnal, whichever), and when I was a teenager I had a habit of pulling aside the curtain and looking out my bedroom window just before I finally went to sleep in the middle of the night. In my mind, I was checking to make sure things were safe, I guess. I never really expected to see anything, mind you… just a habit.

One night when I was maybe 13/14 years old, I was to sleep on the living room couch because a friend of my mom’s was sleeping in my bed. It’s the middle of the night, everyone else has been asleep for hours, and I go to take my ‘last look’ before sleep, only this time it’s out the glass sliding patio doors, which open to our enclosed patio (6 foot brick wall all the way around, no gate.) So I walk over to the middle of the doorway, dressed in nothing but a little ‘baby doll’ night gown, and I grab both curtains and yank them aside to take my quick peek. And right there on the other side of the glass, inches from my face, there is a man. In an instant, I see he has something in his hand, and I think, “GUN!”

I immediately hit the floor, screaming my head off and crawling away from the door as fast as I can, thinking I’m going to be shot at any moment. Woke up two apartment buildings full of people, and of course my mom and her friend. The police came very quickly (bad neighborhood, undercover police present at all times), got an amazingly accurate description of the man out of me (it really is amazing what you can notice in a split second!), and caught the guy in the parking lot. He turned out to be my next door neighbor’s adult son, and what he’d had in his hand was not a gun but a screwdriver (he was trying to break in). I refused to identify him because I knew he’d get out quickly and come right back home, and I was terrified he’d hurt me for ratting him out. Had to live next to the guy for quite a while after this incident.

I couldn’t sleep alone for months afterward, but no physical harm came of it all.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Mine have been about medical scares for loved ones. That was the only time I’ve known what fear really feels like. I’ve looked at death and just been sad.

Earthgirl's avatar

There are different kinds of fear…...
Fearing illness is so different from ordinary fear. It something that you can’t plot plan and be ready to take action for….so it has at it’s core a feeling of utter loss of control, the sense that life as you know it could change dramatically and all you can do is respond to it, not prevent or avert it. When I dealt with my cancer, that was how it was. I responded to treatment really well and was very thankful, relieved and feeling blessed…..until my recurrence. I think the recurrance scared me more than the initial cancer diagnosis did. It made it seem like this thing was way stronger and more unpredictable than I had thought. It wasn’t like in the news where you heard of people “beating” cancer. I was young so I felt strong and resilient and I had a positve mindset, not a fatalistic one. So with the recurrence, when my doctor told me, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was in his office and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I just sobbed, and yes, I was terrified. I’ll never forget how my docotr got down on his knees next to my chair and held my hand. He didn’t just sit behind his desk and say, I’m sorry. So, that was fear and it continued ebbing and flowing until I had passed enough years cancer free to consider myself “safe” from it.

The next scariest moment was when I almost got carjacked in Brooklyn. I was sitting in the passenger side of the car, this was in Crown Heights, and I was looking for something in the glove compartment. I had the door propped open a little and my foot was sticking out. I saw a man approaching on the sidewalk nearby in my peripheral vision. Something instinctively told me that he was looking at me although he wasn’t being too obvious. Just to play it safe, I pulled my leg inside the car but didn’t completely close the door. Then he walked up to car and reached for the door handle!!! With my heart beating a million times a minute I pulled on my side of the door while he was trying to pull it open. I managed to shut the door and slam the lock down. He made a a motion like he was really pissed, like fuck!!! really mad. But he continued walking to the corner. I saw him glance across the street at someone who may have been an accomplice. Man was I scared shitless!!! I told myself never to be afraid of feeling paranoid again, to trust my instincts. (I had been saying to myself before it happened, don’t be paranoid, maybe he just wants to ask directions!)

wundayatta's avatar

All I can think of are instances where I probably should have been afraid, but wasn’t.

Four of my friends had already climbed over the fence. It wasn’t much of a fence. What do you expect from a third world government that is protecting what is probably one the world’s most famous monuments to Mayan cannibalism: Tikal. I don’t know how we’d heard—it was probably a setup from the beginning, but someone told us that if we went around the back, so to speak, we could sneak into Tikal at night. It was supposed to be wicked cool.

So now I was climbing over the fence and just as I got to the top, this man appeared out the jungle, carrying a rifle. He said a few words and someone in our group must have understood.

“He wants two dollars from all of us. A bribe to let us in.”

Funny, that was what it cost to get in during the day, except during day, presumably, the government got the money. People started passing over the money, except when it got to me, I raised my hands in that, “I don’t got none” kind of way. My wallet had been stolen earlier in the trip, and I had no money.

The guard looked at me angrily, then raised his rifle until it was pointing straight at my heart, and cocked it with a very audible click.

Everyone else was freaking out and someone quickly found money for me, but I just couldn’t take it seriously. I knew the guy just wanted his money. He didn’t want to shoot me or arrest me. I mean, he had a cushy gig here. If he hurt the tourist, the gig would surely be endangered.

