On phobias, weaknesses, and phobia-shaming.

A largish roach appeared in my spot in BodyPump at the end of class on Saturday morning. One minute, I’m lying on the floor working my abs, the next minute a roach appears where my head just was. Obviously I’m still alive, so it was of no consequence. I say that because I’m phobic about roaches, as many of you know.  No other critters get to me – just roaches.

When I described the incident and ensuing antics to Callaghan, he was mildly surprised to hear of my uninhibited reaction in front of others. I think he was envisioning me running around flapping my arms and screaming incessantly, which I didn’t do and never do, in fact. I’m more of the get-away-and-stand-paralyzed-while-trying-not-to-hyperventilate sort. But as he later clarified, he’d responded as a product of a culture that’s widely reluctant to acknowledge or address topics such as phobias, therapists… any kind of mental health-related issue.

Interestingly, his initial surprise met with my surprise; the idea of even a suggestion that I would want to hide my phobia gave me pause. It got me thinking.

I think it’s normal to be hesitant in admitting that we’re afraid, because fear is considered to be a weakness.

But none of us are without a weakness or two, and having a weakness doesn’t mean that we’re weak. It may make us vulnerable, but being vulnerable doesn’t make us weak, either. While a rule such as “never let your enemies know your weaknesses” is important to remember when we’re sitting in a bar (lest a foreign spy sidle up in the guise of an admirer when they’re actually after information), forthrightness about our state of mind can’t hurt.

I have two phobias, and I talk about them readily: roach phobia and claustrophobia. I know that many of you can relate, so I share my adventures in phobia encounters and efforts. The incidents strike me as funny after the fact, so I’m glad to share when I can laugh at myself!

The opposite of “courageous” is “fearful,” which I know doesn’t characterize me or others who have phobias. I don’t feel the need to demonstrate this. There’s no reason to be ashamed of our phobias, especially since we know that when it comes to life or death, we’re capable of confronting and conquering the ogres, whatever they may be.

 

Momotaro conquering the ogres. Japanese folklore illustration by George Suyeoka (from “Momotaro: Peach Boy,” Island Heritage Limited, 1972)

 

No one in the vicinity of Saturday’s roach incident phobia-shamed me, by the way. No one ever has. If you’re ever phobia-shamed, know that the person simply doesn’t understand that a phobia is a specific, irrational fear. And if they decide that you’re a generally fearful person because of it? Consider that to be a benefit to you. The element of surprise is, after all, a formidable weapon for any warrior.

Halloween Merriment (and the unexpected adventures of Callaghan’s butt)

Happy Halloween Eve!

Callaghan and I have been celebrating Halloween all week, wanting to make up for the fact that we’ll be apart on the actual holiday. He left yesterday for a 12-day business trip in France (Normandy)… so yes, the week-long celebration was necessary. Priorities.

Actually, we’ve been in Halloween celebration mode all month.

I have no Halloween plans for tomorrow. At first I wanted to go to SCARIZONA Scaregrounds with a friend, but then I chickened out re-thought that plan because they promise to prey on “every possible phobia,” and there’s no way I’m risking the possibility of roaches (real or not). I’m thinking roachaphobia is common enough that Scarizona masterminds would use it in the creation of their haunted house “experiences.” I’m a risk-taker in some ways, but not in the roach way. NOPE. Not going.

Instead, kitties and I will enjoy a quiet, spooky Halloween together.

 

Bunny-butt Nenette and butterscotch Nounours checking out a jack-o'-lantern pumpkin.

Bunny-butt Nenette and butterscotch Nounours checking out a jack-o’-lantern pumpkin.

 

I’m looking at 12 days of quality bonding time with Nounours and Nenette. But fear not – I am planning on some crazy shenanigans for the duration. As they say, the cat will play while the Callaghan’s away.

