Don’t fear them. They’re friendly
No. You don’t understand.
I’ve been having night terrors about being covered in ants since I was less than 2 years old. Every night for years I woke up screaming, and shaking.
As a child I tore the skin off my arms in huge scratches, trying to get the bugs off.
When my mania or my migraines get bad, I hallucinate bugs. When I get stressed, I hallucinate bugs. I have a neurological condition called formication which causes me to feel like there are ants crawling on my skin. This causes me to hyperventilate and scratch my skin until it bleeds.
So, when I see an ant, I get scared. It’s an irrational, honest-to-God phobia. And I can usually deal with one.
But there are dozens of them swarming around my kitchen. I see them and I scream, and I shake, and I hyperventilate and I cannot help the sheer terror forcing itself through my body. I can’t help the compulsive need to scratch my skin off, to shower for hours, to self-injure.
I am terrified of ants, okay? I’m in therapy, I’m trying to deal with my anxiety, but it is completely unhelpful to tell me “Don’t fear them.”
You don’t think I hate myself for my phobia? I do. I despise myself. Why am I so terrified of harmless, tiny bugs? I’m being stupid and ridiculous. I deserve to be laughed at, to be beaten, to be ridiculed. That’s what my mental illness tells me. I know I’m overreacting. I am capable of looking at this logically. That doesn’t mean I am capable of turning off my fear.
I am aware that this is a ridiculous reaction. That my phobia is stupid. I can’t just wish it away though, so don’t tell me “don’t fear them, they’re friendly.” It’s about as helpful as telling a depressed person, “be happy!” Mental illness doesn’t work that way.