When Anxiety Takes Control
(Thoughts From Therapy)

Hello! Happy Tuesday! Happy fourth day of fall!

OK. Here’s the thing: I kind of feel like I’m going insane. I wish I could say that I feel SOMUCHBETTER since writing my last post about our flea sitch but that would be a lie. The truth is, I haven’t felt this anxious is a loooooong time.

Sometimes I’m fine. Other times I’m on the verge of tears. The reality is nothing in my life is that bad. Aslan has fleas. BIG DEAL. Nothing is life-threatening. My house hasn’t burned down. My husband hasn’t left me.

Aslan has fleas. That’s it.

THAT’S IT!

But that’s anxiety for you: making tiny things seem like the apocalypse since the beginning of time!

I’ve been going to therapy twice a week to help battle my mind.  Yesterday, my therapist suggested I write down some facts that I can rely on when my anxiety/OCD rages out of control.  So, I thought, why not write them here!? For all to see! Because maybe, just maybe, this might be helpful for you if you’re going through something similar.  So, here we go.

When Anxiety Takes Control-www.roseyrebecca.com

Thoughts From Therapy

  • Sure, we’re running around cleaning our house like mad every night and yes, it’s exhausting and annoying. But that’s all it is: exhausting and annoying.
  • This situation is TEMPORARY. As in, this is not going to be my life FOREVER. Even though sometimes it feels like it might be.
  • My life is NOT my obsessive thoughts. Several times over the past week I’ve found myself worrying that I won’t be able to enjoy different events coming up in my life because of the flea situation. This is just not rational. The flea situation is one minor part of my life.
  • Take it one worry at a time–not all at once. Thinking about all the “what-ifs” at the same time is what overwhelms me. Think about each possible situation without bringing up the whole umbrella of things that could go wrong.

I feel like there were more things we went over that I swore I’d remember after the appointment was over.  I should probably start taking notes.

Anyway, if you don’t suffer from a mental illness, I can see how all of this might seem excessive or silly to you.

I mean, yes, in my logical brain, I know full well that the world isn’t ending because Aslan has fleas. The thing is though when you have anxiety or OCD or depression, or any other mental illness, sometimes events that seem completely insignificant to one person, can be a trigger for someone else. And when something triggers you, it’s not really the source of the anxiety that’s troublesome, it’s the anxiety itself.

For example, for as long as I can remember, I’ve had nightmares about bugs. It’s been so bad that at times I wake up on the complete opposite side of my room and flip on my light switch because I’m so sure that there’s a bug in my bed.  Then my logical brain calms me down and I realize that I was just dreaming. Bugs are a trigger for me.

So, yes, to a person not suffering from anxiety/OCD  like I am, fleas might seem like no big deal, just an annoyance. To my anxious mind, they are everywhere, on everything and we’ll never get rid of them. Logical? No. But my anxiety is REAL and it takes real work to calm it down. So while one person might say, “ugh this is annoying!” on the very first day they find out they have fleas, I have to say it repeatedly every day to convince myself that that’s really all it is: annoying, not the end of the world.

I talk about this in so much detail because I feel like sometimes it’s hard for people who don’t live it to understand it.  I feel like a lack of understanding is why mental illness is stigmatized in society. I say this a lot but I know that it’s worth repeating: mental illness is real and it’s important that it be taken seriously.

When Anxiety Takes Control-www.roseyrebecca.com

You truly never know what someone is going through. Even if someone’s life seems absolutely perfect, it’s important to show compassion.

I’ll admit that sometimes I feel crazy. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never get my unsettled mind under control. As someone who puts it all out there on the Internet for everyone to see, sometimes I ask myself, “what would my readers/friends/family think if they knew that sometimes my life isn’t as together as it seems on the screen?” I ask myself, “how can I possibly write here in this space and have anyone take me seriously when my mind is a jumble of irrational thoughts on a semi-daily basis?”

But then I remind myself that this is real life and this is MY blog. I’m not going to sugarcoat my life to you and act like everything is hunky-dory. Because, honestly, nobody’s life is perfect, as much as they might pretend that it is on Instagram or Facebook.

If I’ve learned anything from blogging for the past nine years (nine years!), it’s that it’s important to be real and honest in this space. I am not going to lie to you. I’m not going to throw up a recipe post with a Pinterest-perfect image and pretend like I’m not struggling.  I am struggling. That’s just the way my life is sometimes. Because I have a mental illness. And it’s OK to talk about it.

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The Frantic Fantastic
Flea Fiasco of 2018™

Then the vet tech came back into the room to administer the treatment and sitting right there on Aslan’s sneaky little fur-covered neck was a flea. “Oh, there’s one!” the vet tech exclaimed gleefully. Though I’m pretty sure the glee was just in my head.

