Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fear of Cockroaches: What Worsened Mine

Okay, I have recovered sufficiently from my previous post Worst Nightmare Cockroach Stories and will today, for my dear readers, relive one more traumatizing cockroach encounter.

Again, if you have a roach phobia, do not read this. Instead, read How to Overcome Fear of Cockroaches.

Cockroaches like dank, dark and dirty places. The home I lived in growing up had plumbing that went from the sink or any drain hole, into the big drain behind the house. Typical of Malaysian homes. Somewhere in the deep dark depths of that plumbing, lived a huge colony of American Cockroaches, Periplaneta americana. How huge? I'll tell you how huge in a future post on this Nightmare series.

The toilet / bathroom on the ground floor had one such drain hole. Malaysian bathrooms are wet bathrooms - taking a shower gets the entire (tiled) floor wet, and the bath water goes down a drain hole.   The drain hole leads to the cockroach colony. At night, which is when cockroaches are active, the critters would creep up the drain pipe, and through the drain hole, and into the toilet / bathroom.

Cockroaches come out from these at night.

I was afraid to use the toilet at night. When I absolutely had to, I used these semi-effective avoidance strategies. First I would turn the light on, without even opening the bathroom door. I would let be a few minutes. Since cockroaches are light-averse, they usually scatter when the light comes on. I would open the door a crack, making sure to look behind the door first, quickly step in, do my business, and get out, hopefully not having encountered any roaches face-to-face. A quick in, do business, out, was all I would hope for. I was usually successful.

Except this one time. I did the usual. Then when I went to sit down on the loo, I felt scratchy legs scurrying up my bare hip. With a wordless scream, not even looking to confirm that it was indeed a cockroach, I pushed it off me with flailing arms. It was a cockroach. It landed smack on the floor, then it made a bee line for the drain hole where it promptly vanished using the 'pendulum maneuver' (reported by the same roach researcher who uncovered the astonishing fact that at high speed, cockroaches run on two legs). Shudder.

Why can I not pee in peace? Tell me Why? At my most vulnerable, with my pants down, this dastardly creature would prey on me. Darn you Cockroach!

After that, I always, always, lifted the toilet seat to check under it, before sitting down. Did I find anymore roaches hiding out under there after that? Yes, occasionally. I am not sure why, but they also like hiding under the rim of the toilet seat. So I check there too. And also all around the bowl. And on the floor too. And the walls (roaches are good wall climbers).

I am so glad I live in PA now. It is cold. The roaches don't overwinter. I haven't seen one (the American cockroach) ever.

Ok, I need a break. I'll be back.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cockcroach Phobia: Katsaridaphobia? How did I get it?

Roach phobia also known as Katsaridaphobia / Blattodeaphobia.

Phobias Really Cramp Da Style
As in all phobias, roach phobia is irrational. It doesn't make sense. It is crippling.

People with this phobia do anything they can to avoid roaches. Unfortunately, avoidance is a tactic that would not really work when it comes to roaches, because these six-legged terrors are EVERYWHERE. And they are here to stay.

I was once a very successful roach breeder. Meet Big
Mama and some of her babies.
Ease That Phobia
I remember my earliest memory of roaches stalking me as a child (recounted HERE). I continued to have horrifying experiences with cockroaches into adulthood. Thing is, I dissected cockroaches in high school and also as a Entomology graduate student at Virginia Tech. And 'The Ultimate' - had a stint as Cockroach Rancher boasting 500 hissing cockroaches.

All this roach-handling should have blown away my phobia.

Well all that helped. A lot. But I'm still afraid of them!

(Read Fear of Cockroaches to help deal with the phobia).

How Do Phobias Start?
I delved into what creates a phobia, in the book Hypnotism: A Hypnosis Training and Techniques Manual and found that phobias can be learned, created by a traumatic event, or a way of coping with generalized fear i.e. by placing all that unformed fear into (for example) a fear of spiders. I don't think I have a 'second hand fear' - getting the fear from my parents - because neither my Ma or Pa are scared of cockroaches. My Pa, growing up, slept on the wood floor in the family grocery shop and had cockroaches running all over him all night. Roaches don't bother him at all.

My phobia most likely originated at childhood (which I talk about in my previous post).

Masochistic Me
Strangely, although I was terrified of roaches, I had a morbid curiosity about them. I remember picking up The Nest from the used book store, and tortured myself reading it from beginning to the end. It's about cockroaches that develop a taste for human flesh. I might actually even watch the movie The Nest.

By the way, while cockroaches won't bite a chunk out of your thigh, they do eat the skin and other particles that fall off humans.

Hmm, now that I'm thinking about this - could my hands-on approach to tackling my cockroach phobia have led to me study entomology? After all, I did take up scuba diving to face head on my fear of drowning. (I now love scuba diving, but am resigned to aquaphobia for life).

Do you have a fear of cockroaches? How do you cope? Or not? Would love to hear from you!

xo Gracie

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