Anybody who knows me will know that I have an irrational (yes – I know it is mostly irrational!) fear of these little critters. I have no idea where this fear came from, according to my parents – who roll their eyes every time I freak out about a spider, maintain that I was never afraid of spiders until around the time I went to school.
‘What happened at school?’ you may ask. The answer? I have no idea. It almost doesn’t matter how this fear started, because I know how they make me feel NOW.
I recently came across (at the recommendation of my housemate) a brilliant video on YouTube of British comedian Phil Jupitus doing a stand up routine a number of years ago relating to his fear of spiders.
Watching this act made me laugh – there were many aspects I myself recognise and feel, whilst at the same time repeatedly check around the room incase there were any I hadn’t noticed earlier.
Those who aren’t scared of spiders
Because – for those of you who are mercifully not scared of spiders, (you are my saviors, and also my tormentors) you might not understand, or even realise, that a spiderphobe like me walks into a room and immediately checks all of the corners, surfaces and visible nooks and crannies to check there is no danger.
For me, if someone is talking about spiders, or even as I’m writing this now, I get the shivers. My peripheral vision becomes incredible (Phil Jupitus mentions this) – middle of a conversation with my best friend? I see some fluff in the corner of my eye, or somethign dark in the corner of the room – nothing else matters until I’ve verified it’s not a threat. Even then, I’ll still keep a close eye on it, just, you know, in case it somehow turns into a spider…?
Anyway – so I’m watching good old Phil on my computer, checking all surfaces, walls, corners, ceilings around me, occasionally panicking when one of my OWN HAIRS brushes against my arm (a common occurrence that STILL gets me freaked out), and I realised that, for us spiderphobes, we can NEVER make a non spiderphobe truly understand the fear of God that spiders put into us.
- ‘It’s only little – you’re much bigger than him!’
- ‘He is more scared of you than you are of him’
- ‘You know they can’t really hurt you, don’t you?’
Doesn’t matter what rationale a non spiderphobe will say, nothing, I repeat, NOTHING will make me feel ok in the presence of one.
So, it is not ok, repeat NOT OK, when you guys think it’s funny to do things like, chase us round the house with one, or hold one in your hand and ask us ‘do you wanna look?!’ (again – another familiar Jupitus reference). As Phil mentions, suddenly when a confirmed threat appears, the balance of power between people changes. The spiderphobe is reduced to a shaking, whimpering mess trying to get as far away from the spider (And therefore the person holding said spider), whilst the non spiderphobe, suddenly aware they are at the rescue of the whimpering person, decides to play a little with them – it is as though you guys can’t resist!
Responses during spider encounters
To highlight a little how one of these 8 legged fiends make me feel (im shivering and skin crawling as I write this), these are the following reactions (they apply in varying levels of seriousness depending on the size, and type of the spider):
- ‘Mother F*cker!!!” shouted upon seeing – as Phil puts it, a ‘Category 2’ – anything larger than an inch in diameter.
- Immediately stop what I’m doing (awkward if in the bathroom)
- Heart race jumps at least twice as fast instantly (and takes a LONG time before it calms down)
- Shaking and tensing happens, clenched hands, tight shoulders etc
- Warmth spreads across me…depending on the spider, sweating can occur.
- Back away as far as I can all the while keeping my eyes on the spider at all times
- If he moves – this will prompt a ‘JEESUS!’ and a physical jumping back
- Get as far away as possible whilst still having him in eye contact (don’t even blink!) and shout for anyone to help.
- If there is nobody there to help, back out of the room, shut the door and don’t go in for the remainder of the day.
- When next going in the room, check – at least 3 or 4 times, every surface, ceiling, nook and cranny etc – loudly move anything light which he could be hiding under (eg grab the visible corner of a quilt and flap that thing around like it needs a good beating) and hope to God a spider doesn’t crawl out from under it.
- The whole time in the room, repeatedly, every few minutes (or seconds) check walls, corners, ceilings etc…
Now – there are some exceptions to these. If I am in a room and the spider is located NEAR THE DOOR, or even worse, on it – I simply have to wait, shaking, sweating and tensed, not keeping my eyes off it, until it has moved away from the door, or nearby area.
