Friday, March 18, 2011

perceptual terror

Sometimes, at night, I kind of half wake up and see things. One thing in particular: Spiders.

I'll open my eyes and see a spider scurrying across my pillow. A rather large spider. Daddy longlegs-esque. [Side note: The name "daddy longlegs" actually refers to a species of fly and 2species of spiders. Who knew?] Anyway, I see a spider with long legs near my face. While (previously) sleeping. Now, I've heard enough urban legends stating that we eat 4-8spiders in our lifetime during sleep, to make this scenario uncomfortable. Plus there's just common sense to tell us that we should avoid spiders. Add to that a confused-state of near-sleep and you have a recipe for panic.

Usually what happens in these scenarios is I freak the F out once my brain registers the fact that a spider and all of his (or her) little spider friends will soon be crawling all over my bed to eat me. I jump out of bed, run and turn on a light in the hopes of somehow confirming the spider's existence (not sure if that would be a good or bad thing) and then killing it. This arachnidcide would allow me to sleep comfortably knowing that I have done away with the ring leader and have sent a very powerful message to the remaining spiders out there.

However, usually by the time I turn the lights on the spider is gone. In order to determine that there was actually a spider, I start searching for the sucker. In pillowcases, under sheets, behind the bed, on the floor. But I've never found the guy.

Logically I know that after this many trials in which I see a spider but then can never find a spider, that there most likely was never a spider to begin with. That it's really some kind of perceptual trick that's probably a result of a tired brain, eyes adjusting to the dark, and an innate fear of insects that have too many legs. This knowledge has ultimately led me to calm down and not freak out as much. Perhaps I'll turn on a light to check it out, but there's no longer the extensive search. And on nights where I'm feeling especially brave (or exhausted), I'll just roll over and go back to sleep.

That is... until last night. Last night when it all came true. When I opened my eyes and saw a spider (to be fair: not the "typical" daddy longleg spider I usually see). A devilish little bastard who was put on this Earth to engage in an epic battle to the death... with me. I won. 

But not after a near-heart attack that this. really. happens. 

All of those times that I convinced myself the spider wasn't real? That I went back to sleep in the same bed? There really could have been a spider? Not cool.

And I know I'm not alone here. I've had a few conversations with Heather about the terror that are nighttime spiders. 

Damn eight-legged freaks.


  1. Really!! After all those years of camping and seeing your mother pick up a daddy long-legs by one of its legs and throw it out of the cabin, you're still afraid of spiders? Of course, so am I--can't tell you what a great actor I was during all those skin meets spider-limb moments. But I was the adult; I couldn't show fear. Imagine the chaos if I did--20 screaming 8-year-olds running helter skelter all over the campground. However, I have little sympathy--I still remember the years in Florida and waking up with a roach crawling over your face--now that's terror! And it wasn't imaginary--the sucker was still there AFTER the lights went on!

  2. Um, that roach story is terrifying. Thanks!

    The spider story of realness - yeah that'll make you pause and think.

    People should read this entry during daylight hours.