What a silly fear…

So let’s talk about those pesky things called irrational fears and phobias. You have a whole range of them. The top ten being:

  • Heights (Acrophobia)
  • Public speaking (Glossophobia)
  • Snakes (Ophidiophobia)
  • Flying (Aerophobia)
  • Spiders (Arachnophobia)
  • Crowds/Being outside (Agoraphobia)
  • Clowns (Coulrophobia)
  • Enclosed spaces (Claustrophobia)
  • Mice and rats (Musophobia)
  • The dark (Nyctophobia)

This list is taken from: www.pushdoctor.co.uk/blog/what-are-the-uks-biggest-phobias check it out for more information.

I have a phobia, mine is of bees, or correct terminology is apiphobia. This little bug can actually cause me more stress, tears and panic attacks then the idea of throwing myself out of a plane. (And no I don’t plan on comparing the two. Mainly because on the way down, a bee might hit me in the face and then I really am screwed.) I have stayed up all night pacing because a bee was in my room hours before and I feel like it’s still there. I have woken up from nightmares with the bastards crawling all over me. (Not in reality, obviously.) I have cried through sheer panic when one just won’t fly away. I have even worked myself up into practically fainting because one flew above my head and I had nowhere to run. It’s funny to other people, they can laugh at how idiotic I look, especially when they see me flaying my arms around like a loon, but for me, this is hell. This is not funny.

I have always believed: You can’t control the outside world and other people but you can control how you think and feel. The only issue? How can you control your own mind from screwing with you? That’s what makes the whole experience hell. You’re own mind is turning against you, hurting you and for what purpose?

You want to know what it feels like? When confronted by what you’re scared of, all logic, all sense, all rational reasoning and understanding of the situation you’re in…well that’s all gone for only a slither of time. A matter of minutes. You could be the worlds greatest thinker, you could be a genius and yet, that fear could have the ability to cripple you. That’s what it feels like. Real, petrifying panic that your life is in very real danger. Which of course, it’s not.

I’m going to discuss people’s understanding of what it’s like to have a phobia. I know a lot out there will understand this post because we’re all afraid of something, most of which obtains to our survival. For example, we’re all scared of a knife wielding lunatic. That’s a very smart reason to be scared. Mainly because that lunatic could take out someone’s eye if he’s not careful. The issue is that when someone mentions Phobia as a reason for their reaction. That’s where the water becomes murky.

You get the common responses every time you attempt to explain why this happens to you and these are examples of what isn’t overly helpful:

“But why are you scared of them? Is it because you’re scared of being stung?”

I’m starting with this question because I actually don’t mind it as much as the others. I know that when someone asks me this, it’s not because they want to make me feel stupid for having this fear. They genuinely want to know why. The downside to this question is the fact that my answer isn’t going to clarify anything for them. It’s disappointing for both parties, seeing as one doesn’t get the reasoning behind it and the other is still struggling to make sense of their own personal crutch.

My answer is, no. I have never been stung before. The fear isn’t born from a past experience of being in pain because of the winged tiny terrorists. I don’t know what it feels like and I don’t plan to either. And how have I avoided getting stung? Simple. I get the hell away from them beforehand. Contrary to popular belief, fear of bees isn’t necessarily isolated to their ability to sting you. In my case, I’m not scared of a possibility of being stung. It’s simply because I don’t want them anywhere near me. It’s the way they move, the sound they make and how, when they’re flying, they look like a real threat to me. the shape of them, the way they’re coloured, it sends alarm bells in my head. I don’t have reasons for that thought process which will satisfy your curiosity. It’s literally just a feeling.

“Maybe you should just let one sting you? Or maybe touch one?”

“Great idea. I’ll get right on that…oh hold on no bee seems to be up for the job right now. Maybe next week?”

It’s not as simple as that. My mum tried to help me tackle this fear when I was a kid. She found a dead bumblebee and tried to get me to touch it. Of course it wasn’t a danger to me and my mum was there, so of course she wouldn’t risk me getting hurt. She covered the part which could sting me, just to put me at ease. So I tried. You know what happened? The second my finger touched this bee I cried my eyes out and washed my hands at least ten times afterward. (Even then I could still feel it on my skin.) Now in a way, that method would have worked if I had tried it more than once. It’s unfortunate it didn’t but it was a good try.

But asking a bee to sting me? What sane rational person does that on purpose?! I’m not exactly championing for bees over here but isn’t there a shortage? Aren’t they becoming endangered? They can’t be wasting their lives stinging people like me just to stop a freak out! They’ve got better things to do. They have a place in the ecosystem which has nothing to do with helping the population of apiphobics out there. I don’t want them to die, I just want them to stay the hell away from me. So the suggestion of letting myself be stung…well that’s just…

“You do realise they don’t want to hurt you right? They don’t care about you and they just want flowers.”

