Reflect and Introspect Blog | Phobia

HELP! How Do I Deal with My Phobia?

So anybody who knows me probably knows that I have a crippling fear of wasps. In fact, it’s more than a fear; it’s a phobia. And when I say phobia, I mean phobia. The type where being in the presence of the thing makes you wretch, gag, and sweat and put yourself in dangerous situations just to get away from them. Not just a simple “I don’t like them” or “I’m scared of them”, but “I feel as though my life is going to end if I am in the presence of them”.

And before you tell me – like so many others have already done – that if I just stay still and don’t flap it won’t harm me, let me tell you. What I would give to be able to stay still and not flap. My body acts completely on impulse, it’s a reflex that I can’t control even if I wanted to. My body develops a mind of its own and I have zero control.

Where the fear began

When I was very young, maybe around 2 years old, my grandparents took me to a National Trust site for a nice walk and amble through the park. They recall that at some point that day, my pram was surrounded by swarms of wasps. I don’t know whether I was ever stung, as my grandparents don’t really remember, but they recall that I screamed bloody murder for the next few hours as a result. I don’t remember this of course, but it is the only event that I can think of that could have something to do with what has turned into a full-blown, overwhelming, debilitating phobia.

How the phobia manifests

My reaction to being around a wasp is dependant on the environment, the circumstance, and who I’m with. If I see an image of one, I am physically repulsed and have to either scroll quickly through or simply look away before I throw up.

If one manages to get into my house (which is difficult because I no longer open the windows properly to provide sufficient space for it to do so), I have an absolute meltdown and scream for James, who knows the score by now. If, on the unfortunate occasion I am alone – and this has happened a fair bit this summer – I basically cry and spray it with something to slow it down enough that I can kill it. But this always leaves me in an absolute state for the rest of the day.

If I happen to be in a restaurant in Summer where one has made its way indoors, I will fixate on it at all times, my food going down in lumps, and I’ll start sweating, trembling, become irritable if anybody tries to talk to me or take my attention away from it, and I feel like I’m going to throw up. I can’t rest until it’s gone – whether that’s by flying out itself or somebody killing it.

If I do make it to a beer garden (I try to avoid them because it’s just too much stress with them being a wasp’s playground), I am that dickhead who throws themselves about, freaks out and runs away causing a humongous scene, or is up and down every 30 seconds flailing about whilst everyone else just wafts it casually away thinking how much of an idiot I look.

I CAN’T HELP IT

James and my parents are convinced this phobia has gotten worse over the years, but I think I’ve always been like this. I recently went away with my family for the weekend, and we decided to have a drink in a lovely pub on the river. The place was swarming with wasps, meaning that the idea of sitting down and relaxing was absolutely out of the question. I was up and down every 10 seconds, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible and calmly and subtly just walk away like it’s a really normal thing to do whilst out having drinks with your family. It ruined the whole time for me because my body couldn’t work its way out of the tense, stressed-out state that it was constantly in.

My friends and family are on the whole very good, they know how anxious it makes me and they don’t judge. It must be irritating for them, but they have the grace and kindness to show empathy and not tell me to “sit down” or “stop making a scene”. Which is great because I am not doing this out of choice. I’m not reacting this way because I choose to. It is an impulse and like I said, my body has a mind of its own and reacts before my head can even talk sense to it.

My poor body goes through a whole host of sensations. Trembling, sweating, gagging, and sobbing, the stress can often also trigger my IBS, leaving me with intense stomach cramps, bloatedness, headaches and heartburn that even my IBS medications can’t fix. I feel like my body takes a beating every time I jolt myself away at the sight of one or the sound of a buzz, it triggers such massive physical stress responses that leaves me suffering and on edge for hours afterwards.

What I am looking for

So the reason I am telling you all of this (despite providing context for the ridiculous story I’m about to tell you) is because I am looking for help. Has anybody been through something similar and managed to resolve it? Is there anything at all that has helped you get over such a debilitating fear?

I have heard that hypnotherapy works but have never really seen any real evidence of it. Is there anybody out there who can vouch for it? One thing I have been recommended is EMDR therapy but at the moment I could do without paying the prices (though it is definitely something I will do at some point if it will definitely help me).

I really just want to become one of those people who can sit in the presence of a wasp and waft it away without becoming a sweaty, trembling, aching mess. Is that too much to ask?

An unbelievable story that happened to me yesterday

So now you have the details about how petrified I am of wasps, you are not going to believe what happened to me yesterday.

