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Curmudo - Personal Details Of Battling Worms - Printable Version

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Curmudo - Personal Details Of Battling Worms - curmudo - 03-22-2011 09:54 PM

Hi there - I have had a very sleepless night, found this site, and am wondering if anyone has any suggestions for me. If not then maybe some other unlucky person in future will at least know there is one other person that has been through this hell.

I'll warn you right now -- don't read on if you are bothered by graphic stuff. But this is a serious post so I am putting info into it. And trying to walk out my fear at the same time.

I have always been scared of worms, phobic, can't touch them, feel nauseous. I have (as an adult) tried to reason with myself and got as far as being able to touch them with gloves (I love gardening so there's no way to avoid earthworms altogether!). Same with snakes...have tried hard but cannot bring myself to touch them because the nausea is bad.

I have a recurring fear/nightmare and routinely check the toilet seat for hidden snakes, even in my own home. This is something I have never told anyone before yesterday.

So yesterday, I found a worm dangling from me while wiping. It later came out in my pants. To say I went into shock would be a mild statement. I am literally in a state of panic about going to the bathroom at this point. I feel like the worm is continuing to crawl out of me (or trying to) and then heading back up inside me. I feel so badly invaded by the thing I cannot stand to touch. This is seriously living inside my worst nightmare. I have had a couple of bad crying jags getting up enough nerve to pee once since yesterday at 5 pm.

And my phobia itself is causing problems because I need to get the worm out but I am obviously having trouble relaxing the muscles enough to do so. The emergency nurse was very kind last night but said eventually I will have to do this myself. There's just no other way to get them out. So I chose to at least come home and do this in private.

I "get" that no one would like to have this happen to them, even when they have no fear of worms. But how does one deal with it when -- in truth -- there was a whole lot of fear even when it (the worm) was over there....waaaaaaay over there on the ground wriggling around? Now it is (gag) inside me. And there's a good chance I will have to touch it again. Fight with it again.

(warning for a graphic part - it is large in size. I have read a lot of stories over the last 12 hours and sometimes they are alive. Great. That - of course - is the card I have drawn when very few people get this particular aspect to deal with. Most just see evidence in the toilet. Not me - I am getting the worst one has to deal with...nuff said)

My husband says he would just want it out of him. And I do, absolutely.

But here's the irrational part. The fear that is literally locking my bowels. How do I get past what getting rid of it/them actually involves! And where. So intimate. Kinda not easily visible. Not helpful when trying to deal with fear. I am shaking while writing this as Sign17 time marches on (how weird to find a wiggling smiley!) and there is only so long I can avoid facing what I am going to have to do.

OK. This is a long post, trying to get some relief by getting these thoughts outside my head. But if anyone has any suggestions, I am open to hearing them. I have never taken an anti-anxiety medication. I am heading to my GP for all the tests and medications, and I will ask about this. I would prefer if they put me in a coma until it was over but I know they will not agree with the risk!

Oh yeah -- the nurse told me she suffers from this same fear and said in a quiet voice she couldn't imagine what I was going through as a result. (She was very kind.) In any case, she also prepared me for what will happen when the medicine takes effect. And I've been doing some reading since then. It is perfectly possible that I will get huge masses of them out. I guess they will all be dead by then (and I will tell myself they are DEAD, over and over again I will tell myself this fact) but...yikes. Or long (it was about a foot long...enough for me to come close to passing out yesterday) - it/they can be tens of feet long.

Thanks for listening. Hope you haven't passed out yourself -- the title should be warning enough for the yucky content...Cool

[split] scared of worms and there's one inside me - Snooks - 03-24-2011 05:26 PM

This thread outlines the personal issues faced by Curmudo and her battle against intestinal worms. Thank you for choosing to document this issue and for assisting other people afflicted in this manner.

RE: Curmudo - Personal Details Of Battling Worms - curmudo - 10-01-2011 05:18 AM

Fall 2011, 6 months later: I wrote this journal when I had just passed through the peak of the horror. I was flush with my success at besting my fear. And now after six months, I can confirm that I have indeed bested my fear. I saw an earthworm the other day; no flinch, no emotion at all. Imagine! This is what people who are NOT phobic feel when they see an earthworm…absolutely nothing! Yay…Blob5

Six months ago, I was a gibbering idiot, and I mean that with much self-love. I could stand back and watch myself fall apart, babbling with fear, absolutely twisted in knots, unable to breathe, hyperventilating, almost psychotic from lack of sleep. I did not know I was capable of such fear; I did not know I had it in me to react so severely, to “lose my mind” in fear. And I have felt intense fear before, but not the intensity of phobic fear? Whatever the case, I was unrecognizable to myself when this thing happened.

I decided that I won’t edit my words, either their intensity or the sheer volume of relief that is pouring through them. While I was initially going to post this at the time it was happening to me, I decided against doing so, at that time. I have worked professionally with change and know that it can be illusory. While I certainly felt I was “cured”, I also thought it best to wait and watch for some time to see if more work was required!
(unequivocal answer: no!)