The others were more scared for me than I was for myself. When we would talk about the trip later, it was a story people often brought up. But it was the situation where I should have been the most terrified without actually any harm coming from it. It was one of the first times I learned the lesson that if you do what the guys with the guns say, you’ll probably live to tell the tale. I learned that lesson a number of other times with cops in the US, and also with cops in Germany. I’m still alive, obviously.

ucme's avatar

Witnessing the birth of both my kids was an unforgettable, fantastic experience, one I wouldn’t have missed for the world.
I did think however, thank fuck i’m not a woman!!

CWOTUS's avatar

Not to downplay your experience, @wundayatta, but when you have no choice, it’s probably too late for fear anyway. There’s not a lot you can do to change things at that point. At that point you may as well do exactly what you did: stay calm and enjoy the experience as much as you can for as long as you can, because you’re at the mercy of other people and other forces. You’re over the waterfall, so to speak, and just going along for the ride then.

It’s when you have the $2 in your hand and say, “No. I have the money, but I’m not giving it to you,” that you can start to second-guess yourself, feel the fear of a potentially disastrous decision and otherwise continue to tempt fate. It’s sort of like the difference between strapping on a parachute for the first time and jumping out of a perfectly safe plane, and jumping from a plane with no parachute when the engines are dead and it’s heading straight down to the ground with you in it. You may as well jump at that point, and just enjoy the ride.

nicole29's avatar

I had far too much to drink at an event. I walked out, at night, alone and started walking. My phone died mid-call, and I was lost. It was raining, I was wearing a dress, and I’m a 21 year old female. I got really lost and panicked. I ended up in a terrible area. I walked through an area with a lot of abandoned buildings and no lighting. I can’t believe it made it home unharmed. I ended up wandering around for close to two hours – terrifying. Can’t believe I made it home safely.

woodcutter's avatar

Getting roughed up by the cops off post while in the army. All my buddy and I wanted was a ride back to base and the guy we hitched a ride from started driving like a jack ass and we got stopped. The cops got crazy and they drew down on us, back in the days before Glocks. It was monster revolvers with long barrels….aiming into the windows. I really hated that.

gailcalled's avatar

On a very cold day with a lot of snow cover, I was rushing to an appointment and skidded on some black ice; the car went into a ditch and started to roll down the hill. I saw a tree loom up in front of me and then lost consciousness.

When I woke up, probably 30 seconds later, the car was upside down and I was hanging from the seat belt with the floor above me and the air bag in my face. The buckle of the seat belt was so uncomfortable that I unbuckled it and fell onto the ceiling of the car.

I was dressed warmily and planned to lie there comfortably until something interesting happened.

Luckily the home owners near-by saw the accident and called 911. So shortly thereafter, volunteer ETMs from several towns arrived and removed me from the tailgate of the Ford Taurus wagon.

What I didn’t realize until I returned to have a look several days later, that had I not hit the tree, the car would have plunged into a steep ravine; even the heavy weight of the Taurus might have not been enough to have kept me from being squished.

I got taken to the local ER with only a bad bruise from the seat belt buckle and an abrasion on my cornea from the air bag. Car was totaled. I was fine and very lucky.

bkcunningham's avatar

Realizing @ucme has passed on his gene pool. ~

Mariah's avatar

When I was hospitalized as a minor, for some reason I always got stuck on the pediatric cancer floor. They were usually toddlers and babies, and we got to know some of the families. It was just heartbreaking. We’d talk with the parents about our respective situations and often times their odds weren’t too good. It kept things in perspective for me, yeah, I’m sick, but I don’t have to worry about dying. As miserable as it makes people, ulcerative colitis doesn’t kill.

That idea got shaken when I got sepsis from a PICC. It wasn’t directly the UC that nearly killed me, but I wouldn’t have had the PICC if it weren’t for UC. My life somehow felt a lot more fragile after that.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Mariah That would scare me. You are a warrior.

ucme's avatar

@bkcunningham Wow, get a load of the lurve you got for that & here’s me not having a bloody clue what you’re on about ~

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

When I was 23, I left the safe haven of a small, southern town for the big city of Washington, DC and got a job as a hotel desk clerk. The building had an underground parking garage with valet for guests, but the employees with a car could park their own.

One night, my shift ended at 11pm, and I headed down to the garage. As I reached the car, I noticed that a hole was punched in the door next to the lock. Two men heard me, and one approached asking, “Do you need some help?” There was only one bellman on duty, and he was up in the lobby. All kinds of horrible thoughts flashed through my head.

Somehow, I was able to say, “No thanks, I forgot something upstairs”, and walked back to the entrance with my heart pounding so hard that it was a miracle I didn’t pass out. The police were called, but the robbers were long gone by then.

For awhile, there was a lingering fear that the the two guys might come after me for giving a description. They were probably never caught. And in hindsight, they may have been just as afraid as I was.

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