“FUCK,” I texted Jeff. “She has fleas.”

“FUCK,” he replied.

And so it began, The Frantic Fantastic Flea Fiasco of 2018™

Oye.

The Frantic Fantastic Flea Fiasco of 2018™- www.roseyrebecca.com

I hesitated to write this post because frankly, I’m a bit embarrassed, but I find myself on the constant verge of either laughing or crying (or doing both at the same time) due to our current predicament, so I figured I’d do what I always do when I feel like my head is about to explode:

Write.

So Hi. Hello. I’m here. I’m here and currently dealing with fleas. FLEAS! Fleas on our indoor cat, Aslan, who I naively assumed couldn’t get fleas because she’s an indoor cat. WRONG.

Remember those outdoor stray cats I was so in love with a few weeks ago?  Well, the fleas likely came from them. Likely. But there’s really no way to know. They could have come from anywhere.

The Frantic Fantastic Flea Fiasco of 2018™- www.roseyrebecca.com

Still, I find myself blaming the outdoor cats. I mean, we just had them trapped and neutered and re-released in our yard and this is how they thank us. We did a good thing! We even argued with people on the Internet about doing this good thing! And this is what happens. This is not how karma is supposed to work.

In my head, I can’t separate the two situations: on one hand, we did something good by taking care of the strays, on the other, we’re stuck with fleas now because of it. I know they are two completely different things. We are still good people for taking care of the cats, but where I used to gaze at my backyard cat crew lovingly, I now scowl in their general direction.  I mean, I know it’s not really their fault and I’m definitely not being mean to them but they’ve definitely encountered the occasional stink eye from me over the past several days.

On the bright side, we are the proud new owners of a super expensive Dyson vacuum, which I guess makes us real adults now. That’s how it works, right? Go to college, get married, buy-and actually get excited about- an expensive vacuum cleaner.

The Frantic Fantastic Flea Fiasco of 2018™- www.roseyrebecca.com

Welcome to Adulthood!

Our house is also the cleanest it’s ever been, which is, honestly, a frickin miracle because I hate cleaning. Let me say it again:

I

Hate

Cleaning

I avoid it at all costs. But I can’t now. Facing my demons and all that, I guess.

Whatever.

It’s fine.

I mean, FLEAS, though. Fleas. What the heck, man?

*Deep breath*

OK. Hi. Hello. I am here.

The Frantic Fantastic Flea Fiasco of 2018™- www.roseyrebecca.com

Let me back up for a minute and explain how this whole fiasco came to be.  If you follow me on Instagram and watch my stories, you may have seen that Aslan had a seizure a couple weeks ago. She’s OK (well, aside from the fleas) and the vet gave her the all clear, so when she started to change up her sleeping spots a week or so ago, we just assumed it was some weird side effect from that.

Meanwhile, one of our outdoor friends got super spoiled and started jumping up into our window and staring at me through the screen, as if to ask, “hey, where’s my freaking food?” Aslan didn’t like this one bit and subsequently jumped into the same window  to mark her territory.  Turns out, that territory just so happened to also be inhabited by fleas. That’s what we think, at least.

When I first noticed Aslan scratching I didn’t think much of it. A few times Jeff and I jokingly yelled at her, “you better not have fleas!” and then we laughed and laughed. She was an indoor cat, after all. No way she had fleas.  We noticed some scabs on her neck on Sunday night and decided a trip to the vet would be in order for the morning. I was still in so much denial that she could have fleas. Just last week I was cuddling her and thanking her for not being dirty and gross like the outside cats. Then the universe was just like, “Mwahaha! That’s what you think, Rebecca!”

The Frantic Fantastic Flea Fiasco of 2018™- www.roseyrebecca.com
Aslan cuddling with me before we realized she had fleas. Ahhhhh!

The next morning I brought her to the vet and at first, they were pretty positive it was just a skin infection and definitely not fleas. The vet decided to treat her just in case, with both a steroid shot to ease her itching and a flea treatment on the back of her neck.

I texted Jeff immediately and was all, “HA HA! NO FLEAS!”

Then the vet tech came back into the room to administer the treatment and sitting right there on Aslan’s sneaky little fur-covered neck was a flea. “Oh, there’s one!” the vet tech exclaimed gleefully. Though I’m pretty sure the glee was just in my head.

“FUCK,” I texted Jeff. “She has fleas.”

“FUCK,” he replied.