So if you are here because you need the help, you want the help to walk through the nightmare you are in, or even if you want to use my story to help you best your own fear unrelated to this subject matter…then read on. But before you do:


I am writing this post for someone like me. If it is going to bother you, then don't read further. I am going to share because the devil is in the details, as they say. The medicos shrug their shoulders and tell you it will have to happen. And it does, no doubt. But where the heck is the guidance on how you take those steps??? How does someone who is phobic do everything required to face the worm? I will get into details, hence the warning.

And it’ll be long. I find writing is cathartic for me, helps me to sort out my own thinking and move on. I liked to read obsessively when I was going through enormous trauma and lots of other people have since thanked me for my own long posts. It gave them some welcome distraction, some sought-for intimate details, and often a source of inspiration that would spark their own creative healing process. This is not an apology…more like an extension of the warning…Tongue

You have been warned. I document and share!

And I hope it goes without saying that if you have a phobia about bodily functions, why are you even reading this thread? Everything in here will probably trigger you, and you are not the person I wrote this for! This is real-life in action, and this is an action-oriented post, full of whirling thoughts as well as guidance on how I made it through the fire to the other side...when I did not have a choice, nor time and my fear was certainly NOT irrational (any longer).

Moderators – if I am breaking some rule or posting in the wrong place, please feel free to correct me, move my post, whatever. My objective is to help not hinder, and I am aware that detail can trigger others. Hopefully this extended warning is enough clarification.

I’ll also break it into smaller posts, albeit just the tiniest bit smaller than if the whole journal were together. Razz

OK - so just in case someone else comes here looking for a "how-to" guide with the title subject (gross as it is), I am going to share my journey on-line. I used to do a lot of forum moderating, and my professional life involves a lot of coaching. I know that people often turn to the internet during the most traumatic events in their lives, endlessly searching for a sense of meaning or connection. That's what I did and I paid it forward for a long time afterward because it did save my life. I was transformed in many ways by the help and support I found when I was devastated and then suffering from PTSD.

Note: this was years before the worm.

These days, I no longer have time for much Internet outside of work purposes. My time and involvement is limited, so when I have the opportunity to work something out on-line (as has happened from time to time in the intervening years), I do so unabashedly. It is a source of never-ending amazement to me how often we share similar experiences across vast distances and even cultures. So when I can share my experience on the Internet, thereby lending a helping hand to a stranger, I feel very fortunate. Not to mention, my own suffering has more meaning as a result. Wow – by speaking out loud about painful (or shameful, or humiliating, or terrifying!) experiences, I love to save someone from repeating my own mistakes. And as you will see If you read on (or you can skip to every 10th paragraph! Laughing6), I believe in celebrating my own hard-earned learning too. I love practicing and getting better at self-care. This has been an awesome learning experience as usual…the worst things either kill you or make you stronger, and that is often our own choice to make.

Spring 2011 -- Intro

I know first-hand that it can be very helpful to know someone else has made it through the same kind of trauma. And I am making it through this time too – even though the circumstances are remarkably different – the same way I learned a long time ago. One step at a time. Lots of deep breathing. And reading. And distraction. Most of all - being kind to oneself and listening deeply. Truly finding compassion for oneself, and deciding that you are totally worth your very best efforts.

I decided I will use the excellent information I found here to talk about what has happened and how I am dealing with it. After all, the medical side is what it is – the treatment for the worm is going to follow whatever set path your medical advisor has you on. What I want to talk about are the psychological aspects, the phobia “how-to manual” that is more like a big blank page, at least from the looking I did obsessively over a 12 hour period! It is hard to find any “how-to” if you are a worm-phobic person. What is the phrase? Scoleciphobia

I hope to also "report back" at least once more time so there is more than just the question left looming. For example, I discovered on another site that tons of people are terrified of exactly what I am going through! And they are yakking away amongst themselves about how scary they imagine it might be to discover a worm inside you.

But I don't have the luxury of just saying I am terrified - I have to actually FIND a way through it, without professional help (such as a therapist who specializes in the treatment of phobias, support groups, CBT, etc.) at least in the short-term.

(6 months later note: in the end, I felt so darned good I did not go to see a therapist. I simply did not need to do anything else.) Cool

I’ve found my way through the first big step – discovery and starting the medical train moving. There will be another big step (possibly) in eliminating the worm(s). And maybe, a repeat performance after that.

But for now – discovery and getting past the first hurdle (you know – getting back up on the horse again! We all have to go to the bathroom…aiieeee!). I really had to face my fear to get this far. That’s the story I was unable to find anywhere else. Maybe no one else has experienced this? (Odd if so, but perhaps someone will learn something else from reading this. Other than just a prurient reader! And yup, I know you are out there too since I have spoken to your type on more than one occasion).

I've seen the question (what the heck do I do??????????) repeated often on the web. But not much practical advice. So here's mine. Here are the steps I took and am continuing to take since it appears to be working well. Mostly I am going to talk about the phobia aspects since I think lots of other info is readily available on the web.

Yesterday morning I said: "I feel so badly invaded by the thing I cannot stand to touch." – OK, here’s the truth. (Warning: trigger) I couldn't even write it right out yesterday: I touched it. I really (really) touched it before I knew what it was. I pulled on it. With my bare hands. For several seconds. This is my phobia. It is touching worms. I can look at them (feeling sick) but I cannot touch them. I have tried but I practically go into convulsions at the thought.

