Phobia! A highly underrated yet frustrating subject. No one understands fear until they experience it. As humans, we tend to develop irrational fear for the most unlikely things, objects, and situations. Although these phobias may sound ridiculous to everyone else, to the individual experiencing them, it is usually a menace. Of course, I should know better, having lived with the fear of Geckos for a significant part of my life. Just writing down the word “Geckos” still gives me a level of creeps. Thankfully, my fear is no more as it used to be. My journey through overcoming Herpetophobia has been a remarkable one, simultaneously filled with frustrations and step-wise triumphs.

Let us take a step back and see how it started. As much as I remember, a three-year-old excited me was lying on my parent’s bed, full of life with no idea that I was about to have an encounter that will change my orientation for two decades to come. Suddenly, I felt something drop on my body. On closer inspection, I realized it was a Gecko. I was too ignorant to be scared, so I simply stared at it. To my utter chagrin, it stared right back at me or so I thought. I was immediately gripped with inexplicable dread. And thus, a life altered by an unreasonable aversion to Geckos had commenced. From then on, I found myself being subjected to intense fearful episodes.

I knew I had no reason to be scared of the tiny peaceful creatures, but somehow, I couldn’t help it. My siblings always had field days with me; they would threaten to drop a Gecko on my body if I failed to do according to their bids. What was simply a laughable subject to them was slowly becoming a significant psychological stress trigger to me. I would always look around walls and floors to see if one was lurking around. I couldn’t sleep if it were around my room. I would jump up quickly whenever I felt movements on my body; I was constantly on edge. I practically had to avoid sleeping close to walls. My parents insisted that I was going to outgrow the phobia. Unfortunately, it only grew on me. Believe me when I say that my negative experiences were endless.

A year ago, I sat and thought to myself “I’ve had enough, I cannot continue to live with so much anxiety over such a harmless creature”, and that was the beginning of what will soon become the end.

First, I made attempts to discuss with several friends about my worries, but I soon realized that no one could help me without my psychological cooperation. So I came to terms with the concept of facing my fears. What did I do?

1. Accepted my fear
First, I had to accept that there is no shame in having a phobia. One of the most challenging facts about phobias is that they are rarely understood. You are most likely going to be made to feel weird for having such fears. So you must understand that it is normal to have fears. Secondly, I had to accept that overcoming fear isn’t just a concept but can be a reality.

2. Corrected my mind-set
A boss at work once said to me “When next you see a Gecko, do not think in your heart that you fear it. Tell yourself that you simply do not like it. You can choose to despise a cockroach or rat without having any fear of it”. This step never made much sense until I started to practice it. First, I had to convince myself that I didn’t want it around not because I feared it, but because I didn’t like or appreciate the sight of it.

3. Practiced Controlled exposure

I started exposing myself to geckos by viewing pictures of them on the internet (a fit I could never observe in time past). After a while, I would stand from a distance and watch them move around walls. I needed to take this step slowly as overexposure was bound to trigger more fear.

4. Confronted my fear
The confrontation phase was tough and psychologically stressful. The first time I went close enough to a Gecko, I had a terrible anxiety attack. It was an episode that triggered a relapse. After a while, I knew I had to try again. After accepting that I didn’t want it around, I had to look for ways to confront and get it out of my space using brooms to guide it out of the window. For someone who would never even look at a picture of a Gecko, you will agree that this was a major accomplishment.

My journey isn’t complete. While I’m not where I want to be, I know that I’m not where I used to be. These days, I could comfortably stay in a room housing a gecko for as long as it maintains a distance. I also rarely spend time watching out or thinking about it. Yes!! I still do not feel entirely comfortable having it in a room where I sleep; but let’s face it, I’ve flattened the fear. I’ve made tremendous improvements, and I hope to see more as time goes.

Keep in mind that these improvements did not happen overnight. It has taken me close to a year with lots of psychologically distressing moments. Flattening a fear is never easy, but living with one isn’t any less difficult. So take a deep breath and make up your mind to begin the journey to freedom. If you stand firm, you will prevail. You too can flatten the fear!