Friday, 26 June 2009

There’s a spider in my room!

I was woken at 1am by Rosemary screaming ‘There’s a spider in my room! Help!’ I rushed through, to find her standing by her bed, with the covers on the floor, shaking. I sat on the bed and picked her up, cuddling her and saying ‘It’s OK. It was probably just a dream,’ at which point her whole posture changed and she laughed and said ‘Oh yes. Silly me. Or maybe just some shadows.’ She had a drink of milk, lied back down on her pillow and asked for her covers. Of course, I shook the covers out thoroughly before putting them back on her, just in case, though no sign of anything. Said the goodnight stuff ‘Goodnight, sleep tight, sweet dreams,’ shut the door and got back into bed and didn’t hear a peep out of her until 6.15 this morning.

I really hope she hasn’t inherited my weird spider nightmare problems. Mine have lessened considerably since Rosemary was born and I’ve gradually become inured to the threat of spiders (apart from the big scuttly ones – they still freak me out), though they still appear every couple of weeks or so.

They happen when on the cusp of sleep, sometimes when going to sleep and sometimes when drifting out of sleep. I will be awoken with the absolute conviction that a spider is coming down on the line of web from ceiling. It is as though I have already woken and it is happening and real. I will jump – sometimes all the way out of bed – and switch a light on. Sometimes I will shout ‘Arrgh! Spider!’ Sometimes Chris will ask what’s wrong and then I will spend five minutes convincing him that there was a spider. Sometimes we have to take the covers off the bed and shake them out. Usually, after a few minutes, I realise that it wasn’t real.

The thing is, though, it feels completely real. Not like most dreams, which have a surrealness to them that tells your brain that they absolutely are not real. The setting is exactly my bedroom (or hotel room, guest room, wherever I am), with every detail correct, apart from the presence/absence of spiders. Often, even the time will be accurate, so I assume I must have my eyes open, yet somehow still be in dream mode. It’s scary and weird. Over the years, I have come to the point where I can usually recognise it as a dream spider pretty quickly and call out or jump out of bed much less. But it does still happen.

Every now and then I wonder if I should ask a doctor about it, but then think that would be silly. After all, they’re just nightmares. Is it reasonably normal, though? Has Rosemary caught it off me? Chris doesn’t do it and I don’t know anyone else who does.

One of the reasons I worry about it, is that I have a cousin who has a type of schizophrenia that means she is unable to recognise the difference between fantasy and reality. Everyone daydreams, about marrying the guy down the road, having children, buying that lovely house round the corner… She does too, but these things are all real to her. She thinks she’s done them. All her dreams and fantasies. And people are constantly telling her that she’s wrong. That she doesn’t own any houses. That she isn’t married to her old school boyfriend. Can you imagine how completely impossible it is to live like that?

So, whenever I have one of my spider nightmares where, for a few minutes, I am unable to separate fantasy from reality, I wonder and worry if I maybe I might have a crossed wire or something in my brain that works (or, more to the point, doesn’t work) in the same way as my cousin’s. I wonder and worry if one day I won’t be able to realise that there was no spider. And I wonder and worry that this inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality might grow to the point where I cannot function properly in the real world.

And, last night, after Rosemary had gone back to sleep, I lay awake for a while wondering and worrying that I might have passed this crossed-wire on to Rosemary. I hope not.

So, do any of you have spider nightmares or similar? Do you worry about your children picking up on any of your irrational fears? Do you worry about passing on anything to your children?


  1. I do! I freak and can run for miles if a bee comes anywhere near me. Just the buzzing is enough to have me petrified. I once was eating out on the patio with my family. It was a normal summer lunch in France and a bee kept buzzing near me, then it stopped right near my plate and came near my arm. I jumped out of the table and ran, knocking glass on the table, my chair and everything on my way, leaving my family speechless at the table. I just can't control it!
    Spiders are fine, I can deal with them it is ok, but if they are fluffy and big then I usually leave the room and send Craig in. He likes playing the knight in shinning armure :)
    I am also scared of passing it on to my boys, so I try to stay in control meaning I don't scream, I just run :)
    We went to an animal farm this week and I had to really try to control my fear of rabbits, birds, sheeps... every animal really. I look at them and I even really enjoy it, but I can't touch them.
    I think it stems from the fact that I was attacked by a cat when I was really young and since then I am very aware of every animal. I am hoping they will take more after their dad than me...