Which is why THIS was this memory that was hounding me, over and over again. I was fully hysterical at points. I could not seem to get past the feeling of what I had touched. I could NOT get past it. I was freaking out, quite literally. Panic attack at its height, as bad as I remember with the PTSD. (Not as bad as the original trauma many years ago, but feelings are feelings at some point)

(6 months later note: "gibbering" - you know, babbling while rapidly flipping your finger back and forth across your lips. That is what sticks out in my mind as the memory of how I was. It was SO far from rational, and yet people kept looking at me and telling me that I had to do rational things! Well YEAH but ... blu-blu-blebebtee-blu - think gibbering!...absolute madness expecting me to do something rational! I could NOT relax my sphincter muscles. There was no collaboration between my brain and that particular portion of my body. I was astounded that people could not "get" this. I have since read that phobic people often face this reaction from others - "just step over the worm, it's not going to bite you!". uh huh.)

Here’s something else I said in my post yesterday: "I am obviously having trouble relaxing the muscles enough to do so." -- I would imagine this would affect anyone with this phobia. What is our natural fear response? To tense up. HA HA HA HA - try and RELAX those sphincter muscles when you are hysterical, remembering the touch. This was a huge hurdle to get past.

But. It. Has. To. Be. Done.

Everyone will tell you this. You are not stupid -- you KNOW this already. And no one can tell you how to do it, they just say "it has to be done".

There is no cruelty in this. For them, it is yucky. It is awful. Gross. Horrible. Unimaginable.

But… they don't have a phobia. It is just not the same for them. I get that. The divide is huge -- it often is between the person in trauma and everyone who is concerned and watching from the side.

So -- how do I convince myself (how do you convince yourself?), alone way out here (you over there?), that I can relax those darn muscles? Let's look at the self-help advice given here.

Oh yeah - before I say anything else, let me state the obvious: your fear of worms may be irrational but the fear you are feeling is anything but irrational. It is scary for anyone to have a worm inside. So every time you see the advice/comment about the "irrational" fear, you have to find a way around it. The advice is still good even though what is happening is all too real.

(6 months later note: I hear that from people whenever they learn what I have been through. "That would have terrified me!" When people really let themselves understand the experience, they too find it scary. And these folks don't have a worm phobia. So give yourself a break right off the bat. This fear is not "irrational". But!!! You still have to face it...) Cool

It's why I want to come back here, no matter how awful it is for me (i.e. what is coming in my near future, who the heck would want to talk about that afterwards????). I want to let you know what really happens to me and how I make it through it. I have read how others without phobias have responded so I do have some sense of what could lie ahead. I am not thinking too deeply about it (“what if”) but I am being realistic that there could be some really horrible stuff yet to go through. I’ll be really honest with you and tell you I am not in good shape so it is quite likely to be rough for me. If you are reading this, take heart. I am likely in worse shape than you. There is light ahead, don’t ever doubt that for a second. Or when you do doubt, come back here and read this again.

Hope is what you bring to the table. And determination.

...we're starting with step 10...

"What to do if you are having a Panic Attack"

I am going to start with the last one first and end with it again at the end! It is so important to keep reminding yourself:

"10. Be proud of yourself for your progress thus far, and think about how good you will feel when you succeed this time."

- I am doing really really well! I am thrilled with myself. I am succeeding and not only that, I have resolved to tackle my other phobias which I have not previously thought about doing. I am resolved that in future I do not want to find myself in the (perhaps literally) burning building, unable to cross over the narrow chasm because of my intense fear of heights. No way. If I can tackle this one, I can tackle anything. I don’t want to be hamstrung by my fear, not any longer. And the biggie – the worst one, claustrophobia. Yikes. I cannot watch a movie where someone is confined. Makes me ill. But that is for the future. And the reason I feel the future is because I am actually talking to you about this particular fear. This is quite the breakthrough for me. I am guessing that confronting one fear makes it somewhat easier to start looking at the others with some sense of calm. We’ll see what happens. For now though, I feel less fear about my other fears. Strange how this works.

- I cannot overemphasize the importance of CELEBRATING your successes! Every small step is fantastic, even if you then quickly take 2, 3 or 10 steps backwards. Every step will eventually take you on a journey. And from trauma, the good news is you are going up!

"1. Remember that although your feelings and symptoms are very frightening they are not dangerous or harmful."

- I found this first one both helpful and not helpful. My symptoms are actually both dangerous and frightening even though my feelings are “just” feelings. In other words, this IS really happening to me (the worm IS truly after me). It is NOT just a “what if” scenario at all. So being frightened is a normal response.

- but you know, there is such a positive side to this. I am DEALING with it. It is frightening and yet I am dealing with it. I am scared but I am taking action to deal with my fear.

"2. Understand that what you are experiencing is just an exaggeration of your normal bodily reactions to stress."

- I took a course many years ago from someone who was extremely knowledgeable about trauma and healing. We talked a lot about fear and its origins. As adults, we are often stuck in our childhood fear, thrashing about in the water, drowning, choking. But if we can only calm ourselves down, we can then realize that the water is not deep anymore. We think we are “drowning” and “choking” because we are thrashing about in the water! However, we are no longer the child we once were, and therefore we can choose to calm ourselves and be still. In that state of calm, we realize the water is only as deep as our shins and we can simply stand up rather than thrash around, feeling like we are drowning.

