Confessions is a series of essays on personal experiences and intimate issues, many of which have been kept secret for so long. By sharing these previously confidential accounts, we explore our own mental health without judgment and the various ways we cope, with the hope that it makes it a little lighter of a burden for us to carry. It's also a reminder that no matter how odd or unique these experiences can be, someone can relate to it – and we are not alone.
Once when I was 16, a friend offered me a piece of chocolate. A Cadbury Freddo. I was never a fan of frogs but when I found myself struggling to bring the croaker-shaped candy to my lips, eardrums vibrating with a heavy thump thump thump, I realised that my distaste for the slimy amphibian was more like a full-blown phobia.
Over the years, I slowly came to terms with how intense my ranidaphobia really is. And it's pretty bad.
I remember walking home one evening and spotting a frog ahead, right in the middle of the pavement. Squatting still on its grotesque, muscular hind legs with a rhythmic throbbing from that repulsive sac of a chin, it was going to pounce on me. I just knew it. I also knew that I couldn’t continue walking on the sidewalk. That day, a dozen vehicles were forced to swerve around me after I decided to walk on the car lane, all because my ranidaphobic ass couldn't bring itself to walk past a frog.
I know this sounds completely irrational, but that’s the textbook definition of a phobia: "an extreme or irrational fear or aversion."
I wasn’t always this frightened of frogs and toads but somewhere between the ages of 13 and 16, I developed a crippling aversion to them.
Perhaps it started during a family vacation to Bali, where I saw more frogs than I had ever seen and shrieked bloody murder when I came across one flattened by a motorcycle, its intestines all splayed out.
Or maybe it was when a friend showed me a video titled “Frog Sashimi,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Frogs with their bellies sliced open, lower ends all diced up, laid out on plates for consumption. Their eyes blinked helplessly as their insides spilled out of their torsos.
Not to mention that one time my father tricked me into eating a frog leg by telling me it was chicken.
Considering that my only experiences with these slippery creatures are almost exclusively traumatic, I guess my phobia isn’t completely unfounded.
The funny thing is, I don’t actually encounter my mortal enemies that often in my life. In Singapore, where I live and grew up, frogs are not that common, which is why my phobia hasn’t turned into a paralysing problem. But this very lack of interaction with my biggest fear probably only exacerbates my anxiety. Sometimes, even I notice how ridiculous my phobia has made me.
Am I seriously filtering travel destinations according to the likelihood of meeting one of these croaking bastards? I ask myself. The bleak answer is yes, yes I am.
As someone who is set off by an unsolicited frog cameo on Animal Planet, finally coming face to face with my ranidaphobia has been a mix of horror and catharsis. I’ve had to relive my memories surrounding my most feared creature, but managed to piece together a coherent picture of how my peculiar fear came to be. I also found solidarity reading about the experiences of fellow frog-fearers who have their own stories to share.
Do I want to get over this fear? Yes and no. While it would be absolutely awesome to not have my poor heart go into overdrive every time I see an image of a frog, getting over my ranidaphobia would also mean taking on the excruciating task of looking at a frog. The mere thought of it makes my skin crawl.
A couple of years back, my friend tried coaxing me into touching a display frog figurine at a trinket store, a jolly-looking cartoon frog that didn’t even look like the real thing. It was 15 agonising minutes of flip-flopping, repeated declarations of “OK, this is it,” and then chickening out at the very last second. In the end, I stuck my hand out and looked away while my friend bumped the cursed figurine on my stiff index finger. I count that as the first step in my exposure therapy.
Maybe this is where I take my next step in becoming not so terrified of the mostly harmless, if not a little ugly looking, amphibian. Maybe I’ll find myself a ranidaphobia support group to systematically overcome my fear. Or maybe I won’t. Just the number of times I had to type the F-word in this story, and the few frog images I accidentally laid eyes on while doing research was the most interaction I’ve had with them in the past two years. Writing about my fear was already a whole journey. Though — full disclosure — I had my sister watch some frog videos for me.
But you know, baby steps.
Find Koh Ewe on Instagram.