“Well thank you for that insight. I had no idea, seeing as I have been living on the moon for the last twenty something years of my life.”

That, by the way, is the response you may hear or just see written on that persons face when you say this. Just don’t try and rationalise it like that. When you have a phobia you are fully aware of how IRRATIONAL it is. It’s in the freaking title people!

Ever since I was a kid, I have been repeatedly told this same line over and over. People seem to think that telling me something blindingly obvious will make my problems magically disappear. I’ll be cured if I am reminded of this dazzling bit of trivia. Not likely. Informing me of what bees are on this planet to do isn’t going to fix me, mainly because I knew all of that already.

Just a small note for those of you with a friend or relative with this problem; saying something like that doesn’t help matters. It’s not comforting. It’s patronising. It highlights how insane they feel and belittles a very real problem to them. You may not understand it but try to view it from their perspective before opening your mouth and saying something so dismissive.

I know it’s all in my head. I know that a bee won’t actually go for me or hurt me. I know they don’t give a toss about me. I am aware that if I leave them alone they’ll leave me alone. I know a bee isn’t going to kill me. It’s the same for anyone who has a fear of spiders or open spaces. It doesn’t matter how you explain it away to them, they already know it. The FEAR they feel, however, is very real and not something to be dismissed.

Try thinking about it this way:

Say someone tried to snatch your purse/wallet off you in the middle of the street. You weren’t hurt during and the person robbing you didn’t have a weapon. They were intimidating and threatening however but they didn’t actually set out to hurt you. In the end, you got a big fright during the experience, possibly fearing that something might have happened to you in the moment. Would you be okay with your friend telling you ‘they weren’t interested in you. They were just interested in your money. Don’t worry about it.’ Or would you want someone to understand how shaken you feel and help you by getting rid of the source of your distress? Just because the threat isn’t real to you, it doesn’t make it any less real to them. Their phobia is your mugger. Don’t be so cavalier about it.

“Just calm down.”

“Of course. I’ll just calm down. I’ll just tell my heart to chill out and for my breathing to stop being a bitch for a minute. I should have thought of that before!”

I know this is a lot like the one before but it’s actually very different to the listener. The one before was a comment said by someone genuinely trying to help. This one, however, is the response given by someone who lacks tact and has no idea how upsetting it is. Again, that’s not helpful telling someone to just “calm down”. They aren’t thinking clearly when they’re confronted by whatever it is they’re scared of. When someone tells me to calm down it’s usually said in an exasperated manner. Like my panic is causing them issues or ruining their fun somehow. That or it’s all a big joke to them because they just don’t see why I’m being such a coward over a bug. (Which is fair even to me.) They laugh when they see me twitching or jumping up at the slightest buzzing sound. My immediate reaction to that comment is to get angry. You know why? Because I already know how insane I appear. Pointing out that it’s ridiculous isn’t going to make me see sense in that moment. All it does is tell me that you think less of me for being scared.

So anyway, those are the things I would advise not saying out loud when someone is in the midst of a panic. Try helping them get away from what’s causing the problem first before you attempt to speak to them. Don’t pressure them into confronting their fear because they might not be ready. I find that someone talking to me about other things, diverting my attention elsewhere, helps me get a grip. If they have to talk to me about it, as some do, trying to understand how it feels is good enough for me. They don’t need to actually get the ins and outs but this condition is not uncommon. In Feb 2016, the NHS Direct Wales estimated that around 10 million people in the UK have a phobia. So, gaining knowledge on this issue is useful.

I am getting help for my phobia now, which is slow but necessary. I want to tackle it for my own quality of life. Having a fear of bees inflicts on my everyday activities during the warmer seasons. I can’t eat outside, (so BBQ’s are a bust) I worry about opening windows or doors and I jump a foot in the air if I hear someone mowing their lawn because it sounds too much like a bee. I’m skittish when I’m outside in a park or passing a garden which has a lot of flowers. Someone makes a buzzing sound as a joke, I get uneasy. (Or just want to punch them in the face which I am told is “bad”.)

So, for those of you who want more information or merely to understand, here are a few sites which may help:

The NHS has an outline which will go over what the condition is and the treatments available:https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/phobias/symptoms/

This PDF is specific to not only the person suffering from this condition but also the family or friends who want to help someone with a phobia: https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/assets/A-Z/Downloads/Understanding-phobias-2014-online-.pdf

I hope this helped.

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