Yesterday was an extremely stressful day. So stressful that I actually couldn’t go to work today.
The Stress Came First…
Yesterday, I had a performance review (they’re only just starting to do this, so it was more of a random 9 month review than the usual 30 days or 3 months or whatever). I knew about it since last week, and even though I knew nothing bad was going to happen, I was still extremely anxious about it. This is something I have always struggled with. I always think I’m in trouble and when it’s work related I always think I’m going to get fired.
Obviously, that wasn’t the case. It went really well. As I expected, but I was still terrified and was spending a lot of time in the bathroom beforehand.
However, that was not the worst part of my day and is not the reason I had to stay home today.
…Then The Phobia
I’ve had a weird phobia for as long as I can remember. I have absolutely no idea what caused it. There’s nothing I can remember that may have caused it, except for the fact that my imagination is excellent and it causes me to visualize things a little too well, so even someone mentioning something that seems harmless, it can make me cringe because I get a very vivid image in my head.
I’ve always been kind of hesitant to call it a phobia too because of the fact I didn’t have a good reason for it and it’s not even like a specific thing that I’m afraid of happening, it’s more that like a concept that gives me the heebie jeebies. That’s not even a strong enough phrase to describe it.
I’m terrified of fire. More than the normal person. That one has a certain amount of logic behind it.
Spiders freak me out, and killing them myself is not something I can do easily. However, I realized last night that that’s not a full blown phobia, and since being treated for anxiety, it’s actually gotten easier.
I can watch gory medical dramas and stuff and it doesn’t bother me…a lot. I mean, there’s a certain amount of cringe factor to it, but it’s not that bad. But there’s one thin in particular that I cannot handle.
And… Trigger Panic
So, a little back story first. My dog is one quarter border collie, and since moving in with my parents a year and a half ago, he’s been developing a lot of behaviours, especially towards my parents dogs, that are apparently typical of border collies. But the three years that it was just me and him, he did not have any of these behaviours, or at least not nearly as much as he does now. But he’s a dog, he doesn’t understand. He’s also incredibly smart.
My parents’ dog, Sadie, has a bit of an attitude problem (as many small dogs do). She barks at everything. Mosley figured out very quickly that her barking at another dog or people would mean that he would not get to meet them, so he started attacking her. It started out very harmless. I think he expected that her behaviour would change, but it hasn’t. It’s been getting gradually worse and worse.
Last night, when I came home, I had to go to the bathroom really bad. Partly because of my anxiety from earlier in the day, and partly because of the new antidepressant I started last week.
While I was in the bathroom, the doorbell rang. My mom went to answer it. Like always, I heard Sadie barking. My mom apparently went outside. I found out later that Meeka had been outside and I guess got bored with the backyard and wiggled her way under the gate (not the first time…she’s 13 years old, and a little senile). A neighbour had come to make sure we knew Meeka was out of the yard.
A few seconds later, I heard Mosley growling, I knew he was going after Sadie for barking. It got rough, and I heard my dad jump up and go after him yelling. It’s never been serious before. Sadie’s usually just a little shaken, but she’s fine. Then my dad started yelling that Sadie was hurt really bad. I’d never heard so much panic in his voice. I got out of the bathroom as fast as I could.
I was expecting that maybe Sadie was bleeding really bad or had a broken bone, or had hurt her back again (she had a pretty bad back injury a few months back). As I was coming up the stairs I looked through the railing, and suddenly stopped in my tracks, grasping the railing, my eyes shut tight.
I only saw it for a split second, but I knew I was not going to be able to handle it.
I can’t even say it without cringing and the visual popping into my head.
Her eye was out of the socket.
I cannot handle eyeballs.
I looked away so quickly I actually didn’t even know which eye it was until this afternoon.
I cannot watch people put on mascara or put in contacts or try to get something out of their eye. I didn’t start wearing mascara myself until I was 18. Eyeliner is hard too. I also can’t wear contacts.
