My Battle Against the Mice: Week One

The last week, I’ve been dealing with a really disgusting problem: Mice.

Around 12:30-1 a.m. last Sunday night, after the Oscars, I discovered mouse poop in the corner of my dining room. That’s when the investigation began.

It was everywhere. It was in all the places I normally don’t see, so I wouldn’t know it was happening. It was under my sink (along with a chewed-through bag of dog food. Which is now gone, along with the rest of the dog treats I’d stored there.) It was behind my couch. It was behind my dresser. It was underneath the recliner that was right next to my bed. It was in my water heater closet. There were even a few little mouse droppings in one corner of my bathroom, underneath the bathroom cabinets.

The intense cleaning period started. I vacuumed everything (sorry to my downstairs neighbors for doing this in the middle of the night!). I Lysol’d. I disinfected. But the battle was far from over.

I finally gave in to realizing how late it was and knowing I had to work the next morning, and tried to go to sleep around 3 a.m. But 3 turned to 4. I couldn’t sleep. My anxiety — which can be very strong at times — was too intense. I couldn’t stop thinking about the mouse, the mice, being everywhere. Having free reign of my apartment. Crawling on me in my sleep. I finally fell asleep after 4, only to have dreams about mice and wake up at 7, unable to sleep again.

I called my apartment complex Monday morning. I knew maintenance was coming to replace my water heater, because there was a leak — which I now guessed might be mouse-related — and I asked if they could check to see if they thought mice were getting in there. They confirmed that they saw mouse droppings and said they’d call an exterminator, who would be out on Wednesday.

I still couldn’t sleep Monday night. The same thing happened. I fell asleep at my boyfriend’s in the evening, but then I returned home and couldn’t sleep (and not because of the nap…I nap almost every time I’m there).

So I let the terrorists win, as they say. I stopped sleeping at my apartment, instead staying at my boyfriend’s house. Which I’ve done every night since Tuesday night. I’d stop home for a little while after work to clean and check for new activity, then I’d go back to his house. (Thank you to him and his mom for putting up with me and my crazy. And Norm.)

Last night, I finally told myself I’d sleep in my apartment again. I hadn’t seen any new signs of mice activity that I knew of — every time I found new mouse poop, I attributed it to the fact that my vacuum hadn’t swept it all up before. It was in places I hadn’t been as vigilant. So, it probably wasn’t new.

But then my boyfriend used a Rug Doctor in my room, and I didn’t want to put my bed back on the wet carpet. I have no bed frame — just box springs and a mattress (which is part of the reason I don’t want to sleep in my bed) — and I was worried I’d trap water and moisture underneath, which would lead to mold. So back to his house we went.

Which brings us to today. I came home, determined as ever I’d actually sleep in my own apartment tonight.

And that’s when I saw it.

Two new mouse droppings under my kitchen sink.

Back to square one. Back to another round of sanitizing and disinfecting.

Back to extreme levels of throwing away unopened food. (I’d previously thrown away everything under my kitchen sink and everything on my counter, even though there was no sign of activity on my counter. I’ve now thrown away all food except for what is in my fridge — and that may even be next.

And maybe, back to being unable to sleep. Only time will tell. But I’m guessing if I stay here…I’ll be back to being unable to sleep. Even sitting on my couch, typing this, I look around quickly and alertly every time I hear the slightest noise in my apartment. And mice are nocturnal, mostly. What kind of sounds will I be able to handle hearing at night?

I know I shouldn’t be this terrified. But this is one of those things that is proving too much for my anxiety to handle. I can’t stop thinking about mice being everywhere. I keep checking for mouse poop at work, at my boyfriend’s, on the street. And I know mice are literally everywhere. And I’ve stayed places before where mice have been. But something about this is different. This is my home. And in my home, it’s not OK.

Since the exterminator’s traps don’t seem to be doing anything, we may be moving on to Phase 2: More traps and steel wool.

Until next time…

Being a Hypochondriac

I’ve known for a while that I have bouts of hypochondria. I think it traces back to when I was younger, maybe 11 or 12, when my primary care doctor sent me to a dermatologist because he didn’t like the look of one of my moles, and he just wanted me to get it checked out by a specialist, just in case.

I don’t remember the whole time between the two appointments, but I do remember one specific day. I was at the fair, I think, with my mom and sister. There may have been someone else with us, but I can’t remember now. I just remember that I couldn’t stop worrying about that mole.

I could see where my doctor had a small amount of concern. It wasn’t circular. Instead, it was shaped almost like a lumpy cross. I prayed and prayed that it was nothing. That I’d be OK. And I found it so ironic that my “Jesus mole,” as I had deemed it, was the one that caused me such worry.

That mole turned out to be fine. But I never forgot how worried I was. And I never forgot how the doctor told me I was at a higher risk for melanoma because of all my moles. And I never forgot that the doctor told me I had a large mole on my back that I should watch: As long as it didn’t change, it should be OK.

Fast forward to two years ago, when my hypochondria hit an all-time low. (High? It was intense, is all I know.)

I looked at that mole every day. But not just once a day. I looked at it almost incessantly. I would look at it again just one minute after I looked at it, telling myself I hadn’t looked well enough and needed a second look. I cried. I got to the point where I had a breakdown at least once a day, because “I didn’t know if it was changing.” I found a second mole to worry about.

I finally got put on an antidepressant to control my anxiety. The hypochondria was bad, but I also struggled with anxiety and panic attacks due to other causes.

That helped, but it’s not completely gone. Here are a few examples of what being a hypochondriac is, in my experience, over the last 12 years.

Being a hypochondriac is: Worrying that you’re pregnant when your period is late, even when you’ve never had sex, which would make it impossible.

Being a hypochondriac is: Learning someone you know once had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and determining that bump on your shoulder — which you thought was a cystic acne bump — is the same thing.

Being a hypochondriac is: Determining a spot on your leg is definitely squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma.

Being a hypochondriac is: Learning you have a mouse in your apartment and immediately researching the bubonic plague, its symptoms for humans and dogs, and how many cases in the US are reported per year to learn your chances…just in case.

Being a hypochondriac is: Worrying that a bump you feel in your shin is bone cancer before remembering you ran your shin into a car earlier that day when helping a friend pack.

Being a hypochondriac is: Having digestion issues and determining it’s colon cancer.

Anyone else living with hypochondriac struggles?

(Just to update, mostly so no one comments and freaks me out about how I may actually have something wrong with me: I’m seeing a derm for the back mole (which has not changed), leg spot and shoulder bump later this month. My primary doctor wasn’t concerned about any of them, but I want to get the mole removed anyone just because of its location, and I figure it wouldn’t hurt to ask about everything else. Oh, and my digestion issues only lasted a few weeks.)

crushcrushcrush

My stress is a corset.

Each task pulls the strings tighter, crushing my lungs. I panic, grappling at the ties, trying desperately to free myself. My vision wanes, the lack of air creating a haze.

I feel hands reach out. Blindly — afraid the hands will pull the strings tighter and bring about the end — I pounce, clawing at the predator. I hear him cry out.

It’s only then I realize what I’ve done. Those hands, mysterious hands, longed to loosen the corset.

And they have.

But the hurt hands back away slowly, turning away from my hands, which can only cause harm.

The corset is gone, but the weight remains. This time, it’s not just crushing my lungs, stopping my breath.

This weight pushes me deeper into the ground, where it will leave me, alone, as it does best. The weight is a tricky beast. Sometimes, I need help to lift it. But it gets into my brain, and it makes me drive away all those who are willing to help.

The weight leaves me, alone.