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Today at kettle bells, my teacher discovered a slug in the middle of the classroom.  No clue how it managed to get so far in without anyone noticing.  While she was getting rid of it, everyone began talking about insects and how they seem to end up in strangest places.  One girl has slaters that appear in her room without fail despite being several stories up, another keeps finding earwigs.  Personally, I abhor spiders.  It’s a phobia that I take to an almost terrifying extreme.  These stories reminded my teacher of an event not last year including me and a sunny evening in Taekwondo class, which she happily reminded me of, when a spider visited.

In the summer months, the windows are constantly open to keep the room cool, but due to the amount of foliage outside, this results in any number of insects making their way in during the classes.  Usually flying types, but the odd beetle and earwig has made its way in too.  That fateful evening, the class was in the middle of leg stretching against the wall.  You basically lift your leg up and your partner keeps pushing it upwards while you push against them.  I had my leg up and had a look at the ground…and saw this little 8 legged devil scuttling across the floor.

I froze, then tried to relax – it was on the ground, not near me…and then it decided to change direction and headed straight for my one ground-bound foot.

Now, I have faults, and many phobias.  But my arachnophobia is right at the top of the list.  Don’t know where it came from – when I was a little girl, they didn’t bother me at all.  But at some point in my teen years my phobia switch suddenly turned on and I became completely terrified.  Whenever I see one, I get tunnel vision.  The only thing I care about is getting away, however possible.  Things like rationale, common sense and dignity are pushed to the side as my body hits FLEE MODE.

So when I saw this little merchant of terror scuttling towards me – simple facts like where I was and what I was doing immediately left my head.  I shrieked, hands clamped on the wall support and my ground leg shot up into the air, out of reach.  My partner naturally buckled under the extra weight, and my shriek-of-terror-instead-of-pain got everyone’s attention.  I was too busy zeroing in on the spiders movements to pay any attention to anyone, but the look on the instructors face sent our teacher into a laughing fit even at the memory. 

Course it got even better.  I wasn’t capable of formulating a response, so my partner just followed my eyes to the ground…

Turns out, she was almost as scared of spiders as I was, and it was very close to her feet.  Suddenly found my legs being swung to the side as she tried to get out of its way too.

What made this worse sadly, was that we were the only 2 girls in class, which shouldn’t matter, but does anyway.  So by the time everyone had stopped laughing and the instructor had collected the little trespasser (being oh so kind by letting him crawl all over his hands and approaching us, resulting in us bolting halfway across the room again) and released him out the window, I knew pretty resolutely that nobody was going to let me forget it.

Thankfully, I can appreciate the funny side of it now.  But still, it’s a ridiculous amount of bone shattering terror I get when I find a spider somewhere I don’t expect.  Very late last year I ended up being nearly an hour late to work after a panic attack in the bathroom – when a (horrifically big) spider had ended up on my towel then crawled onto my back while I brushed my teeth.  Felt an itch and assumed it was a tag, then caught sight of it in the mirror and completely flipped.  Shook it off, dropped the towel and bolted to my room naked rather than try and get it off the fabric.  Took the better part of 40 minutes before I could muster up the courage to go back in to collect it.

It doesn’t even have to be an active threat to my immediate person.  When talking about my fear of spiders, the family immediately think of that warm sunny summer evening (spotting a pattern here) when I was home in-between uni years.  We’d moved and I was living in what was essentially a cupboard connected to the kitchen.  The carpet wasn’t fitted properly and so the door didn’t close, instead left a wedge between the door and the frame.  The weather was so nice mum left the back door open to let some air in, and the family were in the living room watching TV.  I was in my room, sitting on the edge of my bed with a paused video game while I talked to my Dad on the phone.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see this…thing, enter my room.  The crack was a good inch wide, and I swear this thing had to crawl sideways to get through.  It immediately began scuttling towards my bed, and I immediately screamed – not shrieked, screamed – jumped onto the bed and slammed myself into the far corner while my Dad yelled for an explanation.  I knew it was somewhere at the edge of my bed, but I had no clue where, I was still too busy hyperventilating.

Within seconds, my door crashes open and my brother is looking at me in disbelief.

“It sounds like you’re being murdered in here!”

My hand pointed in the general direction of the intruder.

“SPIDER!!!”

To be fair, I still wasn’t actually capable of talking at a level less than deafening at this point, and when little brother looked down, his own eyes bugged out and uttered something not repeatable in polite company.  Well aware of the mickey I would get for this event later, I did get an infinite amount of comfort from the fact that even he thought it was a mammoth.

“GET RID OF IT!”

“I’m not touching it!”

(On the phone, I can hear both my Dad and stepmother on the ground in tears of laughter)

By this point, even my mum and stepdad have shown up to figure out the commotion, and when my brother mentions it’s moving towards me I panic.  Despite the fact that I’m on top of a bed, nowhere near the stupid thing, this sends me into a panic and I take a running leap.  My room is tiny so it’s not hard to jump from the bed to the door, swing round my stepdad and flee to the rest of the house.

Within a few minutes, I’ve been told my visitor has been executed, but it takes me a good 30 minutes (including a good 15 minutes of ribbing from Daddy Dearest once he’s regained motor skills too) and a promise from my mother never to leave the back door open again before I can be coaxed back into the room.

I am at least aware of how stupid this phobia is.  I know they can’t hurt me – that’s not the point.  I think it’s got more to do with how they feel on your skin – the feel of multiple legs and the strange way they move.  It would explain why the only other insects that can incite similar reactions are centipedes and millipedes – anything with more than 6 legs and I lose any ability to function.  I have genuinely had nightmares where I’ve been trapped in a hallway with a giant spinning blade heading towards me, and the only place I can hide and avoid it is a pit filled with spiders – that dream doesn’t end well by the by.

To be fair, ever since the bathroom incident I’ve been trying to make headway with this phobia.  Spiders get into this flat’s bathroom all the time, and I’ve managed to get myself to the point where I don’t instantly start jumping out of windows when I see one.  So long as I know where it is and there’s no possibility of it being on my person, I can now be in the room with a spider with having a panic attack – which 2 years ago would have been unthinkable.

Course the real challenge will be Australia.  Home of little gems like the wolf spider, the orb weaver, the red back, the huntsman.  Living in a country filled with giant, poisonous and famous-for-causing-car-crashes spiders for a year without suffering a complete mental breakdown.  I’m already envisioning my reaction for when I come face to face with the palm-sized ones – depending on the situation it could go well or send me on the next flight home.  But, if I can do that, and not completely freak out every single day, I might actually be able to nip this phobia in the bud.

(And if I do that, maybe I can get rid of this stupid vertigo and start crossing suspension bridges without panicking too!).

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