- I’ve read elsewhere about this worm phobia. It turns out that the phobia comes from trauma, often because kids threw worms or some other type of similar situation. I don't remember in my case. But it was helpful to me to remind myself that this desperate fear of worms came from my childhood. It was a fear I had when I was little. Lots has changed for me over the intervening years. My other fears have changed. Everything else that used to be scary has had a new perspective that I developed with height (i.e. those houses used to be SO big and the basements were SO dark and cavernous), with age, with knowledge, etc.

"3. Do not fight the feelings or try to wish them away. The more you are willing to face them, the less intense they will become."

- you can tell (and read) that this one I was doing from the first time I realized what was happening. I believe in honouring what we are going through. It IS scary. I really (really) wish it wasn't happening to me. But it IS happening, which is why I will not pretend I can hide from it, or avoid it. I know I have to face my fear. Head-on.

- the way I did this specifically was to let the information come to me in bite-sized chunks. If I couldn't say it, or think about it, I let myself off the hook. But I kept on trying. Little by little. I stayed there, with myself, not letting myself off the hook (I can’t – neither me nor anyone else has the power to change this situation, that’s the truth) but being so gentle with myself while I gradually lifted my head and opened my eyes to what I had to do, no matter how fearful I was. (And I howled…oh crap, excuse the pun.)

(6 months later note: I will emphasize this point – you cannot overload yourself by pushing too hard, nor can you let yourself off the hook by pretending there is anywhere you can hide from yourself! What I did specifically was to back off from the full-blown panic attack, let it recede - let that thought go, do my distraction, then try to get right back up on the horse again. Immediately. Again and again, and again and again. Cannot emphasize enough how exhausting change is, and how much we try to avoid it. But the breakthrough is SO worth the effort…) Blob5 <--- BTW: I hope this is supposed to be a happy person jumping up and down! That is my intention when using it...

- from a very practical perspective, I surrounded myself in the love of a close friend and my husband. She talked to the medical people for me. She let me have my space so while I was freaking out she could keep on talking for me. And I needed to pace and leave the room just listening to her tell my story – I couldn’t stay in the same room and listen to it told, let alone tell it myself. Having her there gave me the freedom to leave (i.e. be kind to myself, let self absorb and deal in small chunks) while at the same time she was telling my story and moving me forward into the medical system – a very necessary step. I could kill two birds with one stone. (She and my husband thought this approach up between them. They know me really well and gave me my space while still remaining with me in my trauma…a huge gift). Doing both of these aspects – and by that I mean: letting myself do what I needed to do while letting others do what needed to be done for me – gave me a sense of control over the uncontrollable. It gave me a space where I literally felt myself honouring my phobia, respecting my fear, and sending it the clear message that things were going to have to change, like it or not. And gradually – in this way – I was able to take over the dialogue with others for myself, bit by bit. Because I didn’t make myself try to do it all at once. By yesterday, I was able to tell the doctor my story without crying at all. I shuddered, I looked away, but I told the story. And we discussed what kind of worm it was. I could not even think about that the day before.

(6 months later note: ummm, I think the above happened about 4 days after first discovering and touching the worm. I was so proud of this breakthrough - it was HUGE for me to be able to tell my story without crying.)

- here's another breakthrough: before I dumped the worm off to the lab, I was able to look at it, dead in the jar (“take THAT you worm...it is me or you now and I am going to win!!!”). By contrast, only one day earlier, I wasn't even able to hold the jar and had to have it covered in plastic (3 layers). I am not kidding you. I am making progress because I HAVE to...I have to...this is part of staying in the present, it is him or me. OK corral-time. One of us is NOT going home alive. And even if he turns out to have a whole bunch of buddies in there (in me), I am taking them ALL on. Every last one of them. I am a one-woman machine, and these suckers don't know who they are messing with. I am going to win.

(6 months later note: this SO worked for me - seeing it as me vs him. I was every bit as scared but it helped me to keep moving, keep normal - ie. eat, which was imperative. I also had trouble swallowing any food at that time. Getting to normal in every way was truly necessary to heal from the physical threat - the worm is/was actually hurting me! I - really and truly - needed to win this fight. And the biggest threat was my own fear. Rational sure; simple but not easy...but YOU can do this. Honest. If you are here and reading, you can do this.)

"4. Do not add to your panic by thinking about what "might" happen. If you find yourself asking "what if?" tell yourself "so what!".

5. Stay in the present. Notice what is really happening to you as opposed to what you think might happen."

- OK, another hard one here and I lumped these two together for a reason.

- Yup, for sure: don't freak yourself out. Granted. But there is a LOT of the future that you must face immediately! And every discussion with a medical professional is going to bring it right up in your face: what might happen, what if, what if then, and after that…. And really...everyone is focused on you doing what you have to do next. Let’s be blunt: YOU have to make something happen! You have to poop for the test that gets everything medical into play. Even if you have the worm (which I did), you still have to poop. The tests are based on testing your poop in a sterilized environment (funny huh? Confused)

- "what if"...hoo-boy. Here it goes, my personal “what if” list: What if I have lots of them inside me? What if it is 70 feet long? (Aiiiiiieeee! I already KNOW it is long) Yup. There are some pretty huge “what if” questions and just because I don't think them, doesn't mean they are not imminently going to happen to me! All the positive thinking in the world is NOT going to change what IS right now. My worst fear is quite literally happening to me.

