As an arachnophobe, I know only too well the sickening feeling in the stomach that comes from hearing or seeing the thing that you fear so much. Mel from Melberryy breaks down the stigma attached to phobias and talks about her own experience of living with one.
Hey! So as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I’m writing for all you lovely people about living with a phobia. I have already done a post about this on my blog but I wanted to do a little sort of update. Also when the wonderful Rachel said she was doing a few guest posts in order to try and break down the stigma of mental health – I knew I had to be involved!
I’ll start with a little recap. I have quite a bad phobia of mice. Yes, I know how small they are, I know they’re scared of me and I know that they’re not going to hurt me (unless they’re actually a rat, which I’m also not a fan of). But I am still terrified of them. I started having CBT for this after finally speaking up to a doctor about it after over 2 years of it. But then I got a job in London and had to move back to the place where in my mind, mice are the biggest issue.
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I wanted to chat in this post about the main issues of having a phobia, and some of the repercussions and reactions to it. Basically, my CBT-lady said that the main difference between being scared of something and having a phobia is when it starts to effect your everyday life. I’ve personally developed a lot of weird habits that at the height of it boarder on OCD. For example, when I lived in halls where I first had a ‘mouse problem’ I used to only be able to sleep in the light, with the bathroom light shut and every bathroom surface smothered in bleach (the bathroom was where they came in, and I read that mice are scared of the smell of bleach). I used to, and still do, have excessive bleach usage. I still can’t sleep in silence or even sit in silence, and will intentionally go long ways out of my way to find less likely mice spots – especially on the Tube.
Whilst my CBT-woman said it’s a simple phobia – in terms of it’s one that only really has one level but it’s difficult as it’s not something I can categorically avoid. For example, if I had a phobia of flying, or needles, it’s something I can avoid and if I’d have to do it, I could mentally prepare myself as I would know it’s coming. Unfortunately, mice don’t come with little sirens or half an hour warnings, one could run out anywhere and anytime. This means that I am constantly on edge, with my eyes moving to every shadow, every slight rustle of the wind or anytime anything catches my eye. Normally, it’s nothing, but it’s hard to tell my stupid old brain that. And when I do see a mouse it feels like someone has taken all the air out of the room, I called my Dad in complete tears the other day because I had seen one and didn’t know what to do about it. It’s completely ridiculous, I know. I feel like an idiot, yes.
This often isn’t helped by how unaware people can be about it. I don’t like to make a deal of it, I just say I’m very scared of mice and leave it at that. But it’s hard to hide my panic attack of a reaction when I’m around people. Just to let you know, anything you’re gonna tell me about mice, I probably already know. I spent so much time researching them whilst in halls to try and see what I was facing. I know they’re small, I know they’re probably going to run away from me and I also know they don’t like the smell of peppermint. I do however also know that they can get used to sounds, figure out what noises aren’t ever going to hurt them, like the sound of people talking, and then get braver and braver about coming out around people. And yes, I do feel like such an idiot for being scared of a four legged animal that won’t bite and is about the size of my hand – I don’t need your help.
This is why I am so in support of breaking down the stigma for mental health. I know a lot of people suffer with things a lot worse than my phobia – but that doesn’t make it any better for me. I would love to be in a world where I wasn’t afraid or embarrassed to tell people that I actually have a phobia. Or that it brings me anxiety or panic attacks. Even more importantly I would love to be in a world where anxiety, depression, panic attacks and the like were not so bloody romanticised. It’s not cool. It’s not fun. I would never wish the feeling I have around a mouse, or a panic attack on my worst enemy, so I wish that people would stop making it seem like a ‘cool fad’.
Sorry, this kind of went off on a tangent. I also want to distinguish the difference of being scared of something and having an actual phobia. I am scared of fire, lightning and leaving plug sockets switched on when there’s nothing in them – but these don’t effect my day to day life. There’s absolutely no way on Earth you would find me chasing a mouse, taking a picture of a mouse or even watching a mouse on flipping TV. And there’s the difference.
If any of you guys reading this have any similar issues, feel free to of course email/tweet me. I hope I’ve helped clear up some of the differences between phobias and being scared. As for me, it is gradually getting better. I saw a mouse on the Tube the other day and whilst I freaked out at first, I did end up laughing at it for a bit, it was on the platform stuck and didn’t know how to get back to wherever it came from. Whilst it sounds a bit cruel written out, it was a big deal for me, because I didn’t cry! Things will start getting better – you just have to be patient. The main deal for me is not letting it dull my sparkle, I will not be beaten by this – it isn’t going to win.