How My Life Has Changed After Developing a Phobia
I have two main phobias. One I am not ready to admit to the world and the other is ticks, those delightful blood sucking, disease carrying bugs.
I just thought it may be helpful for an outsider to see how drastically my life has changed since developing this phobia. I want to show that:
- People with phobias are not alone, even though that’s exactly how I feel.
- We don’t choose to have them,
- They are not an excuse.
- They’re not something we will “just get over.”
- They have such a hold on all facets of our lives that people can’t even imagine.
Before my phobia: Wear whatever I like. If it’s hot, less clothes. If it’s cold, more clothes. If I am going around to someone or going to an event of sorts, dress appropriately, often with some form of open shoes.
Now: When I need to go somewhere that has grass, it doesn’t matter if it’s a manicured park, I put boots on and so much bug repellent I am pretty sure I keep the company in business. I literally leave a mist of “repellent” in my wake. This gets many looks when its the heat of summer and I am in long pants and boots.
When this phobia first hit me, it was so bad I would wear a pair of stockings, long socks, long jeans, boots and bug repellent just to go to a park, or someone’s house that has pets. This is followed by coming home, stripping everything, going in the wash and having a piping hot shower and scrub “just in case something got through the barriers.”
I won’t lie, if I need to go somewhere that has the potential to have long grass, I still wear all of them, however at least for the most part I am slowly wearing dresses and shorts and open shoes in general, which as sad as that sounds is actually an improvement.
Before my phobia: If you have been following my other blogs, you know that in general I battle with my health. But I had less triggers that would set me off.
Now: I have those battles, but on top of that if I see anything that makes me subconsciously think of ticks; if I read or hear the word tick (not even in the context of the insect but just a “tick” next to a name) it can set me off. Whether it be itching, checking myself for things, an anxiety attack, cramping or a combination, I will be affected in some way.
Just writing on the subject of ticks has had me checking and itching constantly.
Before my phobia: I used to look at a field with long grass or tall “bunny tails” or with lots of daisies and imagine the amazing photos I could take in there. Get some beautiful person to sit amongst it all and capture some pure magic. I, myself, would sit in between them if it made for a cool picture.
Now: I can’t bring myself to step anywhere near it. In fact, I can’t look at photos the same way either. If there is a stunning picture with someone in long grass, I immediately wonder if they had any ticks on them.
This has put a massive damper on my desire to do photography, as it really does hinder where I am able to do shoots now, which not only stumps creativity but also will have all my photos looking the same as they will have similar backdrops.
Hanging Out With Friends
Before my phobia: I was pretty much game for anything! Whether it be a picnic, going to a park, a walk, a hike (when I felt energetic in my younger years hehe), going to game farms, horse rides, camping.
In short, if you invited me to do something, unless it was way out my comfort zone (like bungee jumping), I was there like a bear!
Now: Most of those things I will no longer do. Where I really used to find joy in the outdoors, I now find absolute irrational fear and panic attacks. I can’t even go to a park or a friend’s house and sit on the grass. The intense anxiety during and after is just not worth it at all. So if there is even the smallest spot of concrete you will see me on it.
Going around to do something is no longer simple, I need to know where exactly it will be and will often Google to see if I can handle the situation or not. If I can’t, I simply don’t go and miss out on some really awesome things. I have lost a few friends this way as they just don’t get why and think I am just making excuses.
Family and Family Gatherings
Before my phobia: We get invited, we go, no questions asked.
Now: The venue gets Googled, I figure out if I can get through it without an anxiety attack.
I have lately been very open about this fear with certain family members and it is very misunderstood by some. People’s natural reactions are to try make light of something they don’t understand. I will never forget that I was driving with a family member once and we drove passed a massive field that had people picnicking on it and a remark of, “Oh no! We better warn them all that they are going to get covered in ticks,” was made. To say I did not appreciate that is quite an understatement, and that put an absolute damper on my day.
I also recently attended my sister’s wedding which was held in a forest. It was pretty much absolute torture from the beginning to end, but I tried as best I could to put on a brave face and make it a great time for them, all the while secretly and constantly checking myself, my dress and cramping up a storm from all the “what if” thoughts. I will point out though that I did baptize myself in repellent and after a while put boots on, which made me feel a little more at ease, and yes, a boiling shower and a scrubbing took place after returning home.
Movies, Series and Documentaries
Before my phobia: Enjoy whatever it is I am watching.
Now: If there is ever a scene with grass, long or short, I instantly wonder about ticks and how the actors/camera crew felt having to be in that situation.
Pretty much this phobia brings itself up anywhere and any time and sucks the joy out of things for me.
Before my phobia: Have them sit on me, take them for walks. Just a regular, loving dog owner.
Now: Love them just as much, but I’m able to do so much less with them now.
I fear they have things on them that I can’t see. This actually goes for any animal. Other people’s animals used to make me squeal! Would love petting them and playing with them. Now I fear touching them for the same reason mentioned above.
As far as walks go, unless its on a pavement, concrete or beach sand, I just can’t do it. I am so very afraid they will get a tick on them which in turn will end up in my safety haven of our house.
Before my phobia: We had a pretty normal relationship, minus my wonderful anxiety attacks.
Now: Things are way more complicated than they need to be.
Going out with him is the same thing as the experiences described above, however, he also has to deal with my mood swings (because I am anxious and/or scared of something) as well as the anxiety attacks when they hit.
I also often spray him with the repellent before we go somewhere that is forest-y or wooded and when we get home from that he is also forced to strip (and sometimes shower) so his clothes can go in the wash with mine to just quell the anxiety a bit. Shoes are often placed outside or in packets if I feel they have been any place dodgy.
We can no longer take our dogs for a walk together, go for hikes or sit on grass together.
Normal mundane things that people don’t even think about, I no longer have the ability to do with my husband, and it kills me inside.
Before my phobia: Since I was small I have always wanted children. Two to be exact. A boy and a girl. The sad thing is, I reached the point were I was aching to have a baby. I wanted a baby then and there.
Now: I am terrified to even consider bringing kids into this world.
To End Off…
If you know of someone dealing with a phobia, whatever it may be, just because it doesn’t make any sense to you, doesn’t mean that it isn’t very real for the person experiencing it.
If they ever reach the point where they build up enough confidence (and trust me it takes a lot to confide in you about their particular phobia(s)), you need to take a moment to realize that they trust you.
When some one opens up to you, don’t tell them:
“Stop being silly.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“You are overreacting.”
“There is nothing to be afraid of.”
“Other people do or experience it all the time and they are fine.”
“That makes no sense, just do it/go there.”
And my personal favorite:
“Just get over it.”
So, how should you respond?
Maybe thank them for being honest with you and let them know that it’s OK and that you don’t think any less of them. Be as supportive as possible, and in the future don’t push us too hard to do things we can’t.
(A little bit of motivation is a good thing, but constantly being told to push over your boundaries gets overwhelming and causes us to avoid you, not only from the anxiety it creates, but from the feeling of disappointing you when we can’t do something… Trust me on this one. We aren’t a project to be fixed, we are people that just need a little compassion and a supportive friend.)
If any one would like to share their phobias, I would love to hear! Will definitely help me feel less isolated about the whole thing. So feel free to comment below to let me and others know that we aren’t alone.
Follow this journey on My Adventures With Anxiety.
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Thinkstock photo via AlekZotoff