- and that is why on these two items (ie. don’t ask “what if” and stay in the present), I actually did do the "so what" question. I walked through my fear and talked it through, in detail, no “what if” ignored. I let every “what if” surface, and I started sorting through them and answering as best I could.


a) So...what if it is 70 feet long? That means...Well, hmmm. Actually I think it means nothing other than it will be long rather than short! It is what it is.

b) So what if there are a lot of them? Again, it will be worse than if there weren't. But I will still have to poop them out. Kill them first (I am really focused on the killing...it helps). On both of these, it will end. At one point, I will be done. I know this myself – in the past I have had terrible diarrhea or have been throwing up violently where you felt like you were turned inside out. No one likes this feeling of something horrible going on and on, long past the time when you think you can get through it. But it does… eventually… end. So that is the “so what” to the “what if”. I made it through.

c) here is an even worse one. What if it comes up my throat? (a truly nauseating thought) Yeah I was crying hard when I read this one after I typed it. I can't find a positive to counteract it either. So here is my “so what” thinking, for what it is worth – “I am killing this sucker. So hard he won't know what hit him. Until then, I am keeping quiet. Like a spy. Going about my regular business. Eating as usual. Nothing's up buddy, just relax in there and take it easy. You are about to die. I figure until then, the best thing to do is to placate the so-and-so, don’t make him hungry so he comes looking for something else.”

(BTW: this attitude is really working for me...this kind of battle thinking got me to move from hysterical to action-oriented. I now have a plan, and I feel pretty good about the plan. I have a lot of folks helping me carry out my plan. This helps too – having a team. You're not alone after all. Yeah sure, the big play will have to be run by you all alone but in the meantime, your team is there. And even when you are all alone, they've got you in their thoughts. This helps too)

- I will be exceedingly honest and tell you that I wanted to die rather than go through this situation. And really – it is hard to eat when your guts are knotted. Thinking of him coming elsewhere looking for food got me eating and drinking again. Thinking of killing him has gotten me eating heartily and happily again, no probs.

- (Warning: trigger!!!) I will also be very blunt: you can feel it inside, OK? In this particular situation, staying in the present can drive you right into hysterics! And rightly so too. (There is nothing irrational about that feeling – it is absolutely gross to feel the worm wriggling around. Ergo – see above. Here's what I said to myself: Wriggle while you can chump! You are going to die so soon…so soon…)

What I did to counteract that was to stay in the present by observation. I have had a lot of practice doing this but anyone can do it when they focus really hard. Think along the lines: I am going to notice and document. By doing this, I will figure out how to defeat my enemy. I made notes of what was happening, without thinking about what was happening. And now I can note what is happening and there is no feeling of panic, even when I think another one may have emerged. (And another one did, and I calmly dealt with it – the difference between time one and time two was HUGE.)

- like I said earlier, I took things a tiny bit at a time. I did finally go to the bathroom of course – your body can only resist for so long. I made about 50 trips to the bathroom working up my courage. And as per point #1, I celebrated each trip, weird as that sounds. Maybe I stayed for 1 second longer than last time. Maybe I only howled instead of crying. (Or screaming...yes I screamed.). And sometimes it was worse than the time before but I knew I was learning from it all, taking it at the pace I needed. Bit by bit (bit by bloody tiny bit), it lessened. That overwhelming panic. I sat on the toilet SO many times before I could relax enough to pee. I got used to it each time, how that seat felt under my bum. Whoops – jump up…too freaky. Then next time, start to relax – NO WAY!!!! Then come back again a minute later. I watched myself and the physical surroundings, I celebrated every tiny advancement and I grew calmer as a result. It seemed to take forever (and it was about 5-6 hours in total, which is pretty astonishing given the physical imperative to go pee!) but again, over time I did observe myself actually making progress and this was enormously helpful in calming my fear, in empowering me that I can do this, I can survive. And thrive, oddly enough.

- I remained in the present by telling myself I needed to get there, and then letting myself do this at my own pace.

Maybe this is a good place to generally point out that support is going to be vital. Well, I am guessing that it usually is with trauma. It is important to have a non-judgmental support person, the equivalent of the labour coach expectant dad! Someone who can take abuse, screaming, hysteria. Who will hold your hand, wipe your face and give you hard, life-affirming hugs. This is hard, exhausting work. You are not doing it over months/years with a therapist - this is do or die time within hours. Actually, I did ask a couple of times: do people actually lose their mind while going through this? (It sure felt like it)

"6. Label your fear level from zero to ten and watch it go up and down. Notice that it does not stay at a very high level for more than a few seconds."

- absolutely! Amazing huh? Even in the middle of the worst of it (and more is likely to come), the fear still comes and goes in intensity. I would hang onto and celebrate this too..."I am still here! The calm rational part of me." It helped me to get past the heeby-jeebies (ie. when I did wonder if I would just burst) by knowing that my fear was having highs and lows so if I just hung on a little bit longer, that would be followed by a less intense time.