And so it began, The Frantic Fantastic Flea Fiasco of 2018™

I left the vet with a flea-infested cat and a can of Knockout flea spray. The vet told me that she still didn’t think I had to worry about a house infestation and just to vacuum daily, wash my sheets in hot soapy water, and spray whatever I couldn’t clean with the other two methods.

At this point, I wasn’t too freaked out. I dropped Aslan off at home, locked her in a spare bedroom and sprayed all the area rugs, curtains, and furniture.  THERE, I thought! That should do the trick. Then I escaped to a coffee shop for the day.

When I got home later that night I released Aslan from her flea prison and let her roam the house. She immediately ran straight upstairs and jumped onto a white blanket in a laundry basket. Two seconds later, she hopped out, and right there, on top of the blanket were three or four tiny, disgusting bugs crawling around. I. Freaked. Out.

The Frantic Fantastic Flea Fiasco of 2018™- www.roseyrebecca.com
The Aslan Flea Basket of Death

Jeff had been out all day at meetings and I immediately called him and told him to get home right away.

“THERE ARE FLEAS EVERYWHERE!”, I screamed, effectively scaring Aslan back down the stairs. I ran after her and watched her jump right up onto one of our cushioned dining room table chairs. “AHHHHHHHHH!!! NOOOOOO!!!” I screamed!

I locked Aslan in her flea prison again ran around in circles freaking out and screaming until Jeff got home. Used to my anxiety after 13 years together, Jeff calmly suggested we go get dinner and buy a new vacuum since our current one sucked (but really didn’t suck at all, which is why we needed a new, fancy adult one). We went to Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack, where I sobbed into my vegetarian chicken wrap and convinced myself that the world was ending and that we’d need to get rid of Aslan forever.

I cried all the way to Bed, Bath & Beyond where we officially became adults and handed over all of our money at the same time. We then proceeded to clean every inch of our house until 1:00 in the morning.

Sheesh.

The Frantic Fantastic Flea Fiasco of 2018™- www.roseyrebecca.com

The next morning I called the vet and asked if we could let Aslan walk around the house.  They said yes and assured me that any fleas that landed on her would die because of the treatment she’d received.  They also reassured me that as long as we continued vacuuming and cleaning our house daily that we wouldn’t have to worry about an infestation.

I feel it’s necessary to stop here and tell you that at this point, I hadn’t actually seen any active fleas in our house, just the dying and/or dead ones that were falling off of Aslan.  Still, my anxiety soared into overdrive.  I became obsessed with the thought that there were fleas everywhere. Anything that brushed up against my skin was a flea. My clothes were covered in them. I, myself, was in fact probably turning into a flea.

We went through the motions of excessively cleaning our house again on Tuesday night and by Wednesday morning I was overflowing with pent-up stress and anxiety. I called a pest control company and scheduled them to come out to treat our yard.

“Wait, you’re feeding the outside cats?” the man on the other side of the phone asked in a thick, southern drawl. “They’re gonna think you’re Mama. How are you going to remedy that?”

“I guess I’m going to have to stop feeding them,” I whined, feeling both embarrassed and sad at the same time.

On top of all that, the blog post I published on Wednesday about My Unhealthy Relationship With Healthy Living was unexpectedly BLOWING UP.  I became overwhelmed with both excitement at all the amazing comments and messages I received (thank you, by the way!) and consumed by the flea storm raging in my head.  Thankfully I had a therapy appointment later that morning and broke down as soon as I stepped through her office door.

“What’s wrong?” she asked as soon as I burst into tears.

“My cat has fleas,” I sobbed, feeling absolutely ridiculous for crying over such an insignificant thing.

During our appointment, my therapist calmed me down and confirmed something I had secretly suspected for years: I have OCD. Suddenly my anxious overreactions over the years made so much sense (but that’s a story for a whole other blog post). She said that anyone going through something like this would feel overwhelmed but it was especially triggering for me given my history with anxiety.  I told her my father used to obsessively check doors at work until he broke the locks, and that pretty much solidified her diagnosis. She suggested I read a book called Brain Lock and when I got home I obsessively googled the book, articles about OCD, and articles about fleas until I became completely overwhelmed and resorted to cleaning our house from top to bottom again. Then I went to bed and dreamed about fleas crawling all over me.

The Frantic Fantastic Flea Fiasco of 2018™- www.roseyrebecca.com

On Thursday morning, Jeff texted me on my way home from the gym with my worst fear, a flea had landed on his arm in our bathroom. This was the first time either of us had seen a real, live active one that hadn’t fallen off Aslan. I was surprisingly calm about it.  I told him that it was probably one that we tracked in because the yard hadn’t been treated yet or it was a baby that had just hatched and that was to be expected. (I was suddenly a flea expert from all the obsessive research I’d done.) I went on with my day and didn’t think much about it, aside from my regular frantic thoughts that every bug that landed on me was a flea or that any bite I noticed on my skin was a flea bite. (Later, I found a mosquito in my car that explained the random itchy bites on my ankles.)

