Conquering My Fear of Movie Theaters

anxiety in a movie theater

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5 years and 10 months.

That’s how long it’s been since I’ve walked inside of a movie theater. I didn’t realize what a big deal that was until last night. Falynn wasn’t even 2 yet. It was her first time at the theater. We watched The LEGO Movie and she sat through the entire thing and loved it. I remember thinking we had to take her to the movies again soon.

But we never brought her back. My anxiety disorder kept me home and afraid most of the time. The idea of sitting in a movie theater terrified me. I’m not even sure why.

Then, last night, we took the girls to watch a Christmas light show. I knew there was a movie theater there and I found myself googling movie times.  Frozen 2 was playing and the girls have been begging us to go see it since it opened. It was an hour and a half before the next showing. That may not seem like a big deal to most. We were in a shopping center. There was plenty to do, to pass the time. But to me, that’s an hour and a half for me to talk myself out of it. An hour and a half for me to tell myself that I won’t make it through the movie without having an anxiety attack.

I did what I normally do, I made excuses. Our puppy will be home alone longer than we anticipated. We have groceries in the car. I have work to do. We really shouldn’t spend the money.

And then 7 year old Falynn took my hand and said, “Please Mom?! I’ve never been to the movies before.”

She had, of course, but she was so small, she didn’t remember. How could I keep depriving her of things she should be experiencing? So, I said yes. We bought 5 tickets to Frozen 2 and decided to pick up some dinner. I felt great. The kids were ecstatic. Super Dad was surprised, but really excited. We were going to do this.  I was going to do this.

And then I got into the car.

The thoughts consumed me. It wasn’t even 5 minutes before I started coming up with ways I could get out of it. They could drive me home and then drive back to the theater, but they might miss the first 5-10 minutes. I could sit in the car and wait for them. I always feel safer in the car. I could try to get our money back or switch the tickets to another day, when I felt more confident in myself.

I was heading down a spiral that I couldn’t control. I know it too well. Anxiety had taken over and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

When we got back to the theater, I stalled. I didn’t want to go in until it was exactly the right time. I couldn’t handle the waiting. That’s always the worst part for me. But we wanted to make a stop at the restrooms before, so we went in a little earlier than I’d have liked to.

When we sat down, I could feel my entire body get cold. I immediately started my breathing exercises, but they didn’t seem to be working. I wanted to leave. I had to leave.

I looked over at the girls and they had the biggest smiles on their faces, especially Falynn. She kept saying how this was the best day ever and she couldn’t believe she was in the movie theater. I closed my eyes and told myself that I was NOT going to let my anxiety ruin this for her.

There were so many moments where I felt like I was going to pass out. That’s how I feel while I’m having an anxiety attack. I gave myself a couple of options because that helps me to feel more in control… I could try to lay down, I could put my head between my knees or if things got really bad, I could walk to the car. Then I practiced my breathing and tried to enjoy the show.

The anxiety was there. I felt it and it was strong, stronger than it had been in months. It wasn’t until the middle of the movie, when Falynn walked over and asked to sit on Super Dad’s lap, that things changed. She was scared. I could tell. But she looked over at me and smiled and then grabbed my hand. I’m pretty sure she was doing it to feel safer, yet, she was also calming me down at the same time.

Her little hand was like magic. My entire body relaxed.

104 minutes in the theater had come and gone. I did it. And I can’t even choose the best part. The movie was phenomenal. I got to see all three of my kids smile. It was the first time, in years, that I felt like we were a normal family, doing normal things. It made me want to do it again, really soon.

Almost 6 years. That's how long it had been since anxiety kept me from going to the movies.  Last night I was finally ready to face my fear.

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Hello There!

I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  1. That is wonderful that you were able to conquer your fear and had a great time. I am actually not a fan of movie theaters, but I don’t experience anxiety. We haven’t been to the movies since covid began, and I don’t like crowded places in general. I’m sure your kids enjoyed that it was such a nice treat for them.

  2. Thank you for this, I have had the same problem and for pretty much the exact amount of time. I’m almost positive it started after the Colorado Shooting in the movie theater. I feel destined to give it a try and push through after reading this. Thanks!

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      Thank you for sharing that Tre! I don’t know when mine started but I’m sure that the movie theater shootings contributed to my fear. I hope that you are able to face yours and that you get through it smoothly. You can do this!

  3. That’s amazing and brave of you. It’s wonderful that you conquered your fear and also had a great time with the family.

