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March 19, 2012

On Being Okay with Infestation

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 10:38 am

I don’t have a punchy opening sentence for this post. I just need to talk somewhere. I’ve got a two hour appointment scheduled with my therapist this afternoon. I’m nervous about it. She wants to try this thing — I shouldn’t put it all on her; I asked to do it — a sort of music-therapy thing where we use sound to create a safe(r) container in which we can explore the source of my panic (rather than just dealing with the symptoms.)

I think sometimes the best thing that can happen with fears is for them to come true, so that you learn they’re not as bad as you’re afraid of. Of course, there’s a bit of a Nietzchean “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” mentality here, and that’s not actually true. Sometimes, whatever doesn’t kill you gives you trauma. (Or, in Nietzche’s case, syphilis.)

I trust my therapist. It’s why I chose her to work with; she’s smarter than me. But this is a BIG fear. It’s one I’ve been incapacitated by, in certain ways, for most of my life. It keeps me from taking care of my body. It keeps me from expressing myself creatively. It blocks my ability to have the kind of secure, healthy and resilient intimacy I want with people I care about. Obviously, I want it gone. I’m also scared of the work it will take to get there. Because I think resolving the panic is going to mean going through it, not under, over or around.

It’s been coming back, though. The panic. Just around the edges. So maybe this is a good time to try and look it in the face. I had a nice long break of several weeks where it wasn’t really coming up for me. I could even think about the things that usually trigger it without having a physical fear reaction. But last night, as soon as I turned off the lights, my pillows turned into nests of cockroaches. It took what felt like ten minutes (but was probably more like two) of taking deep breaths and fumbling for the lightswitch while trying not to touch them — but I didn’t scream and that was good.

This morning, it was ladybugs crawling all over every inch of my exposed skin. Maybe they were coming out of my skin. I’m not sure. When I put on my jacket, they started filling up my sleeves and falling out of the cuffs. * shudder * It was only a couple months ago that I had that one for the first time, the one where I’m actually made of bugs myself. I was driving to have dinner with a friend and my head suddenly turned into black and green beetles. I started screaming curses at my subconscious, “AAAAAGHGHG!! HOLY FUCK! FUCK!! HOW DO YOU EVEN COME UP WITH SOMETHING THAT DISTURBING!?! FUCK FUCK FUCK I HATE YOU SO MUCH!” But, at this point, I’ve basically gotten used to it. The human brain is an amazingly adaptive thing. I was made of dust-mites for a little while this morning. I really hate that one because I know that, in reality, certain parts of me (such as my eyelashes) actually are infested with dust-mites and that makes it harder to shake the fear-fantasy.


Something clicked for me a couple of weeks ago. I had driven to Folsom Street Coffee to have a coffeeshop work-date with myself. I don’t know why I picked Folsom Street. I never go there. But, for some reason, that’s where autopilot had delivered me. I was sitting in the parking lot, listening to the radio because I hate to turn the radio off in the middle of a song, and I found myself staring out the window at this leafless weatherstripped bush full of all these fuzzy, wiggly, twittery birds. Occasionally, a bird would fly away, or one would come back and land, and the whole bush would shake a little with the rest of the birds twittering and wiggling. And I was just sitting there staring, unable to take my eyes away, feeling the same gut-level revulsion that I do when I think about beehive trees or a wall full of termites, not understanding why I was having this reaction. I mean, I like birds. Birds aren’t bugs. What’s wrong with m- OH!


The bush was infested with cute fuzzy birds.

One of the reasons I got hooked on Twitter so quickly after years of resistance is that I discovered it’s a way for me to quickly record thoughts as I’m having them, no matter where I am, and without feeling like I’m spamming 800 Facebook friends who mostly want to see photos of Antarctica or just know when my birthday is. I pulled out my phone in the parking lot and here’s what I told the Internet:

<WANDERINGPIRATE> Lightbulb: OH! Infestation!! THAT’s what’s at the root of my swarm-squick/panic attacks. Because what I value most is integrity and what I fear most is that I don’t have it. Infestation is the exact opposite of integrity but appears the same from the outside. The panic isn’t because bugs are gross or something. It’s because INFESTATION is terrifying.

<WANDERINGPIRATE> I’m afraid I’m *infested* with my mother’s abusiveness w/o realizing it, and that I’m going to hurt people I love because of it.

<WANDERINGPIRATE> That’s it. Damn. It’s so simple it’s almost stupid. Wow. Okay. #mybrain

<WANDERINGPIRATE> (This psychonautical epiphany brought to you from the Folsom Street Coffee parkinglot where, I just realized, I haven’t been in over a year til now, cuz the last time I was here I had one of the hugest panic attacks of my life. Huh. Thanks, subconscious.)

And then I leaned out of the car and threw up.

It’s hard for me to keep telling myself that “I’m fine” and “I’m making it all up” and probably “just because I want attention” when my body has uncontrolled physical reactions like that. I still do, of course. I’m great at telling myself stories, especially about how “okay” I am and, simultaneously, about how “crazy” I am for thinking I’m crazy. (Because that makes sense…)

Anyway. I feel like I’m meandering off topic. What was the topic again? Oh yeah. That I just needed to talk. About how nervous I am about therapy this evening. And about why it’s important to do it anyway. Because I’m sick of just managing this. Although, to be fair, even being able to manage it — to be able to take deep breaths and fumble for the lights and go back to the gym even if I can’t yet go back to the pool — feels like a huge positive step.

It also helps to write about it. In fact, that’s the thing that’s helped most in my life. Just being able to say what I’m seeing outloud. It sometimes puts me in mind of an interview I once read with Stephen King; I won’t Google it right now, because I’m running late for work, but in it he said something about how…basically, he has to write horror stories because it’s the only way to get the things that are haunting him out of his head. I get that. If only there were a market for stories about girls who go to the library to study and get consumed when their comfy reading chair turns into a mass of writhing maggots. I mean…there probably is. But I don’t want to go there. Ugh.

Instead, I’ll just occasionally fill my blog with creepy images and thank my readers for their willingness to be grossed out with me. By holding a little bit of my fear in your hands, you’re helping me to be okay.


  1. BIG hug. Love you.

    Comment by k. knight (@vexatious_lit) — March 19, 2012 @ 11:17 am | Reply

    • * hugs * Thanks. 🙂

      Comment by thirdxlucky — March 19, 2012 @ 3:40 pm | Reply

  2. […] triggers around sex and relationships that have to do with childhood abuse, but the biggest one is the fear of BEING abusive. My Borderline mother drummed into me steadily over years and years the idea that I am a selfish, […]

    Pingback by Bloggity Blog Blog Blog… — March 21, 2012 @ 11:54 pm | Reply

  3. […] very strongly that anyone I’ve told about my infestation phobia who insists on talking to me about swarms of insects is a motherfucking asshole who deserves to be punched. Not because it’s 100% guaranteed to […]

    Pingback by On the Unpredictable Paths of One’s Own Mind « Bloggity Blog Blog Blog… — April 13, 2012 @ 1:03 pm | Reply

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