Astraphobia An extreme fear of thunder and lightning. When I was four or five years old, a friend’s babysitter dropped me off at my house during a thunderstorm. She didn’t even wait until I was inside before she sped off. I rang and rang the doorbell and then banged on the front door as the rain came down in torrents. Where was everybody? Why weren’t they letting me in? Terrified, I ran to the back door. I was dashing up the back stairs to the porch door when lightning struck. My memory is that it struck next to my foot, which I now know is impossible. Lightning travels through the ground, and if it had struck next to my foot, I would be dead, or at the very least, injured. As an adult, I had been to see a couple of different therapists about astraphobia. Nothing had worked. My latest therapist asked me to look up the meaning of the phrase “lightning strike” to see if any other associations came to mind. “Try to remember everything about the storm,” he said. [End Page 109] The goal of the therapy was to free myself from a lifetime of astraphobia that had prevented me from enjoying overnight hikes, camping trips with family, or, really, from functioning like a sane person when outdoors and in the presence of even one isolated cumulonimbus cloud. In addition to our regular sessions, the therapist suggested EMDR—eye movement desensitization and reprocessing—as a treatment. At first, EMDR seemed very new age to me, and I wasn’t sure how a psychotherapy that involved reliving the day I was left out in the storm while moving my eyes back and forth was going to help. At my first EMDR session, my therapist’s chair was facing mine. He waved a stick with a lime green tip in front of my face. For several minutes, it ticked back and forth like a metronome until my eyes stopped tracking it, and then he asked me what I remembered of the lightning incident. Every therapy session followed the same procedure and, like an automaton, I repeated the same story every time: I had been terrified to get out of the car. The woman who dropped me off had her own agenda and she simply drove away. She was just a babysitter. She probably assumed someone was home. And she was right. My father was home, but he was napping and didn’t hear the bell or the pounding on the door. I remember feeling that my fear didn’t matter to the woman in the car. And that no one else cared I was left out in the storm. I remember banging and banging and banging on the front door. Desperate, I ran to the back of the house in the downpour. When I got to the back door, I took a metal garbage can and ran battering-ram style at the porch window. Glass shattered like a crack of thunder. The sound roused my father from his nap. By the time he reached the kitchen, I had nearly severed my right index finger by climbing through the shark’s mouth of jagged glass, the wound grazing the deep transverse metacarpal ligament. In between therapy sessions, I spent hours looking up everything I could find out about lightning. I watched videos of lightning strikes on YouTube. In the videos, I noticed that when lightning branched down toward the earth, it resembled an old man’s bony fingers emerging from the clouds, followed by his arms, ropy with veins, blindly grabbing for some thing or someone on the ground. [End Page 110] [Except]






Kelly Fordon

Original Work Citation

Fordon, K. (2020). Astraphobia. River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative 21(2), 109-120. doi:10.1353/rvt.2020.0009



“Astraphobia,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 15, 2024,

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