The Clash Of Titanic Phobias

I’m sure that at least a few of you have been wondering where the hell I’ve been. Well it’s all very embarrassing to be honest, but I will attempt to explain as best I can. Are you at all familiar with the The Irresistible Force Paradox? You know, the one that goes like this:

“What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?”

Well I sort of lived out my own version of that paradox over the last couple of months – like so:

1. A mentally ill man (who’s “problems” include both extreme social anxiety and an extreme insect phobia) goes off his medications for well over a year and becomes an “immovable” urban hermit.

2. That urban hermit has his sanctuary threatened by a seemingly “unstoppable” invasion of bed bugs?

So what happens when these two things meet? As it turns out, it’s been disturbingly similar to this:

I didn’t know it at the time, but my nightmare began sometime in mid to late November with a rare visit from a relative and his friend. By the end of the first week in January, after apparently repeated failures by me (and the guy my apartment management sent to investigate) to kill off the bugs, and with growing anxiety over the boatload work required to meet my management’s “pre-treatment” requirements, I had become a delusional (from getting almost no sleep for weeks), panic stricken lunatic.

Then, early on the morning of January 6th, after passing out at my desk (the only place I felt comfortable trying to sleep), I awoke in an all-out panic attack with uncontrollable shakes and had to be taken to the emergency room… 😯


At least I didn’t kill anyone!

The emergency room doctors determined that I was in desperate need of psychiatric treatment and had me transferred to the VA hospital, where I was locked away on an “acute” psychiatric ward (with all its associated wonders) until I convinced the doctors there to release me on January 17 (after 11 days total).

I say “convinced” because my doctors were very concerned that returning to the same environment would simply lead me to another breakdown, and thus right back into their care. But I pointed out that the relief I got from being away from that environment and back on my meds was rapidly being overwhelmed by the dual strains of being locked on a psych ward – surrounded by some really, really sick people – and the knowledge that the situation at home will still be there no matter how long I avoid it.

Anyway… As it turns out, the bug killing measures I’d taken before my collapse weren’t entirely in vain, because I haven’t seen a single one since I got home. Nevertheless, I completed enough of the massive preparation work required by the management (with which I received absolutely no help from anyone) to get the first of two full-scale exterminations done, and things are looking better and better by the day. The second treatment will be in a few days and then only the bill will remain to be dealt with.

In the end, reality has proven the paradox false once again. As for how this nightmare can be apportioned to the realms of “real” and “imagined,” I truly do not know. But it is very clear that allowing my mental illness to go untreated leaves me more vulnerable than I ever want to be again!

I want ice water.

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42 thoughts on “The Clash Of Titanic Phobias

  1. Welcome back! Hell yes I’ve been worried about you! What a nightmare you’ve been through. It’s good to hear things are on track and returning to normal. Take care, my friend.


  2. Indeed … I’m with PiedType and am glad you’re back with us ! ‘Twas disconcerting to say the least to keep seeing ‘Happy New Year’ as the most recent entry here. Stay well, sir !!


    • Thanks Duncan, I hope so too! πŸ˜€

      I was looking for a movie clip… one where a rich guy that lives in a sealed “clean room” type government has to deal with an invasion of bugs through his plumbing… Do you recall the movie? πŸ˜•


    • Bloody hell Duncan! Don’t go telling him that they’re behind him! The bloke will get a cricked neck by turning round all the damn time to check.

      Seriously though Izaak….. I’d no idea that you’d just been through all that shit. Best wishes mate, and if you ever end up in there again, send a carrier pigeon and we’ll dig a tunnel and spring you.


    • Thanks Bats. I really hope you can get back on your meds soon. I could go on and on about the failings of the VA, even in regards to this incident, but I’m so thankful to have what they offer. I don’t know what I’d do without them! πŸ˜€


      • Having worked at this particular VA for over 25 years, for the most part it’s ok, but the acute psych ward is a disturbing nightmare……( always has been)…….even my husband who works in engineering hates to work on that ward……The
        place has had many changes over the 25 years I was there. At least now they don’t pack you in ice or do shock therapy like they used to in the 60/70’s………the new psych drugs are a godsent and I am glad they got your meds straightened out, and that you are being able to deal with the problem .As for the “bugs” I now have a fear of staying in a Hotel, when I travel….even a couple weeks ago whenn I stayed at a very high priced rental cabin for 3 days, I was checking the matresses, for
        they say to look under the matress tags because this is where the little buggers like to hide……the fear is in all of us!


