Wednesday, March 21, 2012

HOLY $#%@ BEES! Things No One Ever Tells You About Having an Irrational Fear

Internet! Internet! Guess what I did this week? NOTHING! And it was fantastic, you hear me? Fan. Tas. Tic. Sunday through saturday was nothing but catching up with friends, lazing about, and a frankly embarrassing amount of gaming.

And then the following Sunday was spent working like a madman on all the stuff I was supposed to do over Spring Break. That was probably the single most productive twenty-four hours of my life and that's counting the time I accidentally stirred cocaine into my energy drink instead of just more sugar.

Ah, memories.

This Week's Topic Is:
Things No One Ever Tells you About Having an Irrational Fear

Now that Spring Break's over, however, I'm pretty much not allowed to relax for the next eight months. Not because I go to one of those crazy year-round schools like you snooty European types, no, because I, Thomas K. Fivepennies (Esquire), am absolutely terrified of bees. Technically, I'm afraid of anything that flies and stings, but that doesn't roll off the tongue quite as well. Similarly, there doesn't appear to be an official name for such a broad fear, so I just call myself a spheksophobe because of all the things that fly and sting, wasps are the absolute worst. They're like Satan saw what God was doing with bees and decided he could do better so he gave them the ability to sting infinitely and made them total assholes.

Click to enlarge for a deeper understanding of just how scary these motherfuckers are.

So naturally, when one flies by, I freak out. I'm not talking about "Oh, crap, there's a bee, I should move" or even "Oh shit, it's a Bee, don't move" no. We're talking like "HOLY SHIT IT'S A BEE, RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN IN WHICHEVER DIRECTION IS MOST 'AWAY' AND BE SURE TO CURSE LOUDLY THE WHOLE TIME" level of terrified. Indiana Jones was not as afraid of snakes as I am of things which fly and sting. 

As you might have gathered, this kind of display does not go without remark. People notice when you're running for your life and apparently they get kind of confused when the thing you're running from is small enough to hypothetically kill without you even noticing. Subsequently, people feel like they need to respond to it and they'll generally choose either the most popular "WTF" response or, perhaps more frustratingly, they'll try to help. 

Before we really really get into this, let me clear up one thing; the hell actually constitutes a phobia? It's a bit of a grey area for a lot of people at that makes it kind of difficult for the ones who actually have phobias. It's kinda like claiming you have Asperger's to make up for the fact that you really just kind of suck as a person; nobody really believes you and you just add a little more haze to definition of the actual thing.

Ferinstance; if you are scared of needles, but still get shots; you are not phobic. Stop saying that. If you are scared enough of needles that you haven't gone to the doctor in years and you cling to crappy new age folk medicine because none of those solutions involve surgical steel needles being inserted under your skin and pumping who knows what into you then yes; you probably are. 

If the amount of metal points in this picture makes you a little uneasy, then probably also yes.

Strictly speaking, the big thing that makes a fear a phobia is when it starts noticeably impacting your life. I deal with my fear by wearing a jacket for twelve and a half months out of the year and avoiding flowers and sunlight like a goth kid. A very convicted goth kid.

I minimize my chances of exposure and give myself a bit of textile courage for when I can't avoid it and generally that works pretty well. Some people might say that wearing a wool jacket in the middle of a Texas July is unreasonable. I say the fact that I can make this logical leap and they can't is proof that I will always be prepared for the great bee uprising/bee development of a weirdly specific allergy to sheep. 

Now it's just a waiting game.

That is kind of endemic to having a phobia though; you have this one big eccentricity and you come up with a series of smaller eccentricities and rationals to go with them to avoid dealing with the big one. I'll be honest with you, Internet; I love rainy days because so long as water is falling from the sky, exactly nothing is getting pollinated. I don't say that though; I just love rainy days. I stay out of the sun because it's just too bright and I've been wearing a jacket for so long that at this point I just feel weird without it. You tell yourself these things enough and you do actually start believing them; when I was in Austin last week, my jacket got soaked so I had to drive for about fifteen minutes without it and I didn't just feel weird, I felt completely off balance; my arms were way too light and I really wanted my jacket back. It was raining, I wasn't worried about bees, but I had spent so long wearing it as a security measure, it was so amazingly strange to be without it.

Phobias are like snowflakes or relationships or, I don't know, pop stars. They all might look pretty similar, but each one has its own quirks. Maybe it's a funny shape or a weird fetish or death by an exotic drug, but each is unique in their own way. Two people with the same fear on paper could be afraid of whatever it is in two completely different ways. Agoraphobia for instance is commonly described as either the fear of wide open spaces or the fear of densely populated places when in actuality, they're just two disparate versions on the same theme of having an anxiety about a situation you can't escape or get help with. I've known people who were deathly afraid of other people's feet, but were perfectly fine with their own and vice versa and they both had podophobia. Logically, it follows that everyone with a phobia is going to have some wildly different ways of dealing with them.