  2. I used to suffer from spider nightmares really badly when I was a kid. I can still remember one particularly vivid nightmare, I also used to have ones about lions escaping from the zoo and into our garden. I dont really have them anymore, but im not getting much sleep anymore! I dont think its anything to worry about, but i'd love to know what they mean.

  3. Schizophrenia can sometimes run in families, but it's unclear if this is due to gentic or environmental factors.

    Judging on what you say I don't think you are showing "early signs" or anyhting, I just think you have vivid dreams.

    I know it's difficult not to, but it really isn't worth worrying about.

    I'm a psychiatric nurse by the way, so although my knowledge on mental illness isn't all exhaustive, it is better than your average layman.

  4. I have a friend who does NLP for this kind of thing. Might be worth a try for the two of you. May not stop it happening but change the way you feel about it?

    I'm going to swap Reiki for a session to get back my bicycling bottle.

  5. It might not be your thing but I know an amazing homeopath that would deal with that for you? She's fab MH

  6. When I was going through a difficult time in my early teens being bullied at school and very unhappy I used to be convinced that there were hundreds of tiny spiders climbing all over me when I turned off the light each night. I could really feel them and would be too scared to turn on the light to check if they were real, just in case they were.

    My situation changed and the spiders went away but if I see a spider even near me I freak out.

  7. I have a massive fear of Daddy Long Legs and if I see one I panic and run for cover - usually under the bed covers until W can get rid of it! I'm no doctor but I don't think you've got anything to worry about. It's normal to fear something and it doesn't seem like you're letting it take over your life. Try not to worry xx

  8. I'm boring in that I don't have any real phobias. Not too keen on big heeby-zeebies but once out of sight out of mind. Funny you talking about spiders tho - when Johnny Drama joined me in bed this morning something on my pillow got his attention. 'oh look mummy - it's a spider'. Er, excuse me? He was right. A very small money spider. 'Shall I kill it?' he asked me solemly. In the end we decided he could scoop it up and put it down the plug hole, which he did without any fuss. Now before this both boys seem to have been terrified of bugs and flies so I was impressed...and also relieved. Seems I now do have a man in the house who can help me out of a sticky situation regarding unwanted 'guests'. Phew.

  9. OMG you have described EXACTLY what happens to me most nights when I'm dropping off. It's not spiders, it's someone in the bedroom (never the same person).
    I've had it for years and it is worse when I'm stressed.
    Usually I just jump, open my eyes, let my breathing recover and go back to sleep.
    Two weeks ago I had one of these dream/reality episodes that was so bad it really freaked me out. A large child with scary dark eyes was climbing through the bedroom window. I woke up screaming and fell out of bed. Since then I've hardly slept. I lay in bed trying to stay awake. I really need to get a grip - and some sleep!
    I'm so glad it's not just me, but I'm sorry it's happening to you too. If you find out any more about it, please let me know: sandycalico at ymail dot com.
    Sounds like Rosemary thought nothing of it. x

  10. Me! I have a real phobia about crawling insects and insects that bite. Normally it's very controlled but when I was pregnany with Archie it really got out of hand (and I mean panic attack out of control) and I developed OCD obessions, I couldn't even hear the word "bug" without breaking into a cold sweat. I have to say is was bizarre! Programmes like "I'm a Celeb. Get Me out..." and similar are a def. no no for me! I'm going to start cognitive behavioural therapy soon. Now it's all ok and, obviously, I could have done with it some months ago but , as the waiting list for CBT is so long, it'll at least be an interesting excercise and a coping strategy for any future episodes. I do have a very low level of OCD on occasions but normally nothing that distresses me however, I do worry thatI will have passed on the trait. My daughter is def. free from it but my son can get a bit OTT with orgainising and things being in the right place etc. I doubt you'll have any serious problems. It seems (and I'm no expert) that you realise these are dreams; it's just that the moments between sleep and awake get blurred and confused for a moment or two. If you were convinced even in your fully awake hours (as your cousin) then that might be something but obviously you're not. xx

