I recently had a nice demonstration of the difference between being On an SSRI and being Off.
Some six years ago, while I was Off, TrophyHusband and I moved into our first house. It was 200 years old, but had just been completely renovated. Which is how I knew that the wee baby cockroach creeping across the floor toward me when I got up to pee in the middle of the night had been imported from our prior residence, a slum of an apartment building—actually, from the basement, where we had been storing our boxed wedding gifts next to the leaky pipes and bare wires.
Bugs—especially spiders and cockroaches—being one of my phobias, I felt a bit woozy, but I talked myself through the squishing and flushing of the little fellow. I felt a little worse when I spotted #2, but I handled it. As I did with #3, #4, #5, and #6. At this point I was sweating, nauseated, and lightheaded, but I was keeping it together. A few tiny cockroaches weren’t going to hurt me!
Then I turned around and saw—the mother. This one was the size of a small mouse. I could hear the noise her legs made as she moved. She was moving pretty slowly, too—almost as if she knew I was too phobic to be a threat. There was no way I could squish this one. This one would crunch, and she might put up a fight.
I tried. I got around her and made it to the vacuum cleaner. Genius! I wouldn’t have to touch or hear a thing! But as I neared, hose in hand, she perked up and … scooted under the door into our bedroom, where TH lay sleeping on the mattress, which was lying on the floor. Surrounded by heaps of half-emptied boxes.
I lost my mind. I flung open the door, turned on the lights, jumped onto the bed and started sobbing and yelling. Poor TH leapt up, naked and disoriented. Finally he understood what was going on.
“Don’t worry, I’ll kill it!” he said.
“You’ll never find it!” I wailed.
He banged around, shoving boxes this way and that, and finally uncovered it and beat it to death with a shoe.
I started crying harder.
“What’s wrong? I got it!” he said.
“But I know there are moooore,” I sobbed.
That night TH had to feed me sedatives to get me to go back to sleep. The next day I began feverish research into how to eliminate cockroaches. The two most important things: 1. You cannot starve cockroaches. Even if you could remove every speck of food in every crevice of your house, they can survive on soap and candles. But you can drive them away by cutting off any access to water. Fix any dripping faucets (we had one), then plug all the drains every night. Leave no open water around, such as glasses of water by the bed. (Aaagh!) 2. They adore corrugated cardboard. They slip into those little tunnels and stay there all cozy until the lights go off.
I have never unpacked so fast in my life. I also trained myself to sleep through the night for the first time ever. I fixed the problem, but I had the heebie-jeebies for months.
Last week, it became clear to me that one of our rowhouse neighbors had brought in an exterminator and driven their roaches west. I knew this because one morning I saw one cockroach on our kitchen floor, then another on the bathroom floor, and finally one clinging to the back of my son’s t-shirt. But now, I am On an SSRI. Now, I was able to dispatch them all while hardly breaking a sweat, and when I didn’t have time to get all the plugs I needed to seal off all of our drains that day, I was able to wait another couple of days without any particular mental distress. I didn’t like it when I went downstairs in the middle of the night and disturbed two black shiny Hummers of the roach world—seriously, they were so big, you could see under them when they walked; if they were SUVs, they’d have really bad rollover statistics—but I didn’t freak out. (Where do those really big ones hide out during the day, anyway? They can’t fit into any of the crevices I’m aware of.)
Don’t worry, we’re on top of it now. You can come over and nothing nasty will leap out at you, aside from BadCat, who has conjunctivitis in his right eye and looks like an extra from a horror movie. But that’s a story for another day. Anyway, On is definitely better.