Someone asked me recently when observing how hysterical I got at the sight of a wasp, whether I have ever been stung and that maybe being stung may take the phobia away because I’ll realise it’s not so bad. I have always wondered this if I’m being honest, but can’t let myself get close enough to one to risk it. Anyway, fear not, I now have the answer.

On the sole sunny day we’ve had for weeks here in Stockport, I decided it would be the only day possible to finally mow the lawn before Winter. The grass stops growing in Winter but I like to make sure it’s tidy prior to that because our garden has a tendency to look like an overgrown wilderness if not.

So out I go, mowing the lawn, and when I’m done I notice that there are a few wasps flying around the shed, so obviously I can’t get in to put the mower away. I really needed to crack on with work, but I also needed to put the lawnmower away before I could lock up. After 10 minutes or so of dithering, the coast seemed clear so I legged it into the shed, threw the mower in there at full speed and got out as quickly as I could so I wouldn’t get trapped inside with one.

I go into my kitchen and start washing my hands when I feel a small scratch sensation on my thigh. Because, as I said, the garden is a bit like a wilderness, sometimes when mowing the lawn I can pick up small bugs/ spiky thorns from the plants and trees, so I thought it must be that. I took my trousers down a bit and checked whether something had pierced the cloth, but there was nothing there so I just carried on.

Next thing, I feel a sting again, further up my thigh and this time a lot more prominent. It is at this point that I realise something is DEFINITELY in my tracksuit bottoms. I pull them down again, a little further this time, expecting to see probably a spider as it was too much pain for a thorn, when I caught sight of something black and yellow inside my trousers.

I absolutely lost my head.

I screeched so loud that my throat was sore afterwards, and I was absolutely hysterical trying to get my pants off. I frantically kicked and clawed at my trousers trying to get them off, but in my panic, I couldn’t think straight enough to realise that I had to take my trainers off before my trousers, and not doing so was just prolonging the undressing. I was so frantically trying to rip them off, screeching the house down like a banshee, that I tripped over, cracked my knee and my elbow on my kitchen step, ending up in even more pain than I was already in. I was flailing about stuck on the floor, unable to get up because my tracksuit bottoms were stuck around my trainers and I couldn’t stand up to get them off. I was screaming and sobbing at this point and convinced I was going to pass out in sheer panic.

I eventually got them off, ran faster than Mo Farah into the living room in my knickers, not even caring that the front blinds were open and everyone could see in. I tried to regain my breath because at this point I had gone into full-blown panic mode and couldn’t breathe. I’m stood there in my knickers in front of my mirror talking to myself, trying to do a breathing technique that is supposed to work (it didn’t!)

Then, mid hyperventilation, I remember that anaphylaxis exists and having never (knowingly) been stung before, I realise that I don’t know if I am allergic to stings. I start to panic even more, because I can’t breathe as it is and think that maybe I could be dying and nobody would ever know. Then I start thinking if I pass out in anaphylactic shock right now, somebody is going to come into my house and find me in a sweatshirt and pair of knickers so maybe I should at least go and put some pants on. But then I think I can never wear pants again because wasps can find their way inside them, and I’m left in a complete quandary about what the hell to do.

Then, right on cue, my stomach begins to launch into absolute UPROAR because the sudden intense stress has triggered an IBS attack. Of course it has. I tried to look at myself in the mirror and give myself a pep talk to get my shit together, but the sight of myself in just my knickers and sweatshirt was too sad, so I realised I needed to sort the problem and go and burn my trousers. After all, I can never wear them again (they were my favourite trackies too!) in case the wasp has laid eggs in them (do they even do that?) and I felt absolutely bloody violated. They had to go.

I went into the kitchen and the little bastard had found its way to the window ledge, where I promptly sprayed it and killed it in a valiant attempt of revenge (that’s a lie – I was sobbing and trying to work up the courage to get close enough to kill it).

24 hours on, I sit with two large mounds on my thighs that are swollen, sore and itchy as hell, and a knee I can’t put weight on, I contemplate the question. Now I have been stung – twice I might add – do I feel any less afraid of wasps?

The answer is absolutely not, I feel 1000 times more fucking terrified than before, something I never thought humanly possible. I will never be able to put pants on again without checking them for wasps first, and I’ll never be able to mow the lawn again because I can’t risk having such a traumatic experience again. So no, now I have been stung, I do not feel any less afraid of wasps!

GET ME A BOTTLE OF WINE!

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