Though some better than others.

My measures aren't always successful though; sometimes I'll get caught off guard or caught without my jacket or sometimes one will FLY RIGHT IN MY GODDAMN FACE OH MY GOD HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT OH MY GOD and this generally results in hissing sounds, cursing loudly, and backpedaling like a madman or even straight up hitting the deck. Invariably, this is in a public place with just enough people to make me very aware of their presence and, if God's really got it out for me that day, it'll be in a place where this is totally inappropriate like, say, a classroom. Yes, that actually happened. Yes, I failed that timed writing. 

This is where we get into those two general reactions I brought up earlier; either they laugh or they try to help. To a certain extent, I'm okay with the laughing because, well, I'm used to it. More than that though, rationally I realize what I'm doing is kinda silly; I'm fleeing in terror from something I could literally crush in my hands so as long as it doesn't get insulting, sure, go ahead and laugh. I'd still rather you instead react by springing to my defense and striking down the buzzing menace, but whatever, at least I can push you in front of it and you're too stupid/immobilized from laughter to move. 

Because you're never too important to me to be placed between me and my biggest fears.

On the flipside, there's people who will try to calm me down, try to assure me that it's more scared of me than I am it, that I'm clearly much larger than it is and it can't really hurt me and...well...their heart's in the right place, I'll give them that. Having a phobia though is sort of like having clinical depression in the sense that nearly everyone's heard of it, but unless they specialize in the human psyche or have it themselves almost none of them actually understand it. Subsequently, also like clinical depression, the more you try to help, the more you kind of accidentally condescend on whoever you're trying to make better

I know that bees are smaller than me, I know they won't generally bother me unless I bother them, I do contest that bees are more afraid of me on the grounds that they are actually fearless murder machines, but that's not the point. I've known all of these things since I knew what bees were and if knowing these things helped, I'd probably be spending tonight writing about the secret dick jokes I found in Disney movies. 

"Laser Envy" indeed.

Again, I realize that trying to comfort/talk down a friend with an irrational fear is probably your first instinct, but stop and consider that for a moment; without meaning to, you're implying marginalization of their fear. That their terrified reaction to bees or needles or vomiting or bald men or whatever can be explained away and we're just not looking at it the right way. Most of all though, you're implying that it should be easy to deal with and for some reason that's almost more insulting than just flat out actually insulting it because, to the person in question, it could very well be the hardest thing they ever do. If you have a phobia, it's probably something you've wrestled with for most of your life, something that factors big into a lot of the decisions you make, a pretty constant challenge that never quite goes away and when someone tries to explain to a phobic how irrational their irrational fear is, it comes across as trying to invalidate all of that struggle. In summary, you're accidentally calling a person, who might have to fight with themselves everyday, weak.

So what can you perform to placate your perpetually petrified pal without pestering him about the preposterous peculiarities of their...condition? Well, you could do the adult thing and just ask them. You'll find that anyone with a phobia has generally spent a great deal of time thinking about it and subsequently probably has a good idea of what they need during a freakout. Because this is the internet though, I'm legally obligated to assume that none of you are adults and so my best piece of advice is try to find a way to support them rather than coddle them. Sometimes this can be as easy as making small concessions or just holding a hand, sometimes it's as involved as running coverage for them while they find a safe place to go have their freakout. You'll notice that neither of these solutions involve actually helping solve their problem and there's a reason for that; you can't. Not just you shouldn't, you can't and any attempt to is only going to make it all worse because that's exactly what you were doing when you were trying to talk them down.

Like I already said; every fear is different and everyone needs different help to deal with it and if you don't have a phobia, I hope you learned some good ways to help or at least how not to help. If you do have a phobia, then, I dunno, maybe you just learned that you're not the only one who feels like you do. That'd be nice. If you found this week's post interesting, share it with your friends! Share it with your enemies! Earn respect and be successful with the power of my blog! And as always, be sure to vote on what you want to see for next week's topic!

As is my custom, I leave all of you with one last picture to remember me by but I must warn you; this week's goodbye photo is pretty terrifying. Scroll down at your own risk.



Thank you. Goodnight.

1 comment:

  1. OK, I'll cancel the order for the honeybee hive, hand held smoke pump and protective net suit with helmet. (Geesh, the helmet had a built in LED light and a fan.......)