Monday, November 15, 2004

Needing fear and middle class boredom?

This happened about a month ago, but I am a lazy sod, so there.

It was a beautiful autumn morning. October can still have bloody warm days around here, and that morning the sun shone warm in an almost blue sky that had just a few scattered cloud shreds here and there.

I felt perfectly serene and happy... and those of you who know what it's like to have an anxiety disorder know also that feeling serene and happy is like winning the jackpot in a serotonin lottery... just never happens; you may get your ticket, but never really make more than 20 quid out of it, even with the help of bloody Prozac. You may feel not that anxious on most days, but you never get that light fluffy sunny feeling like you used to at the beginning of the summer holidays in 3rd grade. But today, I had busted the bank. I wandered down the road towards uni, and one of my favourite songs was on loop in my mind, and I couldn't help but notice all the amazing stuff around me and drink it in.

I turned and walked up Talbot Road towards the traffic light, anticipating a lovely day at uni, involving mindboggling stuff and chats with Roger and coffee and jumbucks gorgeous New Yorker pie.
And then I stopped dead in my tracks.
Remember Dory in "Finding Nemo", after deliriously following that light, that beautiful light, that made them so happy, ohhh soooo happy, only to lead them straight to the giant jaws of a deep sea monster? I swear I heard that quote in my head.

"Whoops! Happy feeling's gone!"

Hovering in mid air in the middle of the road, blocking my way was...
A spider.

A HUGE spider.

It must have spun a thread from the hedge to the curb; I have no idea when and how fast, because students walk up and down this road constantly. But nonetheless, it was there.

I stared at the spider.

The spider stared back at me. Poised to attack, even though that may have just been my arachnophobic imagination.

A lump of repulsion and rising panic grew in my throat as I mentally browsed through the options of dealing with this situation.
One thing I have learned in my lifelong phobia is that tearing the threads will cause the spider to panic and crawl towards the next safe place - which, ironically, would have been me, since the non-loose end of the thread was sticking to me. And one thing that really freaks me out are crawling, scuttling spiders.

Just the thought made adrenaline shoot through my body like liquid lead.

The only way I could pass it was by walking around it, out onto the road. But god, how do you explain that to people? Picture me from afar:

I must have looked pretty ridiculous already, stopping and staring at something pretty much invisible for anyone else. But how weird would it have been to swerve and risk certain death because of something invisible?

I felt increasingly self-conscious and stupid and so made a quick decision. I waited till there was a gap in the everlasting caravane of speeding cars and then tried to walk past it, out onto the road. But bugger me with a fish fork, somehow the thread still stuck to me (!!!), and as foreseen, the spider started to scuttle (ewwwwwww, squeal, mental vomit) towards me. Dropping all reservations about avoiding public self-ridicule, I shook my arm wildly (still, picture this as an uninformed observer!) and finally it let go and the spider sank to the ground.
I made like my ex-boyfriends and got the hell away.

I have no idea where I got my phobia from, but I had it ever since I was little. From what I know, there are two roots to phobias. One is simply a traumatic experience with the feared object (which I can't remember) and the other is projection. Somehow you take your fears and anxieties and project them onto an unrelated object. I dunno why that happens, my semi-educated guess is that it relates to objects being easier to avoid, being something tangible which is always better than unfocused fears, and my guess is that I have the projection kind because in times of inner peace I feel less afraid of the eight-legged suckers.
But fact is, now I had it. Bad ass. And especially garden spiders give me the bloody creeps.

I met Roger at uni a bit later and told him about my involuntary adventure, which he found pretty amusing (can't blame him!).
And so we discussed phobias.
The thing we both wondered about, are phobias a disorder of the prosperous Western "civilisation"? I truly wonder, and do enlighten me if you are an expert in the field... I just wonder, do people who live in absolute poverty and Third World misery, who have to worry about where to get food or water tomorrow, or whether they will see the next day at all, or whether their children will survive the night ... do they have phobias? Do they have time to worry about irrational fears when all the other fears they have are so much more prevalent? Why do we have phobias?

Are Westerners getting so bored and lazy with their (at times relative, mind you!) prosperity that the lack of true problems and hazards makes us create false ones?

There was a quote on Ally McBeal years ago, when she said: "And once I have solved all my problems, I am just gonna go out and get new ones!"

Similarly, someone else (I forgot who) said that no matter what position we are in in life, we will always find a set of problems to worry about. If you're rich, you don't have to worry about paying the bills (except maybe Michael Jackson) - although, interestingly enough, it's rich people who tend to worry most about money; indeed some of the most content people I know are dirt poor. But even being rich won't save you from being afraid, from having problems, and if that is just all about spiders and snakes and commitment, so be it.
Neurosis just seems to be such a Western thing to do.

Mind you, this is entirely philosophical and is not meant to demean people who have problems, fears and mental disorders. Hell, I am phobic and mentally deranged, so I am really speaking for myself here.

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