My favourite (current) show, Orphan Black, shot a pencil into a character’s eye. I couldn’t look at the screen for a good 5 minutes.
Whenever things come close to my eyes or someone else’s, or someone mentions something about eyeball exploding or popping out or whatever, it makes me cringe because I immediately get bombarded with intrusive thoughts with vivid visuals of bad things happening to eyes. Even writing this right now, I’m having my normal reaction to it. Problem is, I now have a very real visual that I cannot seem to shake.
My dad was yelling at me to do something. I had a really tight grasp on the railing and no matter whether my eyes were closed or open, looking at the wall or something else in the house, I could not unsee what I had only seen for a fraction of a second.
I was shaking. My heart was racing. My mom was on the phone with the emergency vet, her voice shaking, occasionally stopping to yell at us to be quiet.
It said that I couldn’t help him. I couldn’t look at it.
He told me to go deal with my dog, who was now outside, at the door wondering why he wasn’t allowed in.
I used my arms to block my view of my dad and Sadie.
I was sweating uncontrollably. I couldn’t tell if it was the humidity or the panic.
I went the long way around the kitchen, my arms squeezing the sides of my head and my hands with a tight grip on my hair.
I went outside, having to stop Mosley from pushing the door open. I started yelling at him and swearing. I couldn’t even get my thoughts straight. I didn’t know what was going on. I wanted to hit him. To strangle him. To kick the living shit out of him. But I couldn’t even look at him. I was pacing back and forth on the patio trying to calm myself down enough to figure out what to do next.
I know he didn’t do it on purpose. He wasn’t trying to hurt her. He was trying to control her. He doesn’t understand what he did wrong.
I went back inside, having to throw him off the steps to keep him from getting in the house. As I shut the door, my dad was picking Sadie up to take her into the bedroom. I saw her tail wag as he lifted her. I knew that meant she was feeling ok. But I still couldn’t get the image out of my head. I asked my dad if he needed me to get a towel or something but I couldn’t look at Sadie.
I guess I was expecting there to be blood or something. I don’t know.
He asked me to get him a bandaid because Mosley had bitten his hand when he was trying to get him to stop going after Sadie.
I got him a bandaid and walked into the room sideways so I couldn’t see Sadie and set the bandaid on the bed beside him and got out as fast as I could.
My mom got off the phone and said which emergency vet they needed to take her to and they started figuring out what they needed to take.
I was pacing around the kitchen, my arms wrapped around my head again. My dad said something to me, I don’t remember what it was. All I remember is that I walked from the kitchen to the back door saying that I was just trying not to have a panic attack.
While trying to get organized he kept asking what I needed. I didn’t know. I started crying.
He said he wanted to make sure I was ok before they left, but I told him that I needed them to deal with Sadie, because I can’t. Just get Sadie to the vet. That’s the only thing that would help me.
Meeka was lying in the middle of the kitchen floor, just chilling, watching the chaos. Seriously, she’s the most chill dog ever. Except when she thinks she’s getting food, then she’s the polar opposite. Once my parents went out the door Meeka ran over to the window. I picked her up, hoping she’d cuddle. I held her in my arms for a few minutes while I waited for my parents to pull out of the driveway, trying not to look at Sadie in my mom’s arms in the front seat.
Meeka squirmed to get away, so I put her back down on the floor. She snorted and trotted back to the front door.
She sat at the door waiting for them to come back for a while.
I paced around the kitchen some more trying to figure out what to do.
Mosley was at the door, wanting in.
I opened the door a crack, and he smushed his face into it, as he always does whenever a door opens. He was bouncing with excitement, as usual. I yelled at him to stop. His ears went back, tight agains his head, and his tail stopped wagging. I opened the door some more and told him to sit on the mat.
He did. Then lied down.
He knew he was in trouble (he knows my angry voice!), course he didn’t know why.
