After Aaron Phoenix, 34, was told to get a hobby by his doctor’s following bipolar disorder diagnosis, he took an unusual approach by becoming a spider dad to 120 tarantulas and has now given all the pets their own bedroom in his house.
The creepy animals have an entire room to themselves in his house, and he dedicates all his spare time to looking after them.
According to Aaron taking care of the spiders has helped him cope with his mental health – and sitting in the room with them is his ‘happy place.’
‘They’re my passion, obsession, whatever you want to call it,’ says Aaron, who works as a house removal contractor.
‘The doctor told me a hobby would focus my mind – it was true, I find them fascinating. I could sit and watch them for hours – they’ve had an incredible effect on me and I’ll never give up owning tarantulas now.
‘People’s reactions when I tell them are fantasic – they can’t believe it! Although I do think tarantulas are misunderstood – there’s no need for such a fear.
‘I can’t expect everyone to see them the way I do, but I wish people would open their minds to these beautiful creatures.’
Last summer, following a diagnosis of bipolar disorder alongside a diagnosis of depression a year earlier, therapists suggested a way to help Aaron’s mental health would be to get a hobby.
‘When the therapist asked if there was any activity I enjoy that that might help take my mind off things, it came to me straight away,’ he says.
‘At the beginning, my partner and the kids were a bit freaked out, but they saw the positive effect it had on me immediately and became supportive.’
Since the summer of 2021, he has collected 120 tarantulas, alongside five other spiders, three scorpions, three praying mantises and a centipede.
They all live in separate enclosures in his spare room – known as his happy place – where he spends almost all his free time.
He says: ‘I check on them every morning and evening although if I had time, I could stand and watch for hours.
‘I’m just fascinated by them – all the different sizes and shapes and colours. When I’m with them, whether it’s feeding, watering or rehousing them, nothing else in the world matters.’
‘They have without a doubt changed my life – I’ve never had something I’m so passionate about before,’ says Aaron.