The realities of this past year have led me to reflect on fear, specifically how debilitating fear can be. I spent a lot of time dealing with fear that stemmed from COVID, obsessing over COVID-similar symptoms caused by cold and flu illnesses, transitions for my kids, and navigating changes at work. There have been countless times I have wished for a magical solution to take away (or at least reduce) the fears I frequently encountered. A recent experience brought to the forefront of my mind the idea of a “magical solution spray.”
A few months ago, I was alone in my house, when I saw a giant spider walking up the wall in the basement. Unfortunately, I spent far too long panicking and the spider darted away on its eight massive legs before I could kill it. Out of overwhelming fear, I left the house. As I drove around the neighborhood, I realized I had one mission: convince myself to return home despite the missing spider.
I’ll pause here and provide some history of my intense fear of spiders. A fear that I will openly admit is irrational and arguably unhealthy. For starters, I am in my mid-thirties and can count on one hand the number of spiders I have actually gotten close enough to kill. This miniscule number of spider killings would not have been possible without the support I have received from countless people throughout my lifetime: my parents, my younger sister, my cat, my roommates, my husband, my coworkers, my students, and my neighbor down the street (I wish I was kidding). Recently, I have been working on my kids to step up and take on this role in my life. But, apparently, four year olds are not quite up to the spider killing challenge, yet. Figures. This has been my life: the spiders always win while I shriek and save myself (and sometimes the kids) by hiding on the other side of the house until one of the aforementioned people saves the day.
So, as you can see, the earlier mentioned problem of the gigantic missing spider in my house, a house that I was expected to go home and sleep in, was, in fact, quite a big deal. As I aimlessly drove around , contemplating the best next step in this new dilemma, I remembered that one of my coworkers had told me about “spider spray,” suggesting that I would probably be able to take care of spiders if I had some. At the time, I had only half listened to what he was saying because I knew he didn’t fully understand the severity of my spider phobia, but he seemed optimistic that it would help. As the minutes stretched on, I became desperate for a solution. So, I found myself at Fleet Farm, buying several spider sprays before making the treacherous journey back through my front door.
Spoiler: I am alive and currently writing this post, so, the spider didn’t kill me. But, let me tell you, it was close. When I returned home from the store, I waited anxiously,armed with my spider spray, my eyes darting to the various specks and flickers of light reflecting on the wall. Eventually, it happened, the giant black spider emerged! I closed my eyes, held my breath, and sprayed (I will spare you the detailed sound effects, and we can all pretend that I was super chill.) But, it was over. I WON. What felt like hours later, my heart finally stopped pounding and I managed to clean up the spray and dead spider. Interestingly, I felt significantly less anxious. When I went to bed that night, feeling extra accomplished, I plopped the spider spray on my nightstand and slept very soundly.
Eventually, my husband made me move the spider spray off the nightstand, with an actual eye roll he accused me of being dramatic. But, I still have it accessible, tucked away with the other more poisonous cleaning supplies, ready for the next spider emergency. And, do you know what? It helps. Knowing that the spray is there, and that I have an effective solution if one of the probably not deadly, but still terrifying, creatures enters my home. Since the purchase of the spray, my spider anxiety has gone down. I am still irrationally afraid of them, but I can now type the word S-P-I-D-E-R without physically shaking. Improvement.
This is where I started thinking about fear. I wish every fear had a spray. Something I could set on my nightstand or tuck away in a cupboard, and it would take the edge of the fear away. Worried that my daughter is running a fever? Set out the “she will be ok” reminder spray and still get a good night’s sleep. Terrified that my son has another school-related transition? Set out the “he’s got this” reminder spray and not spend the entire next day with my stomach in knots. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was something simple to address the more complex, everyday fears? What would that look like?
I imagine in part it would look similar to spider plan A: rely on supportive people in my life. Find the people I can turn to when something feels too terrifying to deal with alone. Spider plan B, the spray, is trickier because a “magic” spray doesn’t exist. However, there are little things that I have found I can do to assist in reducing fear and anxiety. For example, I find comfort in journaling, praying, and taking time to simply breathe. I wish you all the best in finding your own ways to combat your rational, and irrational, fears. Feel free to share some of your experiences and solutions in the comments here.
Jessica is a wife, mom, school social worker, and aspiring writer. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters.