Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The development of a phobia, or why crows are evil

It's an odd thing to watch a phobia develop in oneself.

Even odder when you know the step-by-step progression in detail and have tried to halt its progression in others.

My spider phobia, which has been detailed here in the past many times, has been with me for the bulk of my life. I have no insight onto its progression, no memories of arachnid related trauma. It just appears ingrained in me to feel my heart leap into my throat when one of those eight-legged creatures falls into my field of vision.

This phobia feels like a cruel joke, in some ways. It makes little sense that the girl who caught snakes and slugs with her bare hands as a kid, the only girl in her Grade 6 class willing to get involved in the worm composting project because it involved tactile contact with the slimy creepy-crawler, the child who loved frolicking in mud and searching for salamander eggs, should possess the most prototypical of all feminine phobias. At the very least, I wish there was a good story behind it, to help distinguish me from the masses of arachniphobics.

However, I have been teetering on the brink of a crow-phobia (technically term~ corvidophobia) for about five years now.

There's probably a little predisposition that comes into play before my story begins.
I'm not entirely sure anyone is actually fond of crows. Sure, they are smart, but they appear filthy, angry, unavoidable and loud.
Besides, the term "a murder of crows" has to have its roots in something evil.

It was about five years ago, in my former city of residence, I was stalked by a crow. Or so it felt.
For nearly two weeks, on a semi-regular basis, I was dive bombed by a crow on my way to and from my daily bus to the university.
It was intermittent enough so that I kept the route for likely longer than necessary. The crow would be gone for a few days-- only to return one day and dive for me both in the morning and evening. Eventually, I began taking a slightly longer route to side step the malevolent creature.

After several weeks of avoidance, I slowly inched back to my regular route, to find that the defensive crow mama had bidden the large tree on the corner adieu, and I was free to take my direct path to the bus again.

However, I felt the beginnings of a phobic reaction as a result of these few weeks. I became hypervigilent upon hearing the telltale caws above my head, and began paying a lot more attention to the black forms overhead. I used to joke that I would have had a full-blown bird phobia if the experience has been much more prolonged. However, eventually I became used to the near constant presence of crows, though always having that extra iota of awareness.

Fast forward to last week. Walking down a treed street, I notice a few overhead cries. Suddenly, a black shape comes swooping rapidly towards my head, narrowly missing actually contact. I gasp, and quicken my pace a little. Then daddy bird decides to follow suit, and takes a nose dive towards me. I feel my hair move. I flail madly, then clasp my hands over my head, shouting a ridiculously loud "No!" as I sprint down the block. It is only after I reach the safety of around the corner that I realize how foolish the whole situation probably appeared to some peering out their window.

The next day, I avoided that street. I also found my heart rate going back up whenever I heard a series of caws above me. My stifled crow-phobic tendencies had returned in a snap.

It doesn't help my case, that a few days later, my friend returned from a brief walk to the grocery store, rubbing his head where a crow had made contact.


iFreud said...

I grew up in a particular city in Ontario, and one year it was so overpopulated with crows, it was all you could hear. It was very eerie. I am not afraid of them, but I do resent their hoarse and noisy "cawing".

Abbey said...

I've been developing a fear of bridges since I entered adulthood...not so awesome in a state covered in lots of water and bridges.

Dorky Dad said...

Crows have been known to attack periodically when they feel threatened, or something.

I understand your phobias, however -- and I, like Abbey, have a total fear of bridges. I hate crossing them on foot. I can barely do it.

Airam said...

Yeah crows are just freaky. Everytime I see one I think of death.

benjibopper said...

I was attacked by two different species of nesting birds today on my afternoon run. one of them ran his talons right over my crewcut!

eric313 said...

Phobias and other fears make wonderful writing prompts. I was attacked by a swarm of bees last summer. That was the number one nightmare of my childhood, yes it was every bit as painful and the panic as deep and horrible as you think. But now, things just aren't scary by comparison. Not that I'm going to mess with a hive anytime soon. But it was strange that just how desensitizing the experience was.

Ant said...

Blimey - I've always wondered about the malevolence of crows but this is the first documented evidence of attacks that I've heard about.

Very Alfred Hitchcock. I'm not surprised you've developed a phobia of them!

SMARTBuddy said...

Crows sound a bit more fear inducing over your way. The ones here are quite bland really, they dont come anywhere near humans. Seagulls and Buzzards, mind, theyre dangerous!

LMizzle said...

Holy crap, I have actually never seen a crow attack someone! That must have sucked!

A crow got stuck in the chimney of my old condo in brentwood, and when we let it out, it was pretty close to dying. I took care of it, washed it, fed it, and we had a pretty nice little afternoon together. I figured I couldn't keep a crow, so I put it in a tree and went inside. When I came out two minutes later, the poor thing had died! Since then I've actually really liked crows.

I still hate whales though. Oh man. You should see me at the Vancouver aquarium when I see the belugas!

brandy said...

Oh man. I didn't have a crow phobia until I read this- now I will be on the look out. As for the bridge one mentioned by Abbey, I relate. I'm good when I can walk on one (because it feels like I'm more in control), but DRIVING on one? Suddenly I need to unlock my door and roll down my window, so if it collapses I can save myself. When did this start?!

Beth said...

Maybe it's nothing personal? Perhaps just crazy crows in your neighbourhood?
Of course, that does nothing to ease your growing phobia.
(My eldest son would loved to hang out with you as a kid - a mutual fascination for worms, slugs, snakes, etc.)

Eve said...

Are you kidding? That is freaking scary! What do you mean that you looked foolish? A crazy crow family was attempting to assault you! (Ok, I don't mean to catastrophize, but seriously, I can't imagine any other reaction. Except maybe screaming while running down the street, arms a-flailing.)

Crashdummie said...

crows are vicious and mean - you can just see it in the black pitch called eyes that they are evil...

Amanda said...

I'm terrified of moths.

Amanda said...

Funny thing about your blog, I actually found it pressing the next blog next blog thing that night but you also happen to be off a friend of a friends page of mine. Six degrees and all that. Funny hey?

Lord Chimmy said...

I kind of think crows are pretty cool. There's this one crow that hangs around the courtyard where I eat lunch when I'm at work. He hops right up to me and waits for me to toss him a snack. Of course, maybe he wouldn't be so cool if I didn't offer him a little tribute each and every time. Hell, now I'm afraid to stop feeding him.

Princess Pointful said...

iFreud- It is a pretty viscerally chilling sound!

Abbey- Aieeee. That can't be fun!

Dorky Dad- I'm pretty sure, in all these cases, I was too close to nesting baby crows for comfort.

Airam- There is something morbid about their bleak stare!

Benjibopper- Eek!! I'll add that to my list of reasons!

Eric- I shudder just thinking about your experience. However, exposure is really an effective treatment. I just know far too much about it to ever willingly engage in it!

Ant- It's actually happened to several of my friend! Perhaps it is just North American crows with the anger problem?

Smartbuddy- See comment above to Ant. Seagulls here are nuisances... but hardly vicious!

Lmizzle- That is a really tragic story :(
I can honestly say you are the only person I've ever known with a whale phobia!

Brandy- I'm surprised at how many people seem to have bridge phobias! Is it just bridges, or heights or drowning in general?

Beth- Unfortunately, this happened in two different provinces, so I can't attribute it to the water or anything!

Eve- I suppose it really was a rational reaction, hey? Although I don't know about screaming no... my energy probably could have been spent better on more flailing!

Crashdummie- Indeed. Murder of crows! Seriously- they can't be cuddly!

Amanda- I find it so odd that moths are that much more creepy than butterflies. And that is so random that you came across me twice like that- blogging destiny!

Lord Chimmy- You're pretty much in his trap. I'd recommend poison bread if you value your eyes.
(man, I'm morbid!)

Indiana James said...

Crows are fine by me. They keep some other bothersome birds out of our yard while allowing the cool ones to hang about. Ever since the movie I was a fan. Clowns on the other hand... I become completely un-glued when I see one. Not good considering my profession...