(6 months later note: I am having a good time adding these notes! I am reading what I wrote so long ago and wow - right on. But here I found a little error when I wrote: "(and more is likely to come)". Nope. More nastiness was to come in the future I wrote for myself 6 months ago, no doubt about it. But without the fear, the whole experience was and is far less intense. It becomes a rather routine medical problem, not a mind-and-body-pounding experience as it was with the phobia. Take heart that if you deal with the phobia, the worm part becomes not that big of a deal! Imagine that!!! But you really can take the word of someone who has walked before you on this bizarre path.)

RE: Curmudo - Personal Details Of Battling Worms - curmudo - 10-01-2011 06:25 AM

7. When you find yourself thinking about the fear, change your "what if" thinking. Focus on and carry out a simple and manageable task such as counting backward from 100 by 3's or snapping a rubber band on your wrist.

- first off, I did this easily because I have had lots of experience doing so. But the technique described above is very helpful, as is getting up and moving around. Or saying (out loud) "STOP", then moving to a different physical place to change your obsessive thinking. I did not let myself think about the worm unless I was able to DO something with the fear. In other words, I didn’t just let my thoughts spin out…ever. But I did not avoid thinking about the worm either, I just made sure it was productive thinking in some way, advancing me somewhere I needed to go, not whirling into the black chaos of panic.

- and I guess this was the basic conundrum – of course in hindsight I wish that I had gotten help for this phobia BEFORE it became the real thing but the one thing I knew for sure was there was no time to run out and get CBT. I had to be my own best therapist and walk myself through the next 1, 2, 4, 24 hours.

- so...here's where my killing thoughts, my battle analogy started. I will get right into the hub of it (warning – another trigger coming up) - I thought about what was REALLY freaking me out. It was that this thing was alive. That's how it had come out the first time. It could come and go. It could (specifically) come out the anus and go up into the vagina. It's awful dark down there and this could happen. Anything could happen...right???

So once I realized THIS was what was really making me crazy (literally), then I thought about: what I could do about this? If it is dead, it won't be going anywhere but bye-bye. Once I realized this, there was a drop in the fear...not much, but I noticed it; one less thing to worry about (I am guessing) which is why the fear was less as a result (I mean he wasn't dead yet but I felt better just thinking about that outcome...when he was going to be dead).

And then I kept going with this thought. I still feel better thinking about him dead. And by now, another 48 hours later, I am all riled up. And I feel good! Seriously. Blob8

The fight is now firmly in my hands, I have a team that is backing ME 100% too. Him??? He doesn't even realize we are AT war yet and by the time he does, it will all be too late. (for him anyhow…) Razz

8. Notice that when you stop adding frightening thoughts to your fear, it begins to fade.

- well, since this was not an irrational fear, I had to work at this piece of advice a little bit creatively. I added to it and instead addressed the frightening thoughts directly, then came up with a plan for how to deal with it. That has definitely made the fear fade. Dramatically. Same principle as working it over time but since I didn’t have time on my side, instead I went right into the fear itself and faced it.

"9. When the fear comes, expect and accept it. Wait and give it time to pass without running away from it."

- yes, it is scary. This would scare anyone. It's OK and normal to be frightened.

- here's probably the most basic thing I haven't talked about much. Going to the bathroom is something we take for granted, we have to do it, there isn't any choice. But suddenly, the most natural and necessary activity was filled with terror for me. I couldn't go (at first) and then I would be crying thinking about having to reach DOWN THERE. I've already described that I took this in small chunks. I let myself do all the bathroom micro-steps over and over again, as many times as it took. My husband was there for me all the way - he said he would wipe my butt for me!

CRITICAL NOTE: If you don't have this help, see if you can get it. Even if just for a day, to have home help or a private nurse. Even if just for a day, to have home help or a private nurse. But you have to do the actual work (let your muscles relax), they are just there as back-up. Because eventually, you need to go back to normal. You need to go by yourself. And eventually your body will go back to normal. HE will be dead and gone, a distant memory. You need to become yourself once again. You need to develop temporary habits to get through this part and then eventually go back to normal. Or be crippled by it. This is your finest hour…your opportunity to do the very best for yourself!

(6 months later note: to perhaps add some context here, I found the support of others was what got me past the physical touching that I was literally screaming mad/insane about. But I also inherently understood the need for "normal": going pee/poop by oneself. I knew my body needed to go back to its normal evacuation procedures. This is what I did to bridge the gap; develop the temporary habits while thinking always about the eventuality of returning to normal. So you see my strong feelings at the time, the advice I had when I was extremely raw: take some of the pressure off yourself. I suspect my gut instinct is people will hold back in asking for this help. I was terrified to be alone with the worm, and that fear was insanely intense when I NEEDED to evacuate. Having someone hold my hand helped. Having someone offer to wipe my bum helped. I was able to focus on what I needed to focus on, and gradually I grew confident and did not want anyone else around. I saw gradually because every minute was like an hour, so the first couple of days lasted seemingly forever. I still felt fear, but I could be alone. And now? No fear, even when he does reappear. Blunt enough? This is what worked for me was having others there and chunking out the fear, working through each one painfully slowly, and circling round far more often than I would have liked. If I could have found any helpful info on-line I could compare to what others do to get through the first 48 hours!)
10. Be proud of yourself for your progress thus far, and think about how good you will feel when you succeed this time.

- every moment is progress. Every single moment. Cause it really is scary. So every minute counts, makes you stronger.

