PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT – Why My Phobias Should Fear My Wanderlust

If you had asked me 5 years ago what my greatest phobias in life were, my list would have been the following:

  1. Spiders
  2. Needles
  3. Rice
  4. Cows
  5. Black Pepper
  6. Geese
  7. Involuntary Movement


I’ll elaborate.

1. Spiders (and various winged insects)

A common choice. I have never really understood people who don’t fear spiders, there are too many reasons not to like them: hairiness; crawliness; speediness; legginess etc. They make sudden movements and they’re sneaky about it. I might see one in the top corner of the room while I’m watching a film, spend 2 full hours watching it out of the corner of my eye while keeping the other eye on the TV (knowing it’s right there means it’s not getting closer) but the second I pop to the kitchen and back BAM it’s gone. It could be anywhere! What if it’s behind the sofa and it crawls on me with all those legs? What if it’s in my blanket? What if it’s in my BED!?


Previous Traumatic Experiences:

Taking an extra two hours to paint my bedroom because a spider was looking at me.

Leaving my house at 1am in my PJs to wake up my pub manager across the street to remove a spider from my living room curtains.

The spider on the stairs that could only be seen when walking up them but was invisible when coming downstairs – he stayed there for a week because I was too scared to tackle him.

The stubborn and immovable wasp that landed and set up camp on my keys just before leaving the house to meet a deadline to hand in an application form… I did not get that job.

2. Needles

I know they mostly don’t hurt, it’s not about the pain, I don’t think. More just their purpose. They exist specifically to pierce me, and they don’t just want to pierce my skin, but the wall of a vein too maybe… Eugh! The thought of something slowly burrowing into my skin and ejaculating its horrible chemical into my arm, or sucking the blood right out of me just makes me dizzy. This coupled with the fact that I have really small, pale veins which are mostly not visible to the naked eye, meaning several attempts by a stabby stabby nurse to find them, makes needles a big no no. It might also be something to do with my aversion to the sight of blood.


Previous Traumatic Experiences:

The stabby stabby nurse trying to take my blood.

Passing out when a blood catheter was inserted.

Passing out when a blood catheter was removed.

Reinsertion of a blood catheter because they missed my vein the first time.

Crying uncontrollably at vaccination days at school.

Jumping out of the dentist’s chair and biting his finger because I saw him pick up a needle.

3. Rice

It looks like maggots. Little maggot workmen in colourful luminous yellow jackets, or rolled in spices, or just white and naked all over the plate. Years of hospitality and cleaning people’s plates on a curry club night at work have given me a strange fear of being touched by any rice like substance.

rice pudding 003

Previous Traumatic Experiences

Any time I have shared a table with anybody eating rice, and a grain has escaped their plate onto the table.

The time my workmates put rice on all the buttons of my phone (ah buttons, old-school) and inside my purse while I was in the bathroom.

4. Cows

Cows hate me. Cows hate my whole family. We have never been able to walk through a field on a family outing without being chased by herds of cows. They are big and scary and they seem to think I’m either the enemy, or a friend they want to get to know better. I don’t know, I’ve never stood still in a field long enough to find out why they’re bolting towards me.


Previous Traumatic Experiences

Walking through a field at 6 years of age with my heavily pregnant mother and my step-dad, to find we were being watched. Then being followed. Then being chased. We ran, they ran, and we made it to the gate with just enough time for my mother to haul herself and my unborn sister over to safety.

The above has happened on three separate occasions, with different family members, in different parts of the UK. Cows hate us.

5. Black Pepper (and other sneaky food spices)

I just don’t like it! It burns. I think I may have a minor allergy to it, along with possibly chilli, paprika and coriander. It tastes bad and makes my food taste bad too, it makes my lips burn and my tongue and throat sizzle. The reason I class it as a phobia and not just a dislike, is because it’s sneaky (I have similar feelings about popping candy but I’m trying to be concise). People don’t declare it on menus as part of a dish because they class it as a seasoning, which means I don’t expect it and it makes me pull faces I’d rather not pull at a restaurant. It also means I have to tell people when I visit for a meal because I don’t want them to think I’m being rude for pushing pain inducing foods around my plate, but that makes me feel like I’m just being fussy.


Previous Traumatic Experiences

When an unexpected peppercorn lodged itself in my throat while eating mashed potatoes.

When my mother bought me ready-made egg sandwiches for my lunch – with pepper.

Every time my Nan cooks chicken.

6. Geese

Nasty. Vicious. Noisy. Protective. Defensive. They hiss, they bite and they chase me and my family every time we see them. Much the same as the cow thing. I can’t understand it, we’re good people, these animals have got us all wrong!

Previous Traumatic Experiences

Being chased along the canal by a gaggle of geese as a child.

Watching a swan (okay, not a goose, but the same big scary bird principle applies) slap my mother across the face with its big heavy wing because she was feeding its babies at the pond. Traumatic, but admittedly,  hilarious.

7. Involuntary Body Movements

There’s something freaky about watching a limb, attached to the rest of your body, move when you didn’t expect it to. Everything about it scares me, from little unexpected twitches when you’re sat in peace, to full on arm and leg spasms. The idea of losing control of my own body is something that makes me shudder.


Previous Traumatic Experiences

Trying out my friends mothers TENS machine on ourselves as teenagers and watching my own arm move in time with a series of electric shocks which I couldn’t feel or control.

The time I tried to shake a box of cereal to find the clusters and threw it all over myself.

The time I threw milk all over the worktop trying to gently pour it into my cup of tea.

What does travel have to do with it?

In 2013 I had to endure a series of injections in order to prepare me for Africa. I went to these appointments ALONE, and sat through 8 individual needles, followed by a dentist appointment the day before my flight to remove a tooth which was causing me pain. I am currently considering a tattoo, to commemorate my travels.

I have spent two years in Australia living with some of the world’s deadliest spiders, naming the largest housemate Howie (the huntsman), and allowing him to live in my kitchen for a week before he got bored of my mealtime company and moved in under the bathroom sink. As a requirement to qualify for a second year visa in Australia, I spent 4 months of my life in Broome working on a cattle station, where my job was to chase cows and bulls and herd them into and out of small spaces, which they mostly did not appreciate, and showed their distaste by angrily attacking me with anything between 100-700 kilos of muscle behind them. I returned the following year and worked there through choice for a further 5 months.

During the course of my time travelling I have made a conscious effort to try new foods wherever I can and this has inevitably led to an increase in spiced food intake and more recently the voluntary consumption of some forms of rice with meals. I have to admit, it’s actually quite nice! This week, I ate curry and rice at an Indian restaurant and yesterday chose to season my own pasta dish with a small amount of black pepper.

Of the seven phobias I started out with, only two remain, I have conquered all of my other fears in the process of either travelling or preparing to travel and in 2013 a goose took flight alongside a local lake and managed to direct its poop square into my ex’s face while he was out for a run, so I actually think maybe they’re not so bad after all.

They say a small amount of fear is healthy, without fear, there cannot be courage, and I think my fear of involuntary movement is justified, and hopefully, one I’ll never need to face, so I’m going to accept that one as a long term lodger.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

Happy New Year To All My Frightfully Fearless Followers!

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