Have you tried animal hand puppets? They're very similar to stuffed animals so it might be a good place to begin getting over a fear of puppets.
If you treat them with civility, they will leave you alone.
If the dark place is, say, your own home; then there is nothing there that you don't know. You needn't worry because you already know what those shapes in the shadows are and you know that they cannot hurt you.
Yes, it might be painful, but if you do drown or get eaten, you'll wake up in heaven and never feel pain again.
I'm not overly fond of getting stuck with things either. The anticipation is always worse then the actual act. If you can get your mind on something else, it isn't all that bad.
Now, Mademoiselle Gearspark, you must ask yourself a few questions. Do I like these people? Do they like me? Do they truly care about my well-being? If the answer to any of these is "no", then why should you give a single crumb of cheesecake for their opinions? If your friends are truly your friends, then they will love you for all that you are, even the messy parts.
I don't blame you, I have problems with spiders as well. I keep having to remind myself that they are essential parts of the environment and if I don't bother them, they won't bother me.
All fears can boil down to one thing, a fear of pain in any form. This fear is natural since pain is a result of the fall and is not a part of the original creation. When Christ returns, he will do away with all kinds of pain; and when pain goes, so will fear.