July 23, 2023

Getting It Over With

I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! - "Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Image by Claudia from Pixabay

I've lived with both physical and emotional pain for most if not all of my life. So I don't shy away from things that might hurt me—maybe to a fault.

I've just always assumed that life is pain and that if I want to live fully, it's gonna hurt. 

But there is an exception: I have an unreasonable fear of getting stung by a bee

I've chronicled here some instances where I've literally turned around and aborted mission when I've encountered a swarm of bees, or when I was trapped and did the heebie-jeebie dance just to get away from bees trying to drink droplets of sweat off my shirt in the desert.

And I made it nearly 48 years without getting stung by anything—until yesterday. 

I wasn't even sure what was happening at first, because it felt like someone had flicked a cigarette at me and an ember or a spark had fallen on my back. I was standing in a swimming pool in a friend's backyard at a summer party, so I turned around to see who was smoking next to me with a muttered, "What the hell?"

And then the burning sensation didn't go away—it got worse. By then, the pain was so intense, I was hyperventilating.

I turned my back to my friends and asked if there was something on my back, like a bee, and all I heard was a slow "Oh... yeah..."

Turns out, it was a wasp. In Southern California, wasps aren't the black, long-bodied, winged things I remember from Central New York but instead yellow-and-black striped yellowjackets. Some of them are native and beneficial, while others are, as UC Riverside's entomology department calls them, "pestiferous."

Although I never saw it close up, the one that stung me was probably a European transplant known as the German wasp. (Of course it was.) And regardless of its species, it was probably one of the workers that spends the summer helping prepare the Queen for overwintering. 

I'm not sure what happened next—or if I even was fully alert to it at the time—but the next thing I remember is my friends telling me, "OK, it's gone now."

"Is the stinger still in there?" I asked, because the pain had continue to grow beyond that initial fiery feeling, and I was getting panicky. 

The hostess of the party retrieved some ice, and I leaned over the side of the pool, still in the water, not sure if getting the stung-spot wet was making it feel better or worse. I dropped my face into my hands and groaned, "Oh my God it hurts so bad..."

Between sips of a Mai Tai, I cried so hard and then laughed through my tears. I popped a couple of ibuprofen and wondered how I would know if I were allergic. 

I looked for symptoms that weren't there, and I waited for that familiar vasovagal feeling to wash over me—which, thank goodness, it never did, since it's never a good idea to pass out in a pool.

But I was a little hypochondriac. I thought, "Oh my God, why is my back turning so numb?!" until I realized it was from the ice pack that Beth had been pressing into my wound. 

After an hour or two, the redness faded from my back, and a little rum intoxication worked its medicinal magic on the pain and the worry. 

But as the night wore on, and I took a couple of hours to sober up before driving home, I could feel my fibromyalgia starting to kick in—flaring up as it does whenever I'm in any stressful circumstance (like a car accident, a breakup, a layoff, or a head cold).

This morning, my body felt like I'd been hit by a truck—though I could no longer feel or even see where I'd been stung. 

In the end, I'm left with relief. At least I got that over with, I'm telling myself. And as bad as it was—it really did hurt like an MF—it wasn't as bad as it could've been, or even as I'd imagined it.

Then again, I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop—monitoring waves of nausea and dizziness that are most certainly imagined or stress-induced and not a true anaphylactic response.

I can't help but wonder, though: What did I do to make that wasp so goddamn mad?!

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1 comment:

  1. It’s a wasp, you don’t need to do anything to make it angry. They’re the ones that sting just because they can be jerks. Bees and bumblebees don’t sting unless you step on them or they’re trapped in your clothes for example. I stepped on a bumblebee when I was a kid walking barefoot on grass and it got stuck between two toes and ofc it had to sting. Damn that hurt!