Monday, September 7, 2015

How a Question About Cockroaches Got Me Writing About Mental Health

Greetings FROM INDIANA, blogolicious followers! That's right, we have officially exited the Gates of Hell (a.k.a. the gates of Fort Hood, TX) and have no intention of returning. EVER.

Apparently, Satan wasn't happy about our departure, so he sent some of his evil henchmen to see us off. After living under his tyranny for just over a year, I would expect nothing less.

So, on our last day in Texas, I discovered a dead roach clinging to one of my sports bras. Thank God I wasn't WEARING the sports bra at the time, or I probably wouldn't have lived to tell the tale, as I would have likely bludgeoned myself with my husband's kettlebell in order to squash the (already dead) bastard, just to be sure it really was dead.

This is just how badly living in the south has scarred me: All I had to do was scream incoherent gibberish (okay, and a few VERY COHERENT profanities), and little Ollie knew what was happening. He came running into the room, yelling, "EWWW! Bug!"

Eww indeed. Silver lining (or, pink lining, since that was the color of the sports bra in question): At least it was dead when I found it.

Which is more than I can say for the colony of fire ants that crawled up my shorts at the playground later that evening.

You see, poor Trystan had been having constipation issues for days, and it was making him miserable. We took him to the playground for some exercise to try to get know...MOVING along. It worked like a charm, and when he finally pooped, I was so caught up in my relief over his LITERAL relief, that I didn't pay attention to my surroundings when I plopped down to change his diaper.

Ladies, you have not known pain until you've been attacked by fire vaginAnts. Holy freaking shit.

By the time we made it to Indiana two days later, I had welts all over my ass and lady bits, so we spent our first evening home at Medpoint, where I was stabbed in my swollen butt with a needle full of steroids.

Hopefully, I'm not drug tested at my next marathon. Hardy har har.

Have I mentioned just how much I hate Texas? Seriously, if the United States of America were a bag of Halloween candy, Texas would be one of those nasty taffy pieces of shit that no one really likes, but that heartless cheapskates insist on buying and handing out anyway.
For real, does anybody actually enjoy these? I think I'd rather get a rock, like Charlie Brown in the Peanuts Halloween special. It would probably be easier on my teeth.

As emotionally scarring as my horror-movie-worthy-bug-infested departure from Texas was, there was some good that came of it (besides the obvious DEPARTURE part).

You see, these traumatic bug experiences led to some seriously deep thinking.

Before I get to that, allow me to provide a little background info: My husband has this odd habit of asking me really stupid hypothetical questions (since he's apparently a giant toddler, and having two normal sized ones pester me with senseless inquiries clearly doesn't meet my daily quirky question quota). Past examples include: Would you rather marry Gollum or Uncle Fester? If you had to have sex with Grima Wormtongue or Beldar Conehead, who would you do? (I have an irrational fear of Coneheads.)

For the record, I went with Grima, even though I'd really rather not think about Frenching someone named "Wormtongue."

BUUUUUT....I just honestly don't think there is anything more disgusting than a Conehead. 
(Besides cockroaches, of course.)
*Shudders at keyboard, causing several inadverte507nqt ty8po=s*

So, back to the "deep thinking." As we were driving away from the Hell known as Texas, Andy asked me what I would choose if I had to be trapped in a coffin and covered in either (A) FIRE ANTS or (B) COCKROACHES.

For the first time, I found myself stumped. You see, I'm pretty sure that being bit or stung or whatever by thousands of fire ants would kill me. Like, pretty much internally burn me alive. (I have horrific reactions to bug bites.) But I'm also pretty sure that being covered by thousands of cockroaches would make me wish I were dead. (I have horrific emotional reactions to tiny demons tickling me with their freakishly long antennae while their beady little eyes stare into my soul.)

Cockroaches are effing repulsive. I know I joke about them a lot, but the truth is that I'm legitimately terrified of them. I've lost sleep over them. I've cried over them. I've screamed over them, and refused to enter my own house over them. I know it's dumb and irrational. A cockroach can't really hurt you. (Although, I did have a huge-ass one land on my head in GA once in the middle of a spin bike workout, and it sort of felt like getting thwacked in the temple by a hot wheels car.)