I yelled and swore at him some more and then went back to the kitchen because I couldn’t look at him. I closed the dishwasher. I guess my mom had been in the middle of emptying it when the door bell rang.
I paced around some more, and then it hit. The panic.
I fell to my knees, crying and hyperventilating.
Mosley started towards me, because he always comes to comfort me when I’m upset. Normally, he’ll bring all his toys to me trying to get me to play. I think he knows it makes me smile. I couldn’t handle it. I’ve never been so enraged at him as I was in that moment. I screamed at him, “don’t you dare!” He jumped and started running back to the mat by the back door and then seemed a little confused and dropped to the floor against the wall by the kitchen table. I tried to tell him to go back to the mat, but I think he was too scared to move. I didn’t care. I had to stop looking at him.
Then I realized Meeka had come over to me. I shifted, shaking, from my hands and need to my but, and picked her up and pulled her into a tight snuggle. She put up with it for a minute, but then started squirming, so I let her go. I sat there, on the floor crying and hyperventilating for a good 30 minutes.
I couldn’t get the image of Sadie’s eye out of my head. Each time I started to calm down, it came back and I started hyperventilating again.
Mosley is usually the one to come and comfort me when I’m panicking or having an emotional breakdown. The fact that I couldn’t handle him being near me made it so much worse. I was incredibly pissed off at Mosley for causing this to happen. I didn’t know what to do.
My entire body was soaked with sweat. My face was soaked with tears. I just wanted it all to end. I didn’t know what to do. My entire body was shaking. I couldn’t move.
I had somehow shifted myself over to the wall by the laundry room. Still fighting the vivid image stuck in my head, I was so overwhelmed and I wanted it to stop. I started hitting my head against the wall. Hard.
It’s not the first time I’ve done that to myself, but it has been quite some time. Years. Many years. I didn’t do it hard enough to knock myself out, but I definitely gave myself a headache in just a matter of seconds. Although a stress headache was probably inevitable anyway.
Eventually, I calmed down enough to get to my feet. My legs felt like they could give out at any second. I decided that I needed to lock Mosley in a room so I wouldn’t have to look at him. Normally, the front office is where he goes, but I didn’t want him barking at people outside, so I decided the bathroom would work. I picked the garbage can and magazine basket and put them on the counter, in case he was in a chewing mood.
I chased him into the bathroom. He tried to escape downstairs and to the other room, but I screamed at him some more. Once I finally go him in there, I shut the door.
I paced around the kitchen some more, and remembered that my mom had some dinner for me in the oven. There was no way I could eat it. But I hadn’t eaten since lunch. It was now pushing 9:00. I knew I needed something. I found an apple in the fridge and grabbed some granola bars and was about to go down to my room when the house phone rang. I don’t usually answer it, because it’s never for me, and I have really bad phone anxiety, but I knew it might be my parents, so I looked at the phone number. My dad recently got a new number, and I don’t remember it, but it looked familiar, so I answered it. It was him. He just wanted to tell me Sadie was being treated and to make sure I was ok.
I went into another panic a few minutes once we hung up and I went back downstairs. I was hyperventilating so bad that my throat had dried up. I started coughing so hard that I started gagging. I almost threw up. I hadn’t eaten my apple or granola bars yet, so it was just several really intense dry heaves.
I had literally just told my counsellor, about 2 hours earlier, that something that calms me down or distracts me from negative thoughts, is watching something funny on TV. I had just started 3rd Rock From The Sun on Netflix, so I turned that on. I sat through an episode, playing with my tangle toys, trying to keep the image out of my head.
It worked for a while. Then my dad texted, asking me to start emptying the garbages in the house. I didn’t want to, but I did anyway. I did my bedroom and bathroom first. Then I went upstairs to get my parents’ garbage and the kitchen. I got it all out to the garage and went into the kitchen to put a new bag in the garbage can and compost bin.