Here’s some of what’s about to go down:

  • Reading (All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr)
  • Writing (I round-filed both of my neglected big projects, but this new one is actually a starting-over of one of the discarded ones.)
  • Watching Netflix (Yes, I’ve returned to Netflix. What can I say.)
  • Playing with furbabies (Nenette will learn that I can be just as fun as Daddy when it comes to playing.)
  • Taking the bus (to work – this is new) and walking (home from work). I still refuse to pay for parking at work when we live so close.
  • Eating simply. (For the next 12 days, I’m basically going to live on salad, baked sweet potatoes, broccoli, brown rice, quinoa, hummus, peanut butter, bread, and fruit. Because these are foods I love, I’m lazy about cooking, and I don’t want to spend time thinking about it.)
  • Getting my hair cut. (YAY new hair, plus I get to see my girl Melanie!)

And, so as to not make too much of a ruckus up in here:

  • Updating/cleaning up some of this blog’s details, i.e. the About page, stuff in the sidebar, some of the links and tags and categories, etc., etc. Long overdue.

It’s not an exhaustive list, but it captures the main agenda. You get the idea. It doesn’t take much to amuse me.

Case in point: I was too easily amused by this exchange with Callaghan yesterday morning when he was at the airport, texting to tell me about his pre-boarding adventures.

You know how a text conversation can get off-sync when you receive a message while you’re texting, so after you send the one you were writing, you immediately answer the new one that came in, and the messages accumulate out of order because the timing got messed up, plus you were talking about two different things at once, so now your phone displays a merging of replies on different subjects, and it either doesn’t make sense at all, or it just looks wrong?

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Callaghan-AirportScreenShot

 

This is what happens when you’re texting about airport security procedures and breakfast at the same time. It’s all fun and games until someone gets a scone up his butt. Of course, it had to be Callaghan.

Elevator Tips for the Elevator-Phobic

As recently as eight months ago, my elevator phobia – a spin-off of my claustrophobia – kept me out of elevators at all costs. Now, because of my job, I take the elevator every day, numerous times a day. This marks a great personal victory for me, even though I still always choose the stairs whenever possible.

So, as a somewhat recovered elevator phobic, I thought I’d put together this handy Elevator Phobic’s Guide to Taking the Elevator, in case it can be of use to anyone.

1). When the elevator arrives and the doors open, look inside first to check for sewer roaches before getting in. You just never know, and the last thing you need is for your recently-somewhat-alleviated phobia (elevators) to be revived by a clash with your one remaining phobia (roaches).

 

Being weird in the elevator to show you my "I see a roach" face. Derp.

Being weird in the elevator to show you my “I see a roach” face. Derp.

 

2). Always have your cell phone with you before stepping into the elevator. Make sure it’s charged.

3). If there are other people in the elevator with you, quickly check them out to evaluate whether or not you could take them in a fight if you had to (which I do automatically all the time, anyway, no matter where I am… it’s a reflex). If you do find yourself in a situation that necessitates self-defense tactics, the elevator would be a convenient place to be if you’re like me and you fight best on the inside because you have short limbs.

4). If you’re unsure about the integrity of the elevator, bring a bottle of water in with you. It never hurts to keep a protein bar or nuts with you, either.

5). If the elevator arrives and neither the “up” nor the “down” signal lights are lit, err on the side of caution and don’t get on. Wait for the next one. An undecided elevator is an elevator that might decide to get stuck in the middle somewhere.

6). Mentally listen to Steven Tyler singing “Love in an Elevator” while you’re in the elevator. It will bring some levity to the situation.

7). Minimize your time in the elevator as much as possible. I almost always take the elevator partially, up from the second floor and down to the second floor, rather than ground floor to ground floor. Between the ground floor and the second floor, I use the public stairs.

8). Arm yourself with knowledge by studying the control panel in the elevator as soon as you step in (well, after you size up anyone who may be in there already. Priorities, you know). That way, in the event of a stoppage, you’ll be more likely to able to find the appropriate buttons even while you’re in a panic.

9). Valium, or something similar. Just… whatever it is, have it with you. Frankly, if I could, I’d harpoon myself with whale tranquilizer if I got stuck in an elevator alone. I would just want to be out.

10). If there are other people in the elevator, amuse yourself by trying to figure out which person would be the devil, à la M. Night Shyamalan’s delightful film Devil.

