I don’t want to be the spider queen – more on arachnophobia

My husband joked that I am the spider queen–they are drawn to me as to a lodestone.  I don’t like it one bit.  After that pity-party post about how much I hate spiders (and what a terrible person I am for having spiders in my house…honestly, why do I even think these things?), I had three more terrible spider run-ins, two of them this past Sunday.

It’s funny (in a “oh… that’s sad” kind of way… not so much the “ha ha”), but when I tell people that I’m profoundly arachnophobic, they never quite understand what I mean.  Most people dislike spiders.  I don’t know anyone who would be thrilled to discover a spider crawling up his arm.  My fear of spiders isn’t just a strong dislike–it’s a horrifying, abject terror.  I fall apart.  I cease to function.  When a spider is large enough, creepy enough, near enough, moving, and surprises me, I completely lose it.  All of my muscles tense up; I start shaking; I start crying, silently; I can’t breathe; I become paralyzed.  It really freaks my husband out.

Last Wednesday, a medium-sized spider dropped down from the roof of my car about two inches in front of my face.  I thank God for the following: I wasn’t driving, we were going about 5 mph, my husband noticed right away, and he killed it immediately by smacking it down and squashing it against my leg.  I’m also thankful I was wearing jeans.  The problem was that both my daughters were in the car, and part of me knew that I couldn’t lose it in front of them.  My youngest might not have registered any oddness, but my oldest noticed right away.  “Mom mom?  Are you OK?” she said, while I was clutching both hands to my mouth, trying desperately not to scream.  Internally, it’s always worse if I have to contain my reaction, but you just can’t freak out like that in front of your kids and expect them to grow up normal.  After about ten seconds, I was able to relax my neck muscles enough to reassure the girls that I was OK but was startled by a spider.  Allie’s response: “You don’t like spiders?  I don’t like them either.”  And for about a minute, I felt like a failure.  The thing is, I can’t control whether or not the girls take on some form of arachnophobia.  I don’t consider it my mother’s fault that I’m afraid of spiders, so why in the world would I put additional stress on myself at a moment when I’m already so near my breaking point?  In this, I really have to let it be.

Now we come to Sunday.  I sing in the choir at church, and while I was standing during the Eucharistic prayer at the morning service, a spider spindled by above my head (that creepy Tarzan-flying-through-the-air-on-a-bit-of-web thing) and then dropped down on my shoulder and climbed down my back.  I was stuck in the choir pew and just stood there and let it happen.  I know that doesn’t make sense… if I’m so terrified of the things, why not run away screaming?  If I hadn’t been in a room with 40 other people, only two of whom knew about my issues, if it wouldn’t have disrupted the service for everyone, I would have moved.  But I couldn’t do it without being disruptive, and it isn’t anyone else’s fault that I’m such a fruitcake around spiders.  I quietly panicked.  In the end, the two people who know about my spider-terror noticed while it was happening and the four people in my pew noticed that I was crying.  I’m fairly certain that no one else noticed at all.

When we were finally able to move out of the pews to come to the altar for communion, two lovely altos helped me make sure that I didn’t still have a spider on my person, but the damage was done.  I couldn’t relax, couldn’t stop thinking about spiders dive-bombing on me.  I still hadn’t quite unclenched by the time I returned to the church a few hours later to rehearse for an Evensong we performed that afternoon, but I did my best to lose myself in the beauty of the music, to relax.

At the start of the Evensong service, all twenty-four singers crammed into the Narthex of the church to perform the introit, “Christ Mighty Savior,” which happens to be one of my favorite pieces to sing.  I’m very tall, so I was standing towards the back hemmed in by basses to the right and in front of me, tenors to my left, and the wall of the church at my back.  We got about four measures in to the first verse (of 5) when I saw a giant-ass spider crawling towards me.  “Well, fuck,” I thought.  It did all of the classic creepy-spider moves: lost traction and quickly dropped six inches, crawled towards me (I was standing about a foot in front of the wall) until it was directly behind me, then spindled down to the ground and disappeared.  Holy shit.  And I was truly stuck this time–there was nowhere to go, and I couldn’t make any noise at all without disrupting the efforts of twenty-three other singers who were so beautifully acquitting themselves.  (And the composer of “Christ Mighty Savior” was sitting inside the church, so I really didn’t feel right fucking it up for everyone with my retarded panic.)  I don’t know how I made it through all five verses, I really don’t.  When it was over, the tenor to my left offered me his handkerchief so I could mop myself up.  The few people who noticed my freaky antics thought I was having some sort of religious-ecstasy experience from the beauty of the song.  Ha.  I mean, I’m glad to know that my terror looked like something other than it was, but, seriously… I’m not the outwardly-obvious religious experience type.  I had about thirty seconds to blow my nose and wipe all the tears and snot off my face before it was my turn to process into the church and sing the Evensong.

That was Sunday afternoon, and I haven’t slept well since.  I can’t stop thinking about spiders, and it’s starting to piss me off.

So here’s my message to the spiders of the world who may or may not consider me their queen: Stop it!  I’m OK with your existence in the world provided it is carried out far away from me.  Get out of my house, my church, and my car.

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3 thoughts on “I don’t want to be the spider queen – more on arachnophobia

  1. Dang Kelly, a phobia is an awful thing. For me I think the inability to control myself, not being able to resist the terror in some way, would be the most infuriating thing. But, to give some advice I probably wouldn’t follow, you should never be angry at yourself for things beyond your control =)

    Congratulations on making it through the song though, that’s some control. I hope someday you lose the phobia. Strangely it can happen for no reason. My Dad had a fear of heights for many years, couldn’t look down from a high place without the abject terror, and last month he was in the mall and realized he was looking down at something from the 2nd floor with no effect. He had to go around leaning of the railing at different places to try it out haha. He said it must be because he lost weight and now he won’t fall so fast =P

  2. Yeah, it really sucks. But in a way, when I try and get out of my head and look at it all objectively, it is kinda funny. Aside from occasional histrionics, I’m really quite even-keel, so if a person has never seen me react to a spider, they’re in for a real surprise when I drop a panic-bomb on them. Folks have some priceless facial expressions when they see it for the first time, and I do what I can to appreciate the humor of it all once the panic has worn off.
    It seems to be getting worse as I grow older, but I’ll hold out the hope that, one day, my brain will finally put it all in the proper perspective. Tiny spider–giant human… maybe not so scary?

  3. Ok, before anything else: “…but you just can’t freak out like that in front of your kids and expect them to grow up normal.” and “The few people who noticed my freaky antics thought I was having some sort of religious-ecstasy experience from the beauty of the song. Ha.” OMG, dying of laughter. I love you so much. 🙂

    As for the rest of it, I’m so sorry that you are plagued by evil spiders. I actually can’t believe that you managed not to start jumping around and screaming when the spider was ON YOU. Holy hell! I’m feeling a little panicky just reading this post. Major props to you for your self-control, and I’m so sorry that you’ve been so afraid.

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