I could see Mosley’s shadow under the bathroom door.
Once I finished with the garbage, I started to panic again, so I went back to my room and started Netflix again. I had a harder time following the episode I was on because I was still panicking. It was more like an after shock. Not as bad as the first one, but still pretty bad.
My parents called from the car to say that Sadie was going into surgery in a little bit and they’d go back to get her later.
They told me that apparently what happened to Sadie’s eye is extremely common in Shih Tzus. He started to say a little too much about eyes and I was picturing it again so I told him to stop talking about it. If it had been anything else, I would have been ok. I still would have been pissed off at Mosley, so I would have definitely been upset, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as bad for me if she had a broken leg or had her stomach ripped open and had been bleeding all over the floor. But no, it had to be her eye.
The fact that I knew she was going to be okay helped me a lot. The fact it was common and that the vets had seen it a lot was comforting. And they were pretty sure that her eye was still working and confident that she’d be fine.
But they needed to do surgery and to make sure the eye could heal, they had to sew her eye shut. They also had to put a cone on her because she was excitedly pushing her face up to the cage they had her in before the surgery. They told my parents that she’s a wonderful dog. The fact she was in a good mood was encouraging.
And what was even more surprising was that the vet thought that it happened because they were playing. Then my parents told them, no, my dog attacked her. I guess the vet then told them the behavioural stuff about border collies, and that its because he was trying to control her. But guess they assumed they were playing because that is usually how that kind of thing happens. It sort of freaks me out that it’s common, but knowing that she was going to be ok made me feel better.
Except, I still couldn’t shake the image.
I continued watching 3rd Rock for several hours because I couldn’t handle anything else.
My entire body ached.
I was so tired.
Eventually I turned the TV off and had a couple more meltdowns before I finally managed to climb into bed. It took me another hour or so to fall asleep. The last time I looked at the clock was around 2:30am. Eventually I fell asleep.
Naturally, I had dreams about the whole thing. Nothing gory, thank God. Just Sadie with an injured eye, getting herself into trouble because she was still in a good mood. I think that came from my parents telling me about her with the cone in the cage.
The Next Day
When my alarm went off, I knew immediately I was too tired. I set it for an hour later and tried to sleep some more.
I was still exhausted. Everything hurt.
I told my work that I had had a really bad panic attack and got very little sleep. Originally I was going to try to go in later, because I always feel super guilty about missing work, even if I’m extremely ill.
But I still felt like shit, at lunch time, so I didn’t go in at all.
I have a hard time looking at Sadie. She’s funny walking around with the cone on her head, but it makes me so sad that my dog did that to her. Her personality is still there, so she seems to be ok, which makes me feel better, but it’s still very difficult to look at her.
My not raging at Mosley anymore. I’m still annoyed at him, because he’s so fricken hyper, but I’ve had some good cuddles with him since last night, so I’m ok looking at him again.
I was worried though that I was going to wake up this morning still not being able to shake that vivid image, but God seems to have answered my cries to make it stop. It’s not completely gone, but it’s far less vivid and I have less of a physical reaction to it now.
My shaky, weak feeling in my entire body finally went away around dinner time. My throat muscles hurt really bad still from the gagging. It’s so weird how much it hurts actually.
My eye lids are still a tad puffy, but first thing this morning they were so bad! That only happens when I’m extremely exhausted.
It’s getting late now, and I’m still tired, but I think I’ll be able to fall asleep much faster tonight than last night. I had to take some melatonin last night because I was still wide awake at 2am, but I’m definitely sleepy enough now (almost midnight), and good timing that I’m finishing this story off now.
I’m sorry it’s so long, but if you’ve read this far, you are an incredible human being! I don’t expect anyone to read it all, but it helps me to write it out, so…..yeah.
Update: After posting, I decided to Google ‘eye phobia’. No idea why I never did before. I Google everything else. Apparently it is a real thing! It has a name! Ommetaphobia.