Archive for October 9th, 2010

Warning: This post may be triggering. Please proceed with caution.

Wet hair.

My heart is very far away.

Something I am not often honest about, either on this blog or in any other area of my life, is how often my actions are controlled by anxiety and fear.

A friend of mine recently wrote a post on her private journal about fear, and how it governs the lives of most people who are marginalized in any way. And it has gotten me thinking about fear and how it affects my life a lot recently.

I have mentioned on here, once or twice, that I lived for a year with bed bugs. It had nothing to do with my sanitary habits, and everything to do with moving into an apartment building that was already infested, and an unscrupulous agency that declined to let me know that when I moved in, and later on denied that it was the case. I couldn’t get out of my lease, and despite numerous attempts at treatment (that apartment was probably sprayed at least five times), they never went away. So I lived a hellish year where I spent whole swathes of time mortally afraid of sitting on my couch or armchair or sleeping in my bed, because I knew I would get bitten. There was no end to them, and although the bugs themselves didn’t intend any actual harm (they’re just trying to live, no malicious intent), it was very psychologically damaging to me. To this day, I live in fear of getting them again. I get packages of yarn in the mail, and they’re always in plastic bags, and I have to screw up my courage to open those bags, on the off chance that the sender (company or person, doesn’t matter) might not know they have bed bugs. Despite nearly freezing to death last winter because I didn’t have a winter coat, I could not bring myself to go to the storage unit where the majority of my clothing and books and wooden furniture live to get the things that would help me through the winter (I even borrowed a comforter from my aunt). It affects me still, in a very real way.

Today was the opening of the Metropolitan Opera’s new Live in HD broadcast season. For those who don’t know, it’s where the Met broadcasts live operas (about a ten or fifteen minute delay, just to be safe) to movie theaters across the country. And I was absolutely thrilled to find out that the first opera was Das Rheingold, an entirely new production with a stellar cast and a breathtaking set design. Bryn Terfel and Stephanie Blythe were main characters, and since I adore them both (especially Stephanie Blythe) I was just itching to go.

Until I realized it would mean I would have to go out to a movie theater. Bear with me here, this is the kind of logic my brain works with when my anxiety sets in.

There have been reports of bed bugs being found in movie theaters. Not really a surprise there, most people who have bed bugs might be carrying said bugs unwittingly at any point. That’s part of the way they spread so easily. Of course, that means that anyone who goes into a movie theater runs the chance of picking up a bug. The bugs don’t actually stay on your body, but they are perfectly happy to tuck themselves into a crevice of your clothing (your cuffs, for instance, or between your sock and your shoe) once they’re done sucking your blood. And you, unwittingly, bring them home and they set up shop.

At around this point, I started hyperventilating. I was at work, and I’ve learned to hyperventilate quietly, so no one noticed, but I was becoming incredibly stressed by the thought. I took a pill (emergency anxiety pills that I only take when having a panic attack or in danger of one) and eventually I calmed down and my blood pressure returned to normal. But every time I even thought of going online and buying a ticket to the opera, or traveling to a theater to see it, the panic set in again. I actually had to have two people verbally supporting me when I was online Thursday night to get myself to actually buy the ticket, and once it was done I became manic with fear and ran around my apartment like a crazy person. I flinched at every black speck and every time I felt an itch on my body, and constantly scanned my environment for any signs they could be around. Last night I found myself inspecting my armchair for bugs, because I was remembering the days when I would be sitting in another armchair (the upholstered furniture was all thrown out from the last apartment, so it’s not the same armchair) and would see a bug just trundling across a pillow like it owned the place.

Today, I went to the theater. I left my house around 11:45, the show being at 1, and stopped at Lane Bryant to place an order for clothes (they have a really good sale going on right now and I needed a few specific items), and then attempted to get on the highway. My GPS took this chance to utterly freak out and take me over and around back roads until I started screaming at it in frustration, my anxiety levels already dangerously high. Eventually I actually managed to get onto the highway and on my way to my destination. At this point I began shaking and taking out my fear and anxiety on every person who dared to drive below the speed limit or otherwise do what I might normally find frustrating but not get that angry about. By the time I got to the theater, I was nearly manic again. I could hardly speak when I went to pick up my ticket (I left my purse in the car and only grabbed my credit card the ticket was reserved under, less chance of bugs stowing away that way), luckily the girl knew what I meant. I had palmed a pill before leaving the car and I hurried to the water fountain to take it before I became even more overwrought. Then I stood in line to get my ticket taken and go inside the theater.

Once I had sat down (it was packed, glad I bought my ticket a few days ago) and the pill began working, all I felt was excitement. And oh, my friends, it was so entirely worth it. It was absolutely stunning. I don’t have words to describe how wonderful it was. The only way it could possibly have been more amazing is if I had actually been at the Met, although then I wouldn’t have gotten all the nifty closeups (oh, and Bryn Terfel and Stephanie Blythe are such amazing performers in every aspect, as were almost all the cast). The only tiny downside was that the asshole next to me spent the entire show farting, sighing and coughing. He very obviously didn’t want to be there, and it made me very angry that I had to sit next to him. Why the fuck did you pay $30 for the ticket, asshat? Urgh. Anyway, aside from his occasional sensory outbursts taking me out of the action, it was an amazing experience, worth everything I went through to get there. When it was over, I walked out barely aware of my surroundings, suspended in my awe and love for such a performance.

I spent a good deal of the opera with silent tears rolling down my cheeks, simply because of the emotions it evoked in me, but I cried a bit more as I drove home. I felt as if my soul were laid bare, as if the performers had reached inside me and shown me myself. That is the essence of good opera, my friends. That is the feeling I hope I can evoke in others, when I’m an opera singer. If I can make even one person weep from the strength of their feelings when I sing, I will consider myself a success.

Of course, once I got home, I stripped off my clothing and shoes, put them inside a plastic bag (airtight) and got in the shower. This was the method I used to safeguard my aunt’s house when I went to visit her during the Year of The Bed Bugs, and it worked for me then. My car will spend the rest of the day and most of tomorrow baking in the sunlight, in case any of them escaped into there, and then once I feel it’s gone long enough I’ll go to the store for some quarters and do some laundry tomorrow, including the clothing I wore to the theater. Luckily, heat over 100 degrees kills them, so once I’ve done that I should be safe (also why the car is left out in the sun, it’s still warm enough to get that hot inside the car).

The chances that theater actually had bed bugs are fairly slim, but this is how terrified of them I’ve become. My life is partly ruled by this fear. I’m hoping that sometime in the next few months I can actually see a therapist and perhaps I will be able to work through my fears and not spend every visit to a movie theater or every trip to a clothing store or any other normal occurrences in fear that I may pick one up (yeah, the clothes I got at Lane Bryant are baking in my car too).

I spent part of my drive home composing a fanletter to Stephanie Blythe. I don’t know if I’ll actually send it. The part of me that thinks about such things whispers that it would be better if I waited until I had a CD to send along with the letter, not that she would ever bother to listen to it (but, you never know…) It never hurts to try to make connections, after all, and everyone loves to hear about how amazing they are (well, every opera singer I’ve ever known, anyway). I don’t know. Now I need to go put some lotion on my dried out skin. Taking two showers a day isn’t very good for you, you know. At least I will have tomorrow to recover.


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