So, even though I knew that fire ants might actually kill me, or, at the very least, make me feel (ironically) like an ant under a magnifying glass, I'm pretty sure I'd take them over the roaches.

Is this all sounding a little stupid to you? That's probably because it is. I mean, it was a STUPID question about STUPID bugs.

**Note to reader: If you were looking for a lighthearted, humorous post about my hatred of cockroaches, you can just stop reading here.**

But here's where things get all serious and weird. Before I knew it, this insipid hypothetical question had me thinking about the power of the human mind.

Here's the thing: Physical pain sucks. But mental anguish can suck just as much, if not more. And as someone who has a history of depression and anxiety, I can tell you that sometimes the latter is a thousand times worse.

I've endured my fair share of bodily pain. I've had my ovaries swell up to the size of my head, broken multiple bones, suffered internal bleeding into my abdomen, run a 50 mile trail race, and had two human beings cut out of me.

And yet, the thought of a bunch of (theoretically) harmless insects crawling over my skin is pretty much unbearable to me.

Have you ever wondered why people cut themselves? Here's a truth I've not yet shared with you, loyal followers: I used to be one of them.

At my worst, when the yarns of my depression, anxiety, and eating disorder wove themselves into a cloak of misery that hid who I was, that threatened to swallow me up in darkness...

...I cut myself.

I cut myself to feel a pain I could label. I cut myself to feel a pain I could explain, a pain that made sense.

I cut myself to feel anything besides the mental and emotional pain that was just too much to bear (like the thought of thousands of cockroaches crawling all over me).

This is the same reason I starved myself for years. I wanted control. I wanted distraction. I wanted an empty stomach, something that could be both a literal and figurative black hole, something that could suck up all my feelings of pain and inadequacy.

Fear, anxiety, depression: They are real, and they are terrifying. They are so terrifyingly real that most people who deal with them would gladly embrace physical torment if it meant a reprieve from the emotional pain inflicted on them by their own minds.

So, I know this post is a little hodgepodge, and I've gone from being funny to being painfully honest and vulnerable, and I know that fire ants are a poor analogy for self-harm, and that cockroaches are nowhere near as destructive as mental health issues like depression.

BUT. The mind is a funny thing. A powerful thing. A scattered thing, and a scary thing. And so are the thoughts and words it manufactures. (Hence, the nature of this post.)

So yes, readers, my husband's stupid question about bugs led me here, reflecting on mental health issues. And while I'm here (and you are too, if you're still reading), I'd like to make a request:

Please stop making light of mental health issues.

Sometimes I hear people make cavalier jokes about cutting themselves, or starving themselves, or making themselves throw up, or even killing themselves. And it makes me cringe.

Because those aren't things to joke about.

Because they're not funny.

Because there are REAL people having those REAL thoughts, everywhere, everyday.

And they're hurting.

So please, think before you speak.

And look before you sit.

(Unless you want to end up on a mound of fire ants, like myself.)


  1. This is in parts hilarious and poignant. Very important thoughts you shared (on the mental illness as well as the ants!)

    1. Thank you! I think I've mentioned cockroaches in about fifty percent of my posts. Lol. Their repulsiveness fuels so many different writing fires.

  2. I almost didn't click on this post, because my stomach turned when I saw the title and I was afraid there might be a picture of a cockroach. I have abandoned blogs for less. My skin is figuratively crawling thinking about your sports bra - I probably would have burned it.

    As for your very thoughtful questions, I have experienced deep dark depression and some fairly intense physical pain. One advantage of the physical pain is that people can see it and understand it. Even if they tell you to "suck it up", at least you know they general BELIEVE you and they get it. People who have never experienced depression often can't get it, and it makes you feel more alone.

    I've also struggled with disordered eating, although not to the extent of having a full-blown disorder. I will try to think about context before saying something like "I'd have to starve myself to xyz." I'm not sure I'll never say it again, but at least I'll be more aware. Thanks!

    1. I'm so glad you found some insight in my post! It started out as a rant about bugs and just snowballed into something deeper. Also glad I'm not the only one with an irrational roachaphobia lol.

      I wish you peace on your journey with depression. So happy that posts like this can remind others they're not alone.