The stuff nightmares are made of

I have ophidiophobia.  (I’ve written a bit about it before, but in case you need a refresher.)  Yes, the condition is self-diagnosed; however, many of my friends, family, and co-workers have witnessed this anxiety-inducing phobia in me. It is the fear of snakes.  Not just any fear, but an abnormal or irrational type of fear.  I want you to picture a family festival spread out in the park.  It is a beautiful day where families with young kids, tweens, and teens are all enjoying the festival.  There in the middle of the festival is a tent with signs around it saying “This way to the touch tanks.”  Under the tent are three huge yellow pools that are pulling double duty as touch tanks for the festival.  The capacity to fit around the tanks is probably 30-35 kids.  So many families are interested in the touch tanks that there are probably 50 kids jockeying for position trying to find a spot to touch inside the tank.  The noise under the tent ranges from laughter to giggles to shrieks and screams once they realize what is inside the tanks.  The screams echo out from the tent which only makes more people come under the tent.  The sight stops me in my tracks.  I could feel my heartbeat in my ears.  There was P by my side, “Ooo, Mom!  SNAKES!!!”

Now let me preface this by going back a few years…Ok, quite a few years.  I was a four-year-old who never wore shoes in the summer.  One particular day I was bebopping outside with my jump rope in hand.  I can remember this unusually warm day with a light breeze because as I was jumping rope, I spied out of my little eye a corn snake slithering along our driveway.  I freaked out!  I mean little did I know that living right next to cornfield was the perfect place for all those critters and once in awhile those critters came out of hiding to see what us humans were up too.  This moment startled me and frightened me which set me up on the path of fearing snakes for the rest of my life.

When I was in high school, I had a biology teacher who kept a boa constrictor as a pet in his classroom.  Every test day he’d retrieve the snake from its cage.  The snake would curl around the teacher’s arm while the teacher walked with it up and down the aisles.  I was horrified and scared and terrified and anxious each test day.  The night before I’d dream about the snake slithering and crawling around the classroom.

My fear of snakes of snakes or ophidiophobia as I now know what it is called is one of the most vivid childhood memories that has stuck with me throughout adulthood.  I guess you step on one corn snake as a child and it sets you up on this path of fear.  My husband knows that I close my eyes if there is a snake on TV.  Thanks to the reality programming of survival in the wild there are plenty of those moments.  When the boys got old enough to be interested in creepy crawlers I was a bit concerned they would bring a frog, toad, or snake into the house.  However, I made a deal with them that they wouldn’t bring those creepy crawlers around me and I would not have to cancel their favorite TV channel.

Now, back to the story of P happily realizing that the screams and shrieks were for the touch tank full of turtles, frog, and yes snakes.  I was frozen with fear.  I could feel cold sweat forming.  I wanted to get away from the tent.  The talking, the shrieks, and screams became silent.  People seemed to be moving in slow motion.  I saw the kids jockeying for position.  Then it happened.  One kid picks up a handful of snakes in each hand and swings them over his head screaming “Loooook aaaattt mmeeeeee!”  I felt myself getting lightheaded.  I was terrified that those snakes would go flying in every direction.  I turned around and walked out of the tent.  I tried to regain my

Before the snakes, P found one salamander that he thought was great!

composure until I heard P shout, “Stop it now.  I don’t want a snake on my arm!”  I timidly peak in the tent praying that P stays calm, but there was the snake twirling kid right next to him.

 

My head was swirling with angst as I knew I needed to go into the tent, but I watched from afar as kids picked snakes and dropped them.  Then someone else would pick up a snake only to have their parent say “Lookee here.  I want to take your picture.”  Snakes were being passed around the touch tank like the hottest new phone on the market.  All I could think was this is the stuff nightmares are made of.  Once again I hear P shout, “Knock it off.  I don’t want the snake on me!”  This time I was able to catch P’s eye to ask him if he was OK or did we need to go.  He grinned and gave me a thumb’s up.  As I watched from outside the tent, I began to calm down.  No major snake snafu’s had happened.  Until I hear a collective “watch it” and “hey” with lots of water splashing.  The snake twirling kid tried to put a snake on P’s arm for the third time, and he had had enough.  P put a frog on the boys head which nearly caused pandemonium around the touch tank.

I could say P asked nicely two times to stop it with snakes.  I could say s*@t happens sometimes.  I could say because autism.  The only thing I will say is “Kid, welcome to the club of fearing amphibians and reptiles.  You are going to love it here.”

 

All my best to you,

Heather

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