That night, as I walked down our basement stairs to do laundry during what had become our new nightly cleaning routine, I tripped and fell down a few steps onto the dirty cement floor. I immediately burst into tears and called for Jeff. My foot was throbbing, my knee was bleeding and overall I just felt so much angst over the whole situation. Problem was, Jeff couldn’t hear me call for him because he was upstairs vacuuming.  As I sat on the floor yelling Jeff’s name louder and louder, I began sobbing harder and harder. By the time he heard me, I was so far past the point of being able to calm down that I told him to just let me cry for a while so I could get it all out.

I proceeded to walk around the house sobbing and mopping the floors, alternating between feeling completely horrified by the whole situation and amused by my current state. Thoughts about my father and his OCD suddenly popped into my health and I found myself blaming his death for the fleas. If he hadn’t left me here alone I wouldn’t be in this situation, I irrationally thought and cried even more. I eventually calmed down as we concluded our Thursday night cleaning ritual.

I removed my clothes, placed everything in a large plastic garbage bag and hopped into the shower–a routine Jeff and I had followed since we first learned of the flea debacle. After, I crawled into bed and waited for Jeff to join me.

“I saw another one,” he said as he came into the bedroom after his shower. “We’re just going to have to clean more.”

Feeling exhausted and defeated, I went to bed wondering if this was just our life now. Would we ever be rid of fleas?  Would I ever be able to snuggle and pet Aslan again without feeling completely disgusted by her?  Would Aslan ever forgive me for avoiding her for days on end and scaring the crap out of her with the vacuum every night? Would I ever feel comfortable and safe in our house again?

The Frantic Fantastic Flea Fiasco of 2018™- www.roseyrebecca.com

I woke up the next morning terrified to go downstairs, convinced that fleas had definitely taken over our whole house despite our best efforts.  I made my way down the stairs with a flashlight in hand, carefully inspecting the floor and released a sigh of relief every time I didn’t see anything move around.  Jeff and I both had 9 a.m. appointments so I sprayed the house like mad and we hightailed it out the door, but not before I accidentally misted some of the toxic spray onto my bare foot and freaked out about that on top of everything else.

Thankfully the appointment I was rushing to was with my therapist. On the way there, I called the company that makes the spray and they suggested that I rinse my skin for 15 minutes.  My therapist found me in the bathroom before our appointment frantically rubbing my foot with a wet paper towel, and because therapists are generally awesome human beings she didn’t judge me at all. In fact, she got a bowl from her office, filled it with water and let me soak my foot in it for half of the appointment. I felt completely insane.

In between soaking my foot and crying about fleas, my therapist suggested I come up with a concrete schedule for when to clean our house. She made me think about the situation logically and we formulated a plan based on that. She asked me to observe my thoughts during the time when I wasn’t cleaning and to write them down. So, here I am, writing all of this to you, completely embarrassed but also completely relieved to get it all out.  It’s true that writing is cathartic and if all I’ve succeeded in doing by writing this blog post is calming myself down, then I’m proud that I had the courage to go through with it.

The Frantic Fantastic Flea Fiasco of 2018™- www.roseyrebecca.com

And this is where this blog post ends, with no true conclusion. We are still battling the fleas. I am still battling my mind. I will hopefully write a follow up a few weeks or months from now with a much happier ending. Until then, I am trying to constantly remind myself that this is not the end of the world.  I will not die if a flea just happens to land on me despite our obsessive efforts to prevent just that.*

We will clean our house nightly for the next several weeks and have the cleanest house on the block.  I mean, we should probably win some sort of award, right? Maybe be featured in Good Housekeeping magazine? Because, suddenly, for the first time in my life, I WANT to clean my house constantly, even if it is an obsessive compulsion.

As for Aslan, she will continue to receive flea treatment over the next few months and I’m quite positive she’ll resume her rightful position as Queen of our household soon.

Finally, I hope that, if anything, this post has given you a few laughs rather than make you feel sorry for me because, really, our situation is completely insane and ridiculous and we WILL get through it. Life will go on, with or without fleas!

Have your pets ever had fleas? How did you deal with it? Tell me in the comments!

*Update: since writing this post on Friday afternoon, two fleas have jumped on my foot and I’m still alive to tell the tale.

Thanks for reading!

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Email: rebecca@roseyrebecca.com

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