There are a few things that make me especially uneasy – swimming in water too deep to see the bottom, heights, never finding a partner in life who I can tolerate and who also tolerates me – I’m not afraid of much. I’m not afraid of anything, actually. Except for god damn spiders.
I’m scared of spiders. Really, really scared of spiders. Scream and hide scared. Cry and freeze in place scared. So scared that the little jerks actually haunt me: the harbinger of any panic attack I’ve ever had is a cluster of small, hairy, black (imaginary) spiders that wake me up in the middle of the night by crawling out from under my covers to convince me they’re hidden in my sheets and under my bed.
When this happens (and it used to happen a few times a year; fortunately, I seem to be outgrowing it) I always know that these spiders are in my head, but when it’s 2 AM and my imagination is projecting an army of hairy demons ascending from the depths of my bedspread I’m not taking time to weigh the logical realities of my situation. I’m crying and screaming and setting my bed on fire. Or at least changing the sheets and vacuuming. At 2 AM.
These are called night terrors and they are either the reason for or a product of my arachnophobia. Doctors have told me that night terrors are actually pretty common – most people experience what would be considered a night terror at least once in their life – and they’re almost always stress-induced. So, as with all stress-induced symptoms, the cure is to either “just relax” or take some chemicals that make your libido turn to mush and your personality go grey and your skin burst into hives and pimples. But at least you’ll get a good night’s sleep, maybe.
I don’t take anything for my anxiety, and I’ve been night-terror-free for almost a year (yay, me!) but that hasn’t made me any less petrified by the sight of a spider.
It also hasn’t made the fact I’ve killed at least one spider every day since I moved into my new apartment six weeks ago any easier to (literally) live with.
I love my new apartment. It’s a dream come true: incredibly beautiful and convenient location, amazingly kind landlord, ridiculously affordable rent. But by the third spider encounter, I genuinely considered moving. Yeah, this place is a magical fairlyland of peace and independence but what the hell are peace and independence good for if they’re constantly assaulted by these little assholes?
I’m so paralyzed by spiders that I had to write a reminder to myself to insert this picture before publishing the post because seeing it as I wrote was making my heart beat really fast and my face sweat and my stomach do weird stuff.
That spider is a Hobo Spider, and it looks a lot like the little shitheads who run around on my floor and in my shower and in my nightmares, but I don’t think the flavor of arachnid I’m dealing with is the Hobo variety because those are apparently only from Europe. And they are also very dangerous. So yeah, it’s definitely not that kind of spider but the ones taking over my house look a lot like it. When I Googled “brown scary spider” it’s the first one that popped up and I’m not about to scan through pages of Google images to find the EXACT spider that has been terrorizing the sanctity of my home because this isn’t an episode of Law and Order SVU so I’m not required to confront my assailant.
Friends have also assured me that the brand of bullshit frequenting my floor are of the harmless garden variety and therefore probably not these dangerous Hobos, but they know how much I adore my apartment and how much I abhor spiders so I’m not convinced they’re being honest or even know what they’re talking about since I’m positive that the legion of eight-legged horrors who haunt my house are undoubtedly very aggressive and very poisonous.
(Actually, the brown dirtbags I find around the house are very skittish and work incredibly hard to get away from me once they see that I’ve noticed them, but that’s probably because word travels fast among monsters so they know that once they see me they’re about to be bashed to death by a rock while I serenade them into the darkness by screaming DIE DIE DIE.
And I keep rocks around the house under the guise of being doorstops when in fact they are strategically placed spider-slaughtering weapons.)
In her (amazing, hilarious, irreverent, life-cleaning) book Furiously Happy, Jenny Lawson makes the point that many phobias aren’t really fairly named, since “phobia” means “irrational fear” and being terrified of something like a spider is a pretty survivalist thing to do. It’s not like I’m afraid of toilet paper, or kittens. Spiders can fuck up your day, and I live in California where even the spiders who won’t fuck up your day are the size of kittens and that simple fact can fuck the shit out of your day, even if the little twat isn’t going to bite you because it’s a vegetarian.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of facing your fears, if those fears are public speaking or change.
But spiders are not a fear anyone should face, aside from with a big rock and a lot of screaming.