Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
I am going to start by saying I am terrified of spiders. Actually, terrified is to mild of a word to describe it. In fact it got to be so bad, that my boss told me that if I did not overcome my fears, that they would have to fire me, since it was getting in the way of me working.
People use the term “phobia” too lightly many times, but that is in essence what I suffer from, Arachnophobia. An extreme and unreasonable fear of spiders. A good example is when I was going to the bathroom and a spider (a small one at that, or so I was told) crawled up the bathroom wall, and I jumped off of the toilet and ran stark naked through the apartment. I was lucky enough that my place had two bathrooms, and to this day I refuse to use the first one. Yet I digress.
On my boss’s prompting I decided to try something called Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT for short. It is where not only are you trained against your fear, but in some cases even subjected to it. Now, at the time I thought this was a good idea, to the tune of One hundred and Twenty dollars an hour, for about twelve to sixteen sessions ranging from one to two hours apiece.
It started out simple enough, the therapist asked me questions about my fear, what triggered it, how often I freaked out, and even what sorts of stimulation brought on the fear. He frowned at me when I explained that even a picture of a spider would cause my skin to start crawling and send me into a full blown anxiety attack. Then he smiled, in what I assumed was his attempt at a reassuring manner.
We started small. For the first session I was subjected to picture after picture of spiders, everything from the common Garden Spider up to Hobo Spiders, St Andrews Cross Spiders and Redbacks. I couldn’t even move from my position, even when the psychiatrist insisted that I touch the picture. This went on for two hours.
By the time my session was over the doctor decided that I would need more than the standard twelve to sixteen sessions. He even went as far as to hint at possible inpatient therapy options. While this struck me as odd, I really did want to overcome my fear. I had never heard of people being treated in hospital for something as minor as a phobia (even if an extreme one.). However, when I looked back at the picture I ignored my misgivings and agreed to the inpatient treatment.
I was taken voluntarily to a Psychiatric Institution where I would receive every kind of therapy I could need. Shortly thereafter everything went down hill.
The first week was the same as the first appointment. Lots of pictures, and by the end I even touched the picture of the Garden Spider, although there was no way in hell I was going to touch the Redback picture. I was so happy, but the Psychiatrist felt that my progress was too slow. He asked me to sign a consent to try a radical therapy.
He explained how he was going to take the Pavlovian Therapy of Classical Conditioning and apply it to me. I was so excited to possibly be free of my horrid fear, that I quickly signed the consent form. I didn’t even read it, although now I wish to god that I had.
As I said the doctor wanted to apply the theory of Pavlov to my case. Classical Conditioning is where the famous Psychiatrist Dr. Pavlov trained his dog to salivate at the sound of a bell, causing him to anticipate food. That didn’t seem to bad. I knew enough about how it worked from a college class I took in Psychology.
Again this started out simply. I was bound to a bed, and given a strong dose of Ativan, a medication that is used to calm anxiety. It put me in a kind of daze, during which I was exposed to several images, and models of those creepy crawlies. It actually wasn’t so bad, it was kind of nice to look at them without going into an instant freak out.
However, that is where the good ended. I began having nightmares. Well, actually Night Terrors, I would scream horrendously for hours on end, with no exit from the dreams. The dreams had a certain glowing look to them, and even though it was so dark in all of them, the glowing illuminated the things that I feared.
At the foot of my bed, where I would be trapped by lengths of webbing, would stand the largest arachnid I had ever seen in my life. It would release its young from a pouch it had on its back, they would crawl over me. Those, things, would crawl into my mouth, my ears and nose. I could feel them biting me everywhere that they walked. When I would awaken from the dreams, I would be covered in little bumps, that my doctor told me were hives, all due to my irrational fear.
Apparently, he said, my therapy was not going well if my mind could cause such a systemic reaction to dreams. So, he decided to push my therapy up a notch. I was told that they were taking away the Ativan, and instead going to put me through the CBT without any drug to aid me.
It was horrible. The hours that I was locked into the room with the therapist would become my new nightmare. I would be forced to touch the actual spiders. At the end of the session, I felt better, but only because I had eventually given in even if only to make it stop, I would put my hand in the terrarium that held the little eight legged freaks, and wait for them to scuttle to my hand.
I still had the night terrors, and they only grew worse. The spiders in my dreams got bigger, and more ugly every time. Finally after a month of this, the doctor said I would need to stay longer, and that due to my new symptoms, of night terrors and hives, I would not be able to go out into the real world. He said that if I were to have a PTSD flashback due to the therapy or nightmares, the hospital would be at risk. I should have known something was wrong then and there. As far as I knew you could always back out of therapy as long as it wasn’t mandated, but with my lack of sleep I didn’t think to question it.
Eventually I began having terrors even in my waking hours. The doctors said that they were going to give me something stronger than the Ativan, but for some reason it had no effect. That giant creature continued to pester me. It would release waves of its young whenever I was alone. They continued to bite me and even tried to create webs in my hair, over my eyes, and in my mouth.
Within three months, there was nothing left of what had once been me. I had lost weight, my eyes were sunken in, and what was once just a phobia, was now full blown insanity. As those creatures continued to try and devour me, my therapy stopped. The medication was not helping, but I didn’t want the staff to take away the one thing that maybe kept me from being scared around other people.
Finally I snapped. I had enough, nothing was being done to help me and now, my fear was hundreds of times worse than it ever was before. I began trying to kill myself, every way you could think of. Hanging, slashing my wrists, Overdosing on my sleeping pills. However, the staff stopped me each time, and I was tied to my bed eventually.
For weeks, I was left there, only seen occasionally by a passing Psychiatrist. I stopped talking. And the giant spider continued to watch. Eventually they stopped coming around at all. For three days I didn’t see a single soul.
Suddenly there was a banging on the door.
I had not seen the monster spider in almost two days, and I thought he was finally coming to finish me off. But it was only a cop. He called in a group of medics. Who untied me, and shipped me off to a hospital.
When I got there, I could only hear whispers in horror. What had happened, was I wrong in assuming that the spider was just a figment of my imagination? Was he real? Had he finished off all of the psychiatrists.
I thought that I had my answer, when the head doctor explained that what I had was not hives, but rather thousands of tiny spider bites. Apparently the medication that the doctors had given me, was working, only it was an antivenin for the Redback Spider, a creature indigenous to Western Australia, and a relative of the Black Widow. It would seem that the Redback spider’s bite can cause hallucinations stretching for days on end.
Those, bastards, had intentional exposed me to hundreds of baby Redbacks, whose venom is more often than not dry or non existent, in hopes of eliciting hallucinations from me.
When I was released from the hospital I found that I was still very afraid of spiders. I also discovered, that the “hospital” I was locked in was a facility for testing out new biochemical weapons. Mostly to try and cause intense and terrifying hallucinations against enemy military personnel.
I hate spiders and now, I hate doctors.
Credit To – Ahriannah