I’m following wikiHow’s DIY exposure therapy plan for overcoming a fear of spiders and today I get to report some Spider Project progress!
No, I haven’t looked deep into the eight eyes of a big furry spider and felt nothing but calm respect (yet), but I have made some steps forward.
First, a couple of weeks ago while in Scotland, I opened a window to get some fresh air. The window must not have been opened for a while because the window frame had lots of cobwebs and dead spiders. In the past, dead spiders, even small ones, increased my heart rate. This time I just thought, oh, dead spiders. A lot of them. Then I realized, I’m just noticing them. No panicky feeling or lump of revulsion to swallow. Just an observation–so many, and then a thought–it’s true, they can’t harm me.
Second, the next day, this headline appeared in The Guardian:
Again, no panic, no running to the map to find out just exactly how far away Derbyshire is from Ullapool and how long it would take giant, bird-eating tarantulas to scamper northward. I was able to read the entire article and even look at the photo at the bottom of the page illustrating the “venomous tarantulas the size of dinner plates” (as The Sun put it). By the way, the report said the RSPCA took the babies to a vet where they would be cared for until they are ready to be “rehomed.”
Today I made my big move toward my goal of successfully removing a spider from our home. We moved some cable wires and I saw a spider behind them. It was small (about an inch in diameter) and it was almost with pleasure that I thought, “I can do this!” I got the piece of cardboard I had saved for just this purpose and the dustpan the cardboard fits on top of. I carefully lifted the wires so I could get the best angle from which to scoop up the spider.
“This looks like a great spider to start on,” Joe said encouragingly. “I think it’s dead.”
Sure enough, when I scooped it up, no response. It just stayed there, its little legs all splayed and evenly spaced, like a spider in a display case. Still, I thought, this is progress. I actually wanted to do this.
I carried the little spider to the window and let it blow away in the gentle breeze.
I’ll have more chances to try again.
So, to what do I attribute this progress? The company and support of friends–even friends who are thousands of miles away.
The step in the DIY process that intrigued me most, which I haven’t actually done, is to be with a friend while the friend plays with a toy spider. Being in the company of a person you trust, who knows your fears, and who won’t use your fears against you is huge. In the past I’ve rarely mentioned my fear, in part, because I have been afraid that someone would use this knowledge to play what they would think of as a joke or a prank, but which I would find very scary. Being in the company of people I know have my best interests at heart and whom I can trust when they say, “See this? It’s okay,” has been very helpful.
Here’s what friends have done:
- recommended a novel (thank you Della)
- shared a video of an actually cute animated furry spider (thank you Lydia)
- recommended a Facebook page people use to help get over their fear of spiders and insects (thank you Jill)
- posted a picture of a beautiful little girl in Cambodia holding a huge furry spider with the caption “To help a dear friend who is trying to get over her fear of spiders here is a photo from Cambodia with a big sweet fuzzy guy” (thank you Suzy. This was a doubly-helpful photo–taken by my friend who was close to the spider and held by a girl who looked happy to hold it)
- and reimagined jumping spiders as kittens because of their “big eyes, relatively intelligent behavior, and . . . curious posture” (thanks Greg). These weird little eight-legged kittens are also busily taking care of mosquitoes that could harm my friend so I’m also grateful for that.
- Even a joking (and scary) post of facebook was okay–I jumped, but it was okay. (Thank you Paula). (Please, no more pranks, in case anyone is wondering).
Several other friends have expressed their own fears and that too is helpful. And dear Joe continues to calmly, compassionately encourage me, and is willing to continue to deal with the spiders I’m not brave enough yet to face. But I’m making progress.