I am easily freaked out. There are lots of things I don’t like – clowns, jellyfish, spiders, stickers (when they go furry – yuk!), caves, heights, rollercoasters, thunder and lightning…many, many things. But nothing, absolutely nothing compares to how much crabs (the 8-legged crustacean kind, not the nasty disease kind!) freak me out.
This fear is known as kabourophobia (which I didn’t know until today!). To be honest, I don’t have a phobia of them any more, more that I just really really don’t like them, but at one point, the fear was so much that I couldn’t watch any programs that may have had a crab in it, and even a picture of one would be enough to bring me out in a sweat. I have absolutely no idea where this fear came from, and nor do my parents. There is nothing that any of us can remember that would have triggered this fear. The only thing I can think of is that I associated them with spiders, something else I don’t like, but give me a big hairy tarantula over a crab any day! I know that they can’t really hurt us, and I’ve never been frightened of the thought of them nipping me. The fear is over the way they look, with their crabby little legs, shell and especially the way they scuttle sidewards. However, I’m not frightened of lobsters, which is strange as they’re similiar!
The very first memory I have of being frightened was when I was little. We were on holiday in Cornwall and had gone down to the shore. There was a tiny dead crab on the sand, possibly not even the whole body, but I ran all the way back to where we were sitting because it scared me. When ever we visited an aquarium, especially the Sea Life Centre, I basically walked around with my eyes shut and as far away from the tanks as I could possibly get so I didn’t see any crabs. When I was 16 and on holiday with my family in Cornwall, my brother found a crab leg on the beach and decided to show it me. Even that was enough to cause me to panic, and the fear seemed to get worse the older I got.
The worst experience came when I was 18. We had all gone on holiday to Tenerife. We used to visit this lovely public lido which also had a natural pool that was filled by the tide – essentially a giant rockpool, a crabs favourite habitat. Somehow, everyone managed to persuade me to go in it. When we got in, the tide was in so it was nice and full, and not a crab in sight (I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near it otherwise!). We had a lovely time swimming about in the water among all the fishes. Crabs didn’t cross my mind once. Eventually, the tide started to go out and it was time to get out. I looked around – and all the sides to the pool, the big rock in the pool and the rocky steps to get out were absolutely covered in crabs. Hundreds of them – some tiny, some huge. Of course, I immediately started to panic, especially when I realised they were all over the steps I would need to use. I clung to Graham in the middle of the pool and cried my eyes out, especially when I realised they had probably been in the water with us the whole time. A few people managed to move the crabs off the steps for me, but I still had to get within a foot or two of them to get out. I still have no idea how I managed – I think knowing it was that or stay trapped in the pool with them forever swayed it. I realised soon after this that I was being ridiculous, and needed to sort myself out. Living in Birmingham though we don’t get many opportunities to come close to a crab so it has taken time.
Graham and me went to Paris for a long weekend and visited a farmers market which sold seafood. Assuming the crabs (which were rather large!) were dead, I went up to a stall selling them and forced myself to look at it, standing less than a foot away from one. This was a huge step in itself, as like I said earlier, even a dead claw was enough to frighten me. I was doing so well – until it moved. Turns out it wasn’t dead, and I legged it. In the same trip, we went for a meal and ordered a sea food platter, and on it was a whole crab. I have always loved crab meat (possibly the satisfaction of knowing I was eating one of them!) but couldn’t have had it when it looked like a crab. I couldn’t quite bring myself to touch it, but I was fine with it on the plate. This was definitely progress. I started to make myself google ‘crabs’ and look at images online. I think this has really helped me, as I developed a weird sort of fascination with them, especially the giant spider crabs. They still terrified me and I had lots of nightmares about them but I was slowly getting better.
A few years ago, my uni friends and I went to the Sea Life Centre in Birmingham for the day. I read up on it before to see if there were any crabs, and I found out there was a ‘petting pool’ where you had the chance to hold one. I was determined that I was going to do this. I found my resolve wavering when it came to it, but my friends, who knew how much I wanted to do it gently egged me on. I only managed a few seconds, but I held a crab. I also went up to the tank that contained many giant spider crabs and watched them.
Since then, I’ve got much better. They still terrify me and I won’t willingly go near one. I try to make myself look at pictures of them on the internet once in a while, and on a holiday with friends I climbed over lots of rocks in the sea, knowing sub-consciously that there were crabs lurking, but pushed it out of mind. I am now determined to completely ‘get over it’, so that in a couple of years time I can take the kids to the seaside and go crabbing.
Wish me luck!