 

 

Happy Friday, Everyone! =)

My Double Phobia Dilemma

Good morning, and welcome to Embarrassing Confessions Tuesday on my blog. (Looking through some recent posts, I noticed that such topics are starting to become de rigueur here.)

Snippet of a mock interview:

Interviewer: You went to war, and you were ambushed. Would you say that was the bravest thing you ever did?

Me: No. The bravest thing I ever did was watch Wall-E.

I have two phobias: claustrophobia and roach phobia. Guess which one is more debilitating?

I’m petrified of roaches. I can’t even look at a picture of one without having a physical reaction. When I started writing this, I thought about checking online for an officially recognized medical term for roach phobia, but I couldn’t because I was afraid that the search would pull up roach images, and my eyes do not need to be assaulted by roach images popping up all over my screen. That’s why I’m going to continue calling it “roach phobia,” and that’s also why I took a picture of Ramsey for this post:

 

Ramsey, the unroachiest thing I could find to photograph for this post.

Ramsey, the unroachiest thing I could find to photograph for this post.

 

Scorpions, snakes, spiders, bees and other flying, stinging critters? They don’t bother me. No fear. Tall, rough-looking transient guy wanders off the street past the inattentive front desk person and waltzes into the women’s locker room at the gym? I’m on my feet, furious, in his face, ordering him out. No fear. A sewer roach? Sends me screaming into the hills. Sheer, unadulterated terror.

Dead roaches freak me out almost as much as live ones. The sight of an upside-down roach carcass makes me cringe, hyperventilate and feel phantom sensations of little roach feet skittering up my ankles.

Let’s touch on my other phobia for a second. Since I started working at my job, I’ve more or less conquered my fear of elevators (a sub-phobia of my claustrophobia), because the elevator is the only way up to my department. Once you’re up there, you can use any of several hidden staircases to descend… but going up, the elevator’s your only ticket.

I’m happy to report that I’m now able to ride an elevator without clinging like a fool to other people in there with me (I have been known to fasten myself to strangers in elevators, barnacle-like), but I wouldn’t say that I’m comfortable in elevators. They still make me nervous, and I still don’t trust them.  Throw in the fact that I enjoy the exercise provided by stairs, and obviously, I prefer taking the stairs whenever possible.

My point, you ask?

For several weeks, I’d been in the habit of exiting my office building using the hidden stairs… until last week, when I noticed, in the stairwell, on the floor right in front of the door going out to the street, a rather large, dead roach. On its back. Legs in the air. A roach carcass so old, it’s turning pale (maybe from dust) and somewhat blurry around the edges. Let me repeat: In the stairwell. In front of the door. The door that you have to go through in order to exit.

So NOW, every day when it’s time to leave work, I ask myself:

Elevator or dead roach?

And I have to decide. There’s no other way out of the building. Do I take the elevator down every day, increasing my chances of getting stuck? Or do I step over a large dead roach every day (which necessitates looking at it, which is excruciating) as I exit the stairwell? And is it just me with these kinds of ridiculous dilemmas?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all about self-improvement. While I’ve made tremendous progress with my elevator phobia, the farthest I’d gotten with my fear of roaches was watching Wall-E,  and I was proud of it… hella proud of myself, in fact, for getting on top of my visceral reaction to the, um, casting of that movie. It doesn’t matter that it was animation and the roach was widely considered to be “cute.” A roach is a roach, and there’s no such thing as a cute roach. When the roach appeared, obviously a main character who would endure the entire film, I resolved to sit there and watch the entire movie, anyway. Not only did I manage that, but I even ended up finding it brilliant and actually really enjoying it! This was truly a measure of progress for me, I’ll have you know.

After I noticed the dead roach in the stairwell at work, I continued taking the stairs down for the next few days, but I soon decided that the elevator was the lesser of two evils. If something happens and I get trapped in the elevator, chances are high that I’d be rescued in good time. But looking at a roach every day so I can step over it? No, thank you.

Now, the absolute worst thing that could happen would be getting trapped in the elevator with a roach.

Excuse me while I go find some wood to knock.