- for me, the biggest hurdle was going to the bathroom the first time. The pressure was enormous physically. The terror was intense. I celebrated every tiny step that got me over that first hurdle (pee) and the much bigger in some ways second hurdle (poop)

(6 months later note: I did not write down how long it took me to poop. It was at least a couple of days if not 4-5. Fear does an amazing job of playing with the body and its responses. I know people can uncontrollably pee/poop from fear; unfortunately I was having the completely opposite effect occur vis-à-vis my bodily functions.)

- it has taken an awful lot of effort to push, not sure I am fully there yet. No I am sure I am not fully there yet. I won’t push when I am alone in the house. That's what got him out of hiding in the first place. And a key difference I think is the phobia because I have now asked quite a number of people and their response is the same: they would be straining to get it the heck out of them!

(6 months later note: this was probably the longest aspect to heal. At a wild guess, it took 6-8 weeks before I could push while pooping. In my head, I associated the pushing with the worm and it was tough to break through those connections. How funny – I just realized that in writing “pushing” what I really mean is fully relaxing those many muscles involved in evacuating bodily waste! I am writing "pushing" when it is the opposite: I needed to relax enough to “go”. Wow - I can see my own faulty thought process still at work. I was thinking that I was "pushing" him out; nope, I was doing what my body does normally. In any case, I recognized the thought process was odd but I found it understandable so I just kept working on my positive mind thoughts about what I needed to do to help my body re-learn how to do its natural job – I never thought I would ever spend so much time thinking about bodily functions! My advice now would be: laugh and laugh a lot to relieve stress…don't sit in judgement of yourself, find the humour in the bizarre.)

- what else to celebrate: talking about it. Another thing I did in controllable chunks. Now I can chatter away without even a gulp. I have faced the monster (first part at least) and drawn up the battle lines. I have walked a long way since that first day, a huge journey so far. I went from talking through another to talking about it with ease. A huge milestone.

- I thought about being a kid, having someone chuck a worm at me (who knows if that is what happened?). It helped to think that sure yeah, I can understand that was traumatic! It's no wonder I was so scared of worms!! But you know, I wonder now why I never thought about it like this before? I was so scared of the thought itself – the TOUCH, that I ran away from the tiny worm and never thought about why I was so afraid of having a worm touch me. If I had ever just thought it through, just like I am doing right now, I probably would have faced my fear a long time ago. It never seemed important enough. Sure I thought worms were awful but so do lots of people. So here is quite the celebration: I have faced a fear, an action I otherwise would not have chosen to take. Sure I don't like being forced into it but once there, I did what had to be done. I am continuing to do what has to be done, one step at a time.

I am darned proud of myself. I got the anxiety medication and took a pill last night. I slept like a baby, cuddled up and warm. I really made progress yesterday. I was kind to myself, and let myself lean on others. And today, I feel energized like you would not believe. The fight is still ahead. But fear is no longer my driver, success is.

(6 months later note: that was the only pill I took, that one night.)

I am going to start killing the worm tomorrow. Wish me luck. I have a big hurdle ahead and I am thinking my own armoring thoughts about how to make it through – I have the anxiety pills if I need them to sleep (especially – rest is important to battle effectively). I know big picture what might happen. No one can reliably predict unfortunately. I have heard he might kick as he dies. That’s OK. I am prepared to kill him now. And I know he will then have to exit. That is what I can tell you in advance, and I hope to come back and tell you if the experience ...


6 months later epilogue:

- the testing took a while so the doctor started me on the most common worm medication, despite what I told her physically about the worm (and what I later confirmed on-line). Another win for me: I had correctly identified the sample before I dumped it at the lab – I say "another win" because I proved to myself that I had looked closely enough to ID the *******. Know your enemy, know what will take him down...

- The first (wrong) medication made me really sick. Then the meds needed to be ordered in for the correct fella, and that too took a while. I am guessing it was about a month before he fully died. Or rather mostly died. Yes, we are still killing him but without drama or fuss. Getting rid of persistent parasites can be a lengthy ordeal. No worries, seriously.

- (Warning: trigger) In the interest of full disclosure, he doesn’t come out kicking and screaming. If that too is one of your "what if"s, then here's the answer: once he passes dead into the intestine, our bodies do most of the work and the worm emerges in pieces. I had a HUGE worm, there for a long time, he has done a fair bit of damage and is hard to fully eradicate, and even then: that was all that I dealt with. For most people, you won’t even notice. Promise. This is truly the very least of the whole process, even though it was consuming my thoughts at the beginning – I could not imagine what I would do if he got stuck halfway out, etc. No worries whatsoever on that score. Hope this absolute brutal honesty is helpful. It was not something that I found the medical community was terribly helpful in answering which is why I am doing so categorically.

- Other awesome news: I am not scared of earthworms any more. I first noticed on a day that it rained, they were all over the sidewalk, and that I had been walking for several blocks before I even noticed! Wow – is this how people live without being scared of worms??? And as mentioned at the top of this long journal, I saw another earthworm when I moved a piece of wood the other day on my property – it was about 3 inches from my face and I had literally no reaction, none. I see it now; I no longer feel it.