I remember vividly when I was about 14 or 15, I was coming down the stairs when I noticed on the wall a little further down, and a couple of feet above my hand, were 2 huge spiders, each at least 3 or 4 inches in diameter. This meant – as there was nobody else in the house, that I had to sit at the top of the stairs and wait….either until someone came home to remove the offending beasts, or until BOTH of them had moved.
I waited for around 3 hours.
I could NOT walk past these spiders for love nor money. Essentially I was trapped. I ran in and out of my room to grab a book,my phone and turn on some music, and camped out, every 30 – 40 seconds looking up to see if and where they moved to) until my Dad got home from work (luckily this was during the school holidays and I didn’t have anywhere to be) and removed them for me.
You may be asking ‘can’t you just get a glass and a piece of paper etc etc’. No. Quite simply, this is far closer to a spider than I ever want to get. Complete avoidance is how I best deal with them.
Sleeping with the enemy…
I regularly (every few days, or a couple of times a month) find myself, at night in another room, shaking and sweating, wide eyed and panicked, before I realise I’ve jumped out of bed and ran into this other room, all during my sleep, because I’ve dreamt a spider (or more than one) are in my bed.
There is nothing quite like this kind of spider encounter – or non-encounter as I suppose it should accurately be called, as it disorientates ‘was that just a dream or was there actually a spider in my bed…?’ goes through my head once I realise where I am and why. This makes going back to bed and to sleep, very difficult. Quilts and pillows need to be shaken out loudly, mattress needs to be pulled and roughly shoved back into place (something I do every night before getting into bed anyway as a means of feeling secure there are none around!), all to ensure before I nervously climb back into bed, that there is no spider lurking. This is, of course, after the obligatory, ceiling, wall, corner, surfaces check.
Only after these checks have taken place, can I get back into bed, and try to get back to sleep -this usually takes alot of time, as my heart is going like I’m running a marathon, and my twitchy, peripheral vision and hyper sensitiveness (in the dark – EVERYTHING is a potential spider, a dark spot in the corner or a wall you know is always there, that picture hook YOU put up a year ago, anything) means it’s pretty difficult to relax.
Now, don’t get me wrong, a fly, moth, ant, beetle, even the good old cockroach do make me feel uncomforable, I guess in the same way many people feel about spiders. These critters, however, don’t make me panic in anywhere near the same amount a spider can. I have no idea what it is about spiders as opposed to other insects, that evokes such a passionate overreaction in me.
The bigger the better? Tarantulas
So, after everything you have read about my fear, you’d probably think that the bigger, the scarier, right? Not necessarily true.
With regular spiders, I can safely say the bigger they are, the scarier they are (with the exception of the large, really spindly ones with tiny bodies – still freaky, but not as bad as a normal looking spider half it’s size)
Granted, I’ve never seen a tarantula in person, however, to look at a photo (or video) of a tarantula will not make me feel as uncomfortable as looking at a photo or video of a large, regular spider.
If I were to try and explain it a little, I could possibly say that tarantulas have fat legs and bodies, not spiky, spindly legs like their anorexic looking friends. Also, they are hairy – not the odd hair on the leg type hairy, but properly, animal style hairy. Tarantulas also seem to move in a more slow and purposeful way than your average house spider. I think that all of this, perhaps, makes me less perturbed when I see a photo or video of one.
That and the fact I’m unlikely to come across a tarantula in my house, but I am likely to come across a large house spider – perhaps this is the real reason?
So, what is it about spiders?
So, you might be wondering what it is exactly that has me so scared after all of this explanation of how i am scared about them and my reactions. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what it is about them, rather than a moth, or a cockroach, or perhaps a tarantula, that makes me feel so uncomfortable. Perhaps it is the way they move? disjointed and unpredictable, or the way they look? Thin and spiky – dark colours etc…
I honestly don’t know, but I just know they make me feel more uncomfortable and afraid than anything else – and people who torment me with them, you don’t know how it feels, so please, remember next time you are helping someone out with a spideration (spider situation) that the other person is terrified, and even though it is irrational, the fear is real, and provoking it all the more will make that person worse, and that’s just not nice!
Ok, this was a really long blog post, and I’m still shivering and checking around me every few seconds, so I’m leaving now!
If you would like to see the Phil Jupitus sketch, check it out here (it is long, so is split over 3 videos) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cUiCW-KfUQ