I’ve just been stung by a wasp. This is not an insignificant event, at least to me, because I’ve had a debilitating fear of wasps since the age of eight. Back then my best friend was Karin and it was on the way to her house, 10 minutes away from mine, that I had my first wasp encounter.

I’d just crossed the footbridge over the Waterloo to Richmond railway line, whose trains lulled me to sleep late at night in my bed. Just after the footbridge there was a little alleyway and as I ran through it (or skipped probably), I felt a sharp pain on my thigh and looked down just as a wasp flew off. I don’t blame it for stinging me, trapped as it had been between my legs, but back then all I knew was that it hurt – a lot . Bees had the good grace to die once they’d stung you but wasps were just evil. As it flew off, buzzing angrily, all I could feel was fear and pain and I blubbed like a baby all the way home. From that day on wasps were my nemesis.

No day out, picnic or family holiday has occurred without me shrieking, arms flapping, running in all directions at the sight of a wasp. Reasoning with me was futile. Sitting there ignoring them was an impossibility, however hard I tried. In my head they were malign creatures dead set on stinging me at every opportunity, and I guess you could say I had a phobia. All my life since then I’ve taken every precaution to avoid wasps. Spiders, mice, beetles and daddy longlegs pose no problem whatsoever, but wasps have always been the very devil.

” And then I realised how tragic that is – it’s taken me until now to realise that something that terrified me for almost 50 years was no big deal at all.”

Or at least they were until this morning. Jogging in the woods I felt that familiar sharp sting, this time under my arm. And as I lifted my arm and looked down, sure enough the bug that had deposited its venom in the fleshy part between arm pit and boob was indeed a wasp. Yes, it hurt. Of course it turned red and throbbed for a bit. But it was nothing a dose of antihistamine couldn’t handle.“Hey, “ I thought, “I just got stung by a wasp – no biggie”. And then I realised how tragic that is – it’s taken me until now to realise that something that terrified me for almost 50 years was no big deal at all.

The thing is, I can’t prevent wasps stinging me. I may get stung or I may not. And like many overwhelming fears that hold us back from living our lives and doing what we want, my fear was totally out of proportion with the actual danger. In life we may fear making a fool of ourselves, fear being judged, fear not being good at something unfamiliar, or whatever our own personal out-of-proportion fear may be (pick a fear, any fear).

Acknowledging a fear is fine, but not that it’s our nemesis. A fear only becomes our nemesis if we let it. Avoiding activities that may or may not result in a wasp sting or falling flat on our faces or possible failure is just sad when you think about it. What gets you running scared? Are you letting it rule your life?

Every time an irrational fear grips you, picture if you will a grown woman running screaming from a picnic table, while her bemused and embarrassed children look on. I’m still cringing.

Marina Gask