THEY GET UNDER YOUR SKIN

Scabies – ever heard of it? Krätze in German. Sounds very ugly. Mites. Living thingies that get under your skin, leave their shit & babies and stir up your immune system.

Well, for some time I’ve been itching. I knew about the scabies symptoms because two of my ex housemates had it the year before. Back then I was so afraid I would also get them, that I made the effort to rub my whole body in neem oil. Neem is a tree from India – imagine the sweetness of a nice mango and now imagine the opposite in bitterness and smell: that is Neem. After one night covered in neem, I swore to myself to rather get scabies next time. Even after a few washes, myself, my bed and the clothes I wore stank so much, I was close to throwing up several times, not joking. Anyway, the neem seemed to have done its job.

How we found out about scabies that time was also interesting. My housemate, our narcicisstic wanna-be-guru (that’s another story, read here) had been complaining about rashes and itches for some time. My other housemate thought she had a flea and stirred up the whole house looking for it.

A few weeks later I had a phone call with his ex-girlfriend Annette because of something else. We had bonded over the pain of having fallen for the itchy narcicisst and found that we actually quite like each other. On the phone she told me her story with scabies. When she found out she had it, she called him to warn him (they’d had a sex-with-the-ex kinda thing). But he already knew. He had even given it to his girlfriend and her kid during his travels a few weeks before and just didn’t tell the house. So I informed my other housemate that her flea was actually mites. She got them from him.

And me eventually too? It took several months for the symptoms to start, which is unusual. So maybe I got it from somewhere else. Or I never got it. No one can actually tell me.

Wait a second, stop. What is scabies?

It’s mites. Tiniest. Not even doctors can see them. They get under your skin, leave their shit and eggs which causes your immune system to react with itching. Most of the time it’s general, the most prominent areas are wrinkles like armpits, fingers, knees, genital area, feet. They are highly contageous when there’s intense physical contact like cuddling, sex or sleeping in the same bed. A handshake or normal hug can’t transmit them. On your skin, they are quite easy to get rid off. You put on a cream, leave it over night, wash it off the next morning and repeat this procedure one week later. What’s a pain in the arse is that you have to wash all your clothes, towels, sheets. For sheets and towels they even recommend to change them every day after you’ve applied the cream which can bring you in logistic bottlenecks especially when you’re living nomadic. Also, the stuff you can’t wash at 60 degrees or higher you have to put in plastic bags for some time (opinions differ, after all the research I’ve done I would say 4-7 days or until you feel confident they’re dead) or in the refrigerator (24 hours should do). All people you are physically/intimately close with should apply the cream at the same time to prevent reinfection. They are spreading in Europe these days. So it’s important to recognize it when you have it (doctors often are not a big help) and tell your close ones. Telling your housemates and partners is uncomfortable but it’s doable. Telling your one-night-stands, intense dancefloor connections and cuddle/massage partners from festivals is painful. Even if it doesn’t have anything to do with body hygiene, there’s so much shame when it comes to state you have parasites in your skin. Writing this article actually feels more naked for me than writing about threesomes.

So, what do you say to those? I was joking about it with Annette last night:

 

The challenge is to recognize scabies. The visible symptoms are not what they used to be. Once you google scabies –you might have done it by now– you’ll see extreme skin appearances, red papula, rashes and so on. When the itching started for me 3 months ago I didn’t have any skin changes, not even little pimples. I went to 4 different doctors in the course of a few weeks (also because I didn’t have a home and slept here and there – perfect situation to be in when you might have scabies) and they all said: “What you experience fits to scabies, but I don’t see anything.” The mites dig tunnels in your skin and usually they’re visible. Little ditches, sometimes with black dots (that’s the poop). I didn’t have anything like that and still treated with the cream to be sure. Even when the mites are dead, your skin and immune system need time to recover, so the itches might still continue. It got better after a while. And then it got worse again. Very recently I was finally able to see changes on the skin, little knots and dots and very dry skin. I went to a general practitioner to check for differential diagnoses. None of the dermatologists had asked me about my nutrition for example. But we know already that intestine and skin belong together, don’t we? And that everything in the body is connected? Anyway, yesterday at the dermatologist I was quite happy cause she asked me to strip completely naked. She was the first one to ask that. She must be GOD (“No underwear”). She even inspected my bottom crack. And didn’t find anything. Then she wanted my blood and poop to check for Syphilis and HIV even though she said one patient in 20 years got itching from that. So I decided I’m going with scabies now.

Last night I did my washing for the post-cream-phase. I learnt with time and was thinking ahead. The clothes have to dry before you apply the cream otherwise you gotta be naked cause all your other stuff is packed in your refrigerator. In the patient information leaflet they recommend you wear disposable gloves to put up the washing to not contaminate anything. I didn’t have gloves, so I took two plastic bags and put them around my hands. I felt like Edward Scissorhands just more clumsy. At some point my housemate passed. She stopped, looked irritated at my plastic hand clouds “Do you always put your washing up like this?” – “I tell you tomorrow” She had a friend visiting and I didn’t wanna upset the apple cart. I learnt that people don’t appreciate being told when there’s not a high risk of contagion cause as soon as you mention scabies they’ll be itching. Just observe yourself while you’re reading this. Isn’t it fascinating?! Anyway, I didn’t have to say anything else: “You have scabies?” As it turned out she had it 4 weeks ago. Taadaaa!

I called Annette. Our friendship seems to have developed in a scabies-sharing-ship (in short SSS). Every time I call her to ask how many hours I have to put my stuff in the refrigerator she says “Oh shit I think I have it again too”.

The hardest part of all is the psychological component. No one can give you a proper diagnose. When you think about scabies, you feel it. When you don’t see anything on your skin but you can’t sleep at night because your whole body feels like an itching vibrating organism, you go crazy. Is it really there or am I making it up?

I came to one conclusion with that: It doesn’t matter. Do what you need to do on the somatic level. And look deeper: What is expressing itself here right now on my skin? What is becoming alive? What got under my skin? What is itching me from the inside?

For me scabies has a lot to do with feeling home. Home in my skin. “To feel comfortable in your skin” – Colloquial language is so wise. I surely didn’t a few months ago. The itching started two weeks before I moved out of my home, the house with the no-flea-girl and the narcicisst. A coincidence?! Then I was staying in Munich with different friends, here and there, tired of moving and without any hope to find my home in the city. A few weeks later I found a room, the symptoms were much better. I went traveling, and questioned again and again where I’m at home, is it the road or is it Munich or is it both. The symptoms increased.

Additionally, over the past months I was processing the liberation from the toxic, soul-depleting environment in my last house. The skin is our border. Our contact organ with the world around us. scabies-or-whatever-it-is made me feel my boundaries better. Something became alive because I finally respected them.

Also, Annette last night reminded me that sickness can be seen in a different way to what we’re used too. Something has clearly come alive, it’s literally vibrating under my skin. So-called sickness can be an expression of something stuck getting in the flow, getting out, finding its expression. Sometimes this is a painful process. I had to tell so many people that I might have given scabies to them. One friend who lives in a community let me sleep in her bed while she was gone. I had to tell her housemate, mother with a new-born – painful. And so many others. It may sound weird but scabies-or-whatever-it-is supported me in opening up more, stripping naked, being vulnerable, in letting the world touch me and get under my skin.

Yeah, you really got under my skin, scabies.
And now it’s time to say Goodbye.
#willneverforgetyou #thanksfortouchingme

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