Friday, August 17, 2012

Fear itself and steps to self cure.

"The only thing we have to fear, is fear it'self." - F.D.R 3/3/1933

So, I want to share my experience with confronting a fear.  I moved into the country and must live with certain truths. It's not always relaxing and low key.  There are things that no one tells you and you must find out the hard way.  For me, the major thing is spiders.  Big ones, little ones, fascinating ones and bland.  They all make me afraid.   According to Wikipedia, one of the most common specific phobias are those of spiders and other arachnids.  Furthermore, some statistics show 50% women and 10% men display symptoms.  (Is that because some men denied this fear in the study? Aww, come on guys, please catch that huge spider and release it outside please.  Give me a break!) At the time I viewed it, the Wiki page titled, "How to overcome the fear of spiders" was followed by 92,789 readers.  
This summer it became clear to me that I can no longer avoid this fear.  It's not getting better by itself.  I do the self talk about how spiders are busy eating bugs and are an important pest control, but the mere thought on them near, or (yikes) on my person sends me into wild dance and involuntary scream mode.  (As I write this, I suddenly feel something crawly on me and try brushing it away. Imagination clearly plays a part ) Gardening this summer is difficult as well.  I always inspect any outdoor gloves, shoes etc. for any 8 leggers lounging in there. I have never found them in there, but the thought of it.......Horrors!  (Shortness of breath, pant pant.)
Very recently, I was on a hike and saw a small one on my arm.  A noise came out of me so loud that it echoed across the canyon.  So unlike me.   Normally, I prefer quiet, and try not to disturb wildlife or other people in the mountains.  
The very next day, my research began.  After viewing various phobia sites, I decided to try curing this phobia by myself. My understanding is that cognitive-behavioral therapy and medications for anxiety or anti-depressants can be utilized for treatment. The next step is to be exposed to pictures of spiders. Later, face-to-face with a real spider. When you are able to HOLD a live spider without feeling anxious, you have conquered your fear.
Granted some people have much more serious conditions then I.  I don't cry or curl up in the fetal position when I see a spider across the room.  But, I am clearly bothered by these encounters more then the average country folk. 
My plan will follow three steps. 

1.) Seek out the spider. (not hard to do here) See if I can get close enough to photograph them. Why? Apparently, patients begin therapy in safely controlled settings using photos of their phobias.  I am comfortable taking pictures, so why not take them myself?
Easy does it. No pressure, just pictures.  If I can't get close, oh well.  It's about how close I CAN get.  May take a few days.
2.) Relaxation/breathing technique. Deep, slow breathes until relaxed. (Do not hyperventilate! Maybe carry paper bag?)
3.) Challenge negative thoughts. Stop telling the future. (No, it's not going to jump and land on your face....Or is it?)
Don't overgeneralize.  Not all spideys are biters and/or venomous.  Stop catastrophizing. Yeah, they are everywhere when you start paying attention, but this is not the movies and they are not taking over the world. Or on a smaller scale, they are not taking over my world.
4.) If I start getting crazier due to the above steps, I will discontinue the plan immediately.
5.) Hold a live spider........Seriously? I am not going to commit to this one yet.
OK, ready? Here's what happened on my first attempt:

I stepped outside on the rapidly warming morning of august 16, 2012.  I located my first spider.  I stood far enough away and was setting up just fine untilI (gulp) zoomed in!
"OH MY FREAKIN' DOG!" (Sweaty palms, urge to quickly run away, really wanted to put camera down first. No just run! ) "Wait, must breathe deeply innnnnnnn and ouuuuuuuut. It's much smaller than I and probably much more afraid..Yeah. He's just doin' his thing like a good guy that he is.  Yeah."

*Warning graphic photos to follow. Some images may be disturbing to some viewers and may be inappropriate for all ages.*                  

"Uh, like me."

Against orange paint gives me a spooky feeling.  Comfort level non existent at time of picture shoot.

Please tell me those aren't EYES looking back at me!!!!

Hands shaking.

Duct taped my scream hole closed.

That was enough yesterday.   How do I feel after that?  Well,  I looked at these photos today and kind of think the patterns on them are pretty cool.  I actually wanted to add one picture to the collection! And guess what?  No fear at all!   

Guess I have a bit more work to do. Will update progress next week.  Until then remember, it's all in your head.

"Courage is not the lack of fear; but the ability to face it." - Lt. John B. Putnam (1921-1944)

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