  4. Heather, this is amazing! It’s so amazing what we’ll do for our little ones. You go! You did that!

  5. I deal with anxiety and can relate a lot to this. Getting out of your comfort zone and conquering fear is awesome.

  6. What a major accomplishment for you. Movie theaters have not felt like a safe space for me and when we do go, I’m always making seating decisions based on exits, etc.

  7. What a wonderful post. I used to be the same about churches, but that has gone away over time. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  8. Kids always challenge us to grow through overcoming smth! You end up doing things you never knew you were even capable of doing!

  9. Great to hear that you were able to control your anxiety and the end result was a great time for the kids. Although difficult anxiety can be controlled if we wish to is my take away.

  10. So happy for you Heather and the whole family. It was very brave of you to do that for your daughters. Your love for them has overcome your anxiety and that I am so proud of you. Hugs to you, Mama! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  11. I’ve never had an anxiety problem in theaters, which is surprising. I lived in denver when the aurora attack happened.

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  12. I used to get anxiety in dark closed place no matter where it was. Movies have been able to help me get through that more than anything though.

  13. Falynn sounds like such a sweetheart. I can only imagine how tough this was for you but I am so proud of you that you could get through the movie and experience this “first” with your daughters.

  14. Anxiety is a terrible thing and it can be triggered by the smallest things. But only one that suffers from anxiety or the family can understand. Glad on getting it a bit under control. baby steps.

  15. Well done to you on taking control of your fear, I am sure it must have been so hard for you but as a mum you found your inner strength and your kids love you even more for it.

  16. I think we all in some form or degree struggle with anxiety and its important to acknowledge it and talk about it. You find out your are not alone which helps. I have a few people close to me who suffer from anxiety issues and it is a real problem. Your post is so inspiring and uplifting.

  17. I’m so glad you conquered your fears. Anxiety is awful and can happen anywhere anytime as you know. Even over the silliest of things. You got this!

  18. Wow! Thank you for being brave and sharing it with us! Hope you continue to have positive experiences and enjoying life without fears! Happy Holidays!

  19. Wow! Thank you for being so honest and brave sharing this post. I have horrible movie theatre anxiety – I typically just avoid going, but your courage is so inspiring.

  20. It’s amazing how your kids can really help you overcome your fears. I”m so glad you guys were able to go to the movies together.

  21. My mummy gets anxious sometimes at the cinema as she doesn’t like to get up and go to the toilet and walk around in front of people – but then she thought whats the worse that can happen? and that she needs to stop worrying about what other people think x good luck with your journey and I hope you have many more great trips to the movies x

  22. Anxiety is a horrid all consuming thing. Congratulations on getting a little of it under control, going to the theatre and cinema can be a wonderful experience Happy Christmas!

  23. Thanks for sharing this and being vulnerable. Anxiety can be so crippling and debilitating. I’m so glad that you were able to make such a special memory with your family.

  24. I am not that big of a fan of them either. I actually prefer the drive-end movies where I can watch the movie in my car and bring my own snacks.

  25. I am so sorry for what are you going through. I know that it’s not easy at all. But I am so happy for you that you did it! I am sure that you’ll do it again next time!

  26. Great that you were able to start conquering your fears. It is so important to do that to be able to move on in life

  27. Way to be brave to give your child a fun experience. There are many things about a movie theater that can really make me uncomfortable too.

  28. This is an incredible story to share, and I applaud you for that. It allows other women to acknowledge their fears and step forward with their firm foot to handle them.

  29. i’m so glad you were able to go. different things are hard for different people. hopefully it will get easier for you as time goes by.

  30. That’s so great that you were able to go. I love taking my kids to the movies and it’s a great experience for them too. I know how you feel though, but with other things. I tend to make excuses sometimes too.

  31. You had so much strength, I’m so happy you made it through the entire movie, hopefully it will get easier

  32. Anxiety can be hard some days to manage. You did awesome, a true super mom! Overcoming your fears out of love for your girls. Way to go!

  33. Wow, that is excellent that you overcame your fear. I need to do this with planes. I need to get over my anxiety.

  34. I love that you were able to do this. It’s super sweet that your daughter was unknowingly able to help you through it!

  35. That is fantastic! I’m so happy that you were able to go to the movies. Our littles can be the biggest motivators of all.

  36. Who knew that the small hand of a child could calm the high levels of anxiety? I am so proud of you and Falynn too!

  37. well done for doing it for your girls and having a lovely time together. Anxiety is so hard… But you made a fab memory here

  38. Anxiety can be so overwhelming to people. So much so, that people who don’t suffer from it don’t know the facts or realize what’s going on. I think Falynn in a way knew what was going on and served as a comfort to you too!

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  39. Who would have thought that cinema could help so much? It’s really great to read your story!