  11. I was just about to write a post on this - seriously! R keeps having these bad dreams where she wakes screaming and sweating and absolutely convinced that it's not just a dream. First there were the rats, and then she thought her whole bed was covered in ants and then she thought someone had poked her (!)...all pretty horrible when you're not yet 5. Hope it's just a phase - sometimes I think they experience bad dreams when they're going through periods of change. Hope your R and my R start to sleep better soon xxxxx

  12. as a child i used to have a very scary dream of being chased by a giant ball of wool. now i am a grown up i have an aversion to knitting.

    i accept that's not quite the same order of arachnid terror, but i thought i'd let you know anyway.

  13. I hate spiders too and have already passed that fear onto my daughter. She's turning into a mini-me which is not such a good thing. I used to be a terrible worrier and now she seemd to be exactly the same, which is not good. It's so hard being a parent. Whatever we do we feel guilty!

  14. Peggy: I had a friend who was scared of dogs. She didn't tell her children, but would calmy cross the road whenever there was a dog coming the other way, and just generally avoid them. The children did still pick up that she was scared, even though she didn't scream or visibly freak out. As I recall, they all got over it when they got a puppy! Anyway, I'm sure going to places like animal farms will help you and the boys. And a bee fear isn't too illogical really - it can really hurt to be stung!

    Zooarchaeologist: Lions in the garden is an interesting one - wonder where that came from. Funnily enough, I used to love spiders when I was a kid - even had a pet one.

    Thanks, Dan. That's very nice to hear! We do have a fair few mental health issues in our family, going back a while, so it is something I think about now and then. For the most part, I'm pretty well balanced, though, and just happily get on with life!

    Surprised: OK. I have no idea what NLP is! Do enlighten me, though perhaps I could just look it up. It's not something I worry about too much, and it happens a lot less than it used to, so at the moment I don't think it's affecting anyone adversely (except sometimes interrupting Chris' sleep!). But if it does I'll look into it.

    MH: Interesting. At the moment (as I said to Zoe above), it's not something that's affecting us badly, so I don't feel the need for any treatment. But I'll keep it in mind if it gets worse.

  15. Dancinfairy: That sounds awful. Glad that you were able to get through it, but it must have been a terrible thing to go through.

    Clareybabble: Oh yes, I used to have problems with daddy longlegs - they're like flying spiders, how can anyone not be freaked out by them?! I'm generally much more laid back about creepy crawlies of most kinds these days, even flying ones. I think I always deal with them better if there's someone else around who is, or might be, more scared than me, so having children really helps! I'm not overly worried, really, just think about it every now and then!

    Nicola: That's great that Johnny Drama is coming to terms with the creepy crawlies. He'll no doubt be wanting to keep them in jars and breed colonies of them before too long!

    Sandy: Blimey. Somehow that sounds worse than spiders. I'm remembering now, though, that I did go through a period as a teenager (when I was doing A Levels, and also my mum and dad were going through a very rough patch), where the dreams and fears were stopping me from sleeping. I ended up getting some homeopathic sleeping pills, I think, and that helped a lot. But I was doing the same thing - lying awake not wanting to fall asleep because of the 'dream'. It's such a long time ago, I don't remember what the pills were, but maybe you could see if you have a homeopath near who could tell you? (In fact, look above to MH's comment - she said she knows a homeopath who could sort it out.)