There’s my story. I have given you the blow-by-blow, what I did, how it felt for me. If you are curious, I wrote the whole SPRING 2011 journal over a period of about 24-36 hours, but not in the literal order you are reading it (which is why I am sometimes talking about the past and then seem to jump to the present). I started writing some of the pieces earlier but only if there was something that was helpful to me to make note of. Mostly the work was done in my head, and then I quickly journalled a few days later, some of it reflection and some what I was thinking that actual day. The reason I immediately journalled and reflected was that I would have loved to have found someone/somewhere at the time with answers to some basic questions (how do I do this???? I feel like I am going to go insane!!!!!!!), therefore I told my story of how I followed the steps I found on this site and implemented my own plan for a fast-tracked healing and self-care program.

Six months on, the journalling observations are still accurate. I have only gotten stronger as time passed. If you are going through this or some other variation (not many actually have the worm emerge so dramatically, not this particular fella), have heart. Follow the steps – they are there to help you do the very best for yourself. Ask for support when you need it. And know that you will be OK: you are going to win. He/they are going to lose, no question about it. Cool

Good luck and take good care…

RE: Curmudo - Personal Details Of Battling Worms - curmudo - 10-01-2011 09:51 AM

Warning: more worm information follows.

Wow - as I read through this opus, I realize that I had forgotten the specific fear I had about what might lie ahead during the exit of the worm. I was able to overcome that fear too within the next week or so, but at the time I wrote the journal I had not yet done so.

Looking back, what I journalled was how I basically got through the non-step panic attack of the first 24-48 hours, when I had no idea I was going to get hit with one at all. I was almost as shocked at my own reaction to what was happening, as I was to what was actually happening. So I found a site (this one) which had some advice I was generally familiar with (albeit it was oriented to phobia) and knew professionally to be generally sound, and I followed the steps.

But for the next part of my story, the part that was coming when I came to the end of the journal? Although I was no longer gripped by panic, I still felt fear at that point in time! That was where I would have appreciated some factual information on what happened next. When the worm came out. How bad could it really be? Were any of the stories on the internet true? Was it all urban legend?

(What if...that HUGE fear. What was coming next? NO one could tell me.)

Which is why I offer the facts as I experienced them: it was a lot less worse than I had imagined (and that others write obsessively about on the net, I might add); it was much worse than I hoped it would be. The only point worth noting is that once the phobia was dealt with, all of it became a medical problem. By the time the worm did exit fully in the coming weeks, I was interested in how it would exit; no longer fearful of what was coming. I knew I could deal with it!

So on the one hand, I have answered my own question here, to answer similar "what if" questions. Fact: Yes, it can emerge alive since that obviously happened to me. (I could now provide more details than I was able to write down at the time I wrote the journal. Things have changed in my life since then; change can often be a series of baby steps, and my fear went from panic attack, to intense fear, to steadily diminishing fear, to not fearful any more. I journalled what I could at the time, and celebrated how far I had come even in doing that.)

What is important to remember is that once the drugs kill the worm, our bodies usually completely dissolve it. You can take precautions (think gloves, baby wipes - whatever works for you) to get through the initial process, whatever your medical process is, but the actual death is waaaaaaaaay overblown on the internet.

Sure I wish I didn't have this medical problem; I suspect that goes for most people with medical problems! Once you deal with the fear, I can assure you the rest is "merely" unpleasant, painful, irritating, gross...just like any other medical problem. And it is treatable, unlike many others.

On the other hand, it is more important to focus on your needs vis-a-vis the phobia, than trying to figure out what is going to happen (it is likely to be a "wait-and-see" response). For phobia, other than following the steps on this site or similar types of steps found elsewhere, I do not know if there is another way to get through this experience without losing your marbles...I do not know what the extended length of time one can spend in a mind-gibbering mess. At the very least, it is extremely hard on your body so why not use what others are putting forth here or elsewhere as best practice? The steps here have excellent advice within.

What I do know categorically is that you can still feel INTENSE fear (as I was feeling by the end of my journal, make no mistake: I was still SCARED) and move forward regardless, no longer caught in the grip of the phobia. And the fear continues to diminish as you move forward. That is why mine is a good news story, regardless of the medical outcome.

Nor can I make any comments about the sites I came across today, where they offer 24 hour "cures" for phobias. I did the work, and I feel truly healed. But it was work, hard work. It did not happen overnight (not saying it can't; I simply do not know and that was not my experience. It took time.) As far as I can tell, I was able to work through a childhood fear of worms, and now I don't feel the emotional response to their sight OR their touch. I can talk about them without any internal shudders. This is a major life change for me, even though it did not significantly affect my life prior to now. By that I mean I wasn't deeply phobic when compared with how others describe their daily life activities vis-a-vis worms. I was able to go out when it rained for example, but I never felt good about it. Now I don't care, and (obviously) barely notice the presence of worms.

I am still rather astounded at the extent of the "cure". Whew! No longer feeling the fear, I had forgotten something that once held complete dominion over me!

BTW: I am tackling the fear of heights. No more workarounds. Dance

RE: Curmudo - Personal Details Of Battling Worms - Snooks - 10-01-2011 07:08 PM

What an amazing story and one of which you should be extremely proud as obviously your attitude and determination were a major fact in the success Smile

I went back through and read the posts from the beginning and i am astounded and delighted with the outcome.

Congratulations Blob5Hello2