Are You Afraid Of Snakes?

I am.

I am horribly, terribly, irrationally frightened when confronted with a snake whether it’s in a photograph, video, or… horror of horrors, in person.

Fear of snakes is called ophidiphobia.  Intellectually I know my fear is irrational. Emotionally is a whole different ball of whacks. It’s all too real.

What I want to do is write a humorous, perhaps silly post, about this. But I can’t. Although I know some of my latest antics relating to the fear of snakes are funny, ultimately I’m not finding much to laugh at.

Last Thursday morning, I was taking trash out and and preparing to take the can to the street for pickup. Our back storm door (opening from the laundry room) doesn’t fit well and sometimes doesn’t latch on its own. When I opened it to come back inside, I saw what I first thought was a green bungee cord. I figured I’d knocked it off a shelf with the bag of trash I’d just carried out.

But, as I started to bend down to pick it up, it moved. In my panic, I tried to shut the storm door, catching 5 or 6 inches of the tail of the snake. It rattled and I panicked more. I ran to the front door and into the kitchen screaming “There’s a snake in the house” to wake my husband up.

By the time he gets to the laundry room, the snake is nowhere in sight. He moves the washer and dryer and various other junk stored there. All this time, I’m standing in the middle of the kitchen, constantly checking all around me watching out for a snake and afraid to move.

“There is no safe place now” is the thought that kept running through my mind. I’ve lived here for 20 years and have sort of learned to deal with the fact that there are snakes around. Some are poisonous, such as copperheads. A neighbor spent some time in the hospital after being bitten. But the snakes have always been outside. I could always escape to the house and be safe.

I don’t know how long it took me to run from the back of the house and into the kitchen, but I know that during that time the snake could have traveled into almost any room in the house. Not that it would have, but could have. It really is silly to say that the snake was as afraid of me as I was of it because I don’t think a snake has the ability to be irrational.

It’s been five days now. We hired a wildlife removal professional who put a snake trap in the laundry room with no result. That’s good news. The snake is probably not in the house. He probably escaped back outdoors the same way he got in via the ill-fitting storm door. The bad news is that I don’t know for sure.

The other good news is that from my description he identified the snake as most likely a king snake. Not venomous and not aggressive. I also learned that most snakes have rattlers and that green snakes are not venomous. This is knowledge that the rational part of my brain likes. The irrational part could not care less.

I haven’t yet mustered the courage to go into the laundry room, but I’m mostly OK in the rest of the house. Mostly. I put on my shoes before going to the bathroom in the middle of the night and I turn on the light to inspect the shoes first.

I am still easily startled, reacting much more severely to the slightest unexpected noise or touch than I normally would. That stress is probably not good for me. (My heart rate was still above 100 hours after I first saw the snake.) Add to that a hyper vigilance of my surroundings. Consider that the mere act of having to pay extra attention when walking down a street involves a cognitive tradeoff . Now even in my home, I’m paying attention to every step I take. Though my doc called in a prescription for klonopin, I’m still on edge.

This too shall pass, but not nearly soon enough to suit me.

11 thoughts on “Are You Afraid Of Snakes?

  1. Salma? Salma Hayek?

    I would prefer to die in some way other than snakebite. I had to face my own fear when I had an old dog become trapped in a river at the bottom of a small cliff which was highly likely to have snakes on it. One of my brothers later teased me, saying I overestimated the threat of snakebite on that cliff. I think he’s wrong – especially b/c he doesn’t even know the cliff in question! But, even if he’s correct, my fear on that day was real, and I’ve a modest idea of what you felt.

  2. I am NOT watching that video gcotharn. No way. However, I really admire your courage with the dogs. That was a great story. I don’t know that I would have been able to do it.

    On the brighter side, when my husband told a friend of his about our little snake ordeal, the friend responded “Don’t count on me to help you move.” It does help to know I’m not the only one that thought moving was a reasonable response.

  3. I know Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is highly effective at dealing with phobias – not necessarily eliminating them, but moderating them. Maybe you should look into it. Desensitization is pretty straightforward.

  4. We had an eight-footer slither into the office the other day. Definitely caught me off guard. The designated (just then) Snake Wrangler coaxed it into a plastic drum and then released it into a field next door.

  5. melendwyr – after this incident, I seriously considered it. But it sounds traumatic on its own.

    CG – next door? That’s not nearly far enough away!

    And in other news, I’ve now managed to go into the laundry room, out the back door and back in. More than once. Things are looking up, though I’m still looking down to check what might be in my path.

  6. Donna, I’m just the opposite. I love snakes.

    BTW, many harmless snakes will rattle their tails when startled (often very convincingly — as if they hope to trick predators into mistaking them for rattlesnakes). Bull snakes and King snakes nearly always rattle, and if their tails are in dry leaves, the deception often works.

    But they don’t have rattles on their actual tails (only the rattlesnake has a rattle); they just rattle.

  7. You’re right Eric – the guy didn’t say they have rattlers, he just said they rattle. But the end of tail did have a different texture than the rest of the body. I got WAY too close a look!

    It was such a little snake. I’ve seen much bigger around here… just not up close and personal like this was. And never in my house! I’m not afraid of lizards (up to a certain size), frogs, spiders, or mice — all of which we’ve had in the house at one time or another. There was one mouse that my daughter named.

    The short, dead-end street we live on is surrounded by woods, some of it a bit swampy. It’s at least 2 miles through the woods behind our house to civilization. Wildlife happens around here. Overall I love living with city amenities (sewer, water, trash pickup, cable, neighbors nearby) in a rural setting.

    Except for the snakes.

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