  16. Katherine: I think pregnancy can often magnify things like that, or even bring them up where there were none before. The hormones are really quite strong things. We also have a bit of OCD tendencies in our family. My mum has things like only being able to use a specific fork, or a specific pillow and having morning rituals that she has to do. I have a weird symmetry obsession. Cups have to be hung up symmetrically - definitely never two cups of the same pattern next to each other - and when I used to do the washing up at home as a teenager, the cutlery had to be arranged symmetrically in the cutlery drainer (where normal people would just put all the forks together and all the knives together); I would even go so far as to get a clean one out of the drawer to make up the pattern if necessary, though would always try to find a good pattern first. It's all fairly minor stuff, though, and certainly not debilitating. I can even walk past the cups in the wrong order now, if someone else has hung them up (couldn't do that before!).

  17. Emily: Oh poor R! It must be horrible for her and probably really difficult to understand or come to terms with at that age. Hope she settles down soon. Is everything alright at school? She sounded like she really enjoyed school, but maybe she's having trouble with another child? Or it could just be one of those phases. So difficult. And you must be geting very tired, with your sleep being interrupted so much!

  18. Grit: That's really quite odd. I also have an aversion to knitting, but it stems from not being any good at it, not any giant balls of wool chasing me. It's funny the weird things our brains can come up with!

    Rosie: I suppose we need to remember that, along with all these fears and oddities, we pass on much more to our children that is good and useful. And, in fact, it's probably a useful to thing to be able to come terms with and understand fear at an early age and that it can often be irrational. But yes, whatever we do we'll feel guilty about it!

  19. I have a phobia of snakes, which I have tried (and succeeded!) not to pass on. But my daughter has a phobia of spiders - who knows where these things come from?

  20. I have the exact same spider nightmares pretty frequently. I always see the spider coming down from the ceiling towards my face and I believe it's absoluately real. Being that I have had these for so long though, I usually recognize pretty quickly that I'm dreaming, so I rarely jump out of the bed. Spiders are the most frequent, but I have had an occasional snake dream with a giant snake on the ceiling.

  21. Iota: Well done for not passing on the snake phobia. I imagine that could be quite difficult. It's often a mystery where the phobias come from, indeed. I actually used to love spiders as a child - even had a 'pet' spider called Jim - he lived just above my bunk bed and I would catch flies for him, though he never actually ate them!

    Pamela: Wow. Don't think I've known anyone to have it just like that. Nice to know I'm not the only one. I haven't ever had a snake dream, but have had others about things I'm worried about/scared of.

  22. The same thing has happened to me. Thats weird it hasn't happened for a while though. I would be in bed...and I would be 100% thinking/dreaminng that there were spiders in my room out to get me. And the surroundings I was seeing were exactly the surroundings that were really going on. Like if the light was on or off and the same time of day and everything looked exactly like what was actually around me at the moment I was dreaming. The only not real thing would be the spider attack I was visualizing in the "dream"...The first time this happened to me I think was maybe 5 years ago when I was doing uppers for a short while in my life...I was reallly really young. But ever since I was younger I remember like after seeing the aracnaphobia movie I would sometimes wonder if there was a spider in my shoe or even further back I would think that one was going to pop up from the toilet and bite me....I was scared of black widows when I was young. I had watched Discovery channel videos that had freaked me out and I felt the same way about Great White Sharks....So anyways obviously being paranoid the way uppers get you must had reignited the fear I once had stored in my mind from when I was younger although I didnt really think about it often at this point in my life. When I stopped using drugs I realized that the fear wasn't sparked on like that. BUUUT recently and mind you I haven;t used drugs for years..I was sober and sleeping and I had a moment where this happened again. And it was just as intense as the first time when I was fake imagining it. It was exactly like how you described it. I was fueled with fear...and the spider wasn't even there. Right now there really is a spider in my room thats why I googled this stuff and I dont know whether just to pass out....or look for it cuz i tried to spray it with raid earlier and it disappeared...and then I saw it on the ceiling and i tried to hit it with a pair of crutches and it jumped down to the ground and i lost it. its almost gonna be 5 a.m...should i just go to sleep???