        • Hi Rosie! One change (that I could see) they made at the VA that I didn’t like was that psych patients are now divided into 2 categories – acute and long-term stable (my terminology). My entire stay was on the “acute” ward, which was total lock-down, no smoking, no caffeine. In the past there were 3 categories – acute, acute but stable, and long-term stable. The “acute but stable” ward gave patients “privileges” where they could walk the grounds on there own – to smoke, go to the canteen, etc. If they had offered that to me this time around – and if I didn’t have the fear of losing my apartment hanging over my head – I might have taken them up on the offer for a little more time. πŸ˜•

          From my many conversations with the exterminator, I learned that besides the actual bugs themselves, they look for the tiny brown spots that mark where they’ve excreted waste (yuck!). One of the things that delayed having the full treatment done was that that was all he could report initially because of all the Raid I had used. It wasn’t until the eggs hatched and a new, larger wave, came on that he was able to see them for himself. Of course the delay was too much, and I was in the hospital by the time treatment was scheduled! πŸ™„


  3. Welcome Back IzaakMak, having suffered a total nervous breakdown myself some years back I can whole-heartedly relate, and I am happy all is ok… I travelled over a couple of times wondering where you’d vanished to I had thought the Pc has run out of Coal! .. :-).. Happy to see you have got your Humour in tact.. and the Bugs are exterminated.. And that you are feeling better.. sending a (( Hug)) and a thought or three .. Sue


    • Thank you so much Sue! I’d sworn I’d never spend another day on a psych ward, and I had managed to put a full 10 years in since my last stint, but… At least I’m back to where my biggest worry is this darned PC. Of course, paying for the exterminators does put replacing it even further in the future! πŸ˜€


      • Now you know Im always going on about how thought creates!!!… well how about starting to think you already have a New PC…Every time you switch on your coal driven one.. It becomes this Newer sleeker model… Just thought I would Humour you! :-)… But seriously Thoughts Create Honest!…. ” All is well in my world” helped me through alot.. πŸ˜‰


  4. Welcome Back! Meds or no meds, Bed Bugs would drive all of us to breakdown status! All of a sudden my head is starting to itch as I type πŸ˜‰ Ahhhh, the power of suggestion!

    Keep on keepin’ on brother!


  5. Oh wow. You have my sincere sympathies Izaak, I can truly relate to this. In fact it’s alarmingly similar to what happened to me.

    Back in 2004 we had two cats, both of whom developed flea problems. We treated them, repeatedly, but the damn things just would not die! We later discovered that our downstairs neighbour had taken in a stray cat that had fleas, a problem she stubbornly refused to address (how she could live like that I don’t know). I was a life-long pet owner at that point, I’d dealt with fleas before. But for some reason this particular instance caused me to completely flip my lid. I point blank refused to go anywhere near the cats, and freaked out if they came anywhere near me, my chair or my room. I spent pounds on flea treatments and sprays for the flat, which I used with abandon (I’m convinced this is the cause of my terrible sense of smell). I got to the point that this was all I thought about. I wore long-sleeved clothes right over my hands no matter the weather so I wouldn’t get bitten (or couldn’t see any bites), I refused to touch any item of clothing that touched the floor, I had really violent mood swings, stayed up into the early hours because I was terrified of getting into bed, and even when I did fall asleep I had nightmares that my bed was infested. I short, I completely lost my mind. Anyway, I was finally persuaded by my mother, who has struggled with depression for years and could see where I was going, to seek help. Sadly the options available in the UK are beyond inadequate. Everywhere I turned I found waiting lists several months long. I wanted help so badly. This might sound facetious, but there were many, many times I yearned to be locked away in a padded cell, purely because it would get me out of that flat, and if that option had been presented to me I would’ve taken it in a heartbeat. I’d come to see the cats as the enemy, and while I was never physically violent to them (that would’ve involved touching them) I was not shy about verbalizing my feelings, loudly and often. The younger cat, Tom, eventually became so afraid of me that he ran away. The elder one, Tabby, stuck around because she was old and terrified of going outside.

    Finally I managed to get proper counselling, which helped immensely. I was prescribed antidepressants, but I wouldn’t take them. I’m not a doctor or a psychiatrist and I know drug therapies are a tremendous help to a lot of people, so I’d never dream of taking a Tom Cruise-like hard line against them. But I’d seen the side effects my Mum had endured due to the numerous pills she’d been prescribed, and there was no way I was having that. Call it paranoia on my part.

    Eventually we moved to a new flat and I slowly started to improve, to the point that I was able to tolerate being in Tabby’s presence. She died at the ripe old age of 24 just over three years ago. It might sound silly, but until the day I die my deepest shame will be that I drove Tom away, that I couldn’t bare to hold Tabby until the day we had to have her put to sleep.

    I look back now at that period, and I often wonder how much of what I felt and saw was in my own head. I honestly couldn’t tell you. I still have moments now and then. Last summer I noticed a small fly on my arm, and for just a split second that terrible, crushing fear returned. I have had a couple of relapses, and I know there’s a strong chance it could happen again, but for now I just try to get on with my life and hope for the best. The really sad thing is, while this ultimately experience benefited me (I met some fantastic, inspiring new friends, and spent several happy years doing volunteer work until my Mum took ill), if you were to ask me, “Could you go through it again, knowing the positive outcome ahead?” my blunt answer would be, no.

    Good luck, fellow traveller.


    • Ah the power of the mind. I wonder if we’ll ever know its true depths? You know, I can clearly remember crawling around in overgrown fields with my friends, investigating the wonderful world of insects with no fear whatsoever. It’s funny really, because I can trace each of my other phobias to specific events in my life. But not the bug thing… πŸ˜•

      Thanks for sharing master. Good travels to you as well! πŸ˜€


  6. I’d send you a hug, but hell, I don’t want no bed bugs :shock:. Kidding IzaakMak, just glad to know you are alright. Australia has a bedbug epidemic currently. Evidently they are spreading via hotels. They stow away in suitcases. Seriously, I’m scratching as I write this. So IzaakMak, I hope you will continue to take your meds, we don’t want you wandering off like that again without telling us where you are πŸ™‚ . Oh and β€œimmovable urban hermit” blahahahaha, priceless, ROFLMAO!!!!

    Oh and by the way that photo of the cruise ship freaks me out!!!!

    So glad to see you back xxxx


    • So glad to be back Loon! πŸ˜€

      Apparently the epidemic is worldwide. Hell, I couldn’t get anyone to help with the preparations because they were afraid they’d take ’em back home. What they know is that, according to the exterminator, many people are taking them home from places like restaurants and theaters! 😯

      When I saw that image I knew I had to include it here! πŸ˜†


  7. Note to everyone: I just realized that I misstated my hospital discharge date. I said that I was discharged on Jan. 11, when in fact I was discharged on Jan. 17th – after 11 days! πŸ™„


    • I thought the date must be wrong……….I got back from W. VA on the 11th, but did not read my e-mail for a week, starting classes and “homefront” problems…..I was also in a FUNK….by the time I called the VA you were gone. I still can’t believe I missed you!!!!


      • Don’t worry about it Rosie. With all the changes there I’m not sure you would have been allowed to see me anyway. They took my cell phone (that I had carefully loaded all my numbers into) and kept me locked inside the whole time where I couldn’t smoke or have any caffeine! In the old system, I could have earned privileges and used the Internet at the Day Treatment center. Hell, I don’t even know if the Day Treatment center is still there! 😯


  8. I was concerned about where you had gone to. I began to comment on older posts or reading a few, I thought that would be good πŸ˜€ This is the last thing I would have thought of , ironic I think now.
    I am glad you are back home and no sign of the bugs Yayyyyyy. πŸ˜€


    • Thanks Raven. I too am glad to be back in my bug-free hermit castle! πŸ˜€

      I saw where you’d visited some of my older stuff and I thank you for that too. I really do plan on answering all the comments left during my ab sense, I’m just not sure when I will. 😳


  9. Good to see you back. Keep writing, and stay on your meds! Not lecturing mind you, just speaking from the experience of a manic break with reality and a four day visit to the hospital under suicide watch ( I have a really nasty case of Bi-Polar disorder).


  10. hmmm yes, imagine that those tiny little critters can totally mess up your life. I have a spider in my room I’m sure because I saw it this morning and now I can’t find the bugger and that freaks me out so have to make a search before heading to bed… whoever knows what that spider is up to. It’s the first sign of the invasion in my view… πŸ˜€


    • Oh yes, you gotta nip those insurgencies in the bud before they flower. The one good thing about this nightmare is that the extermination preparations have forced me to clear out a lot of the junk that made my periodic (obsessive) encroachment checks difficult! 😯


  11. Pingback: Finding My Way Back | I Want Ice Water

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