Gutting Fish Phobia

by Ivory Soap

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I had a *phobia* of dead things.  See last paragraph in this post.  And lately, my husband has been bringing home trout.  All of my kids can gut the fish, but I hide in the bedroom and get hot all over if they even talk about it.  So, the next time they did it, I decided enough was enough.

I had a *few* glasses of wine, grabbed a hold of my ten-year-old’s hand (no joke) and whined, panted, and moaned all the way through the first fish.  It was HORRID.  But, I lived.  Then I watched them do the second.  Then a third.  I was okay!  To make sure, I stared down the head and skin and guts in the bowl.  Then I got on youtube and watched people “do” a pig, more fish, and a rabbit, just to make sure I was cured.  The next morning, I was the one to toss the guts out to the chickens.  And now, I watch a butchering video every few days.

Why do I do that to myself?  Because of THIS BOOK, I knew that phobias are a dysfunction of the “novelty” gland.  The more NOVEL the experience, the greater the reaction when it happens.  That’s why avoiding anxiety provoking situations makes the phobia grow.  Used to, I was afraid of dead pets: fish, a baby rabbit in the yard, my pet I avoided them.  As I got older, I realized that bones in my food reminded me of dead things, so I started avoided them.  The view of the inside of a chicken bone in my Indian food would send me over the moon.  And God forbid I was served a fish with the head on it.  I would cover it with a napkin and make someone else cut my food.

It got to be so rare that I saw anything resembling something that was once alive that I even had an anxiety attack when I accidentally saw a picture of a dissection kit on one of the homeschool science sites.  A homesteader website sent me a CD to review that showed, among 100 other cool things, how to kill and butcher meat rabbits.  I shut it off before I saw anything gross, but when she positioned the broom handle on the back of it’s neck, I got hot all over and ran straight for the wine.  I couldn’t shake the anxiety for a day.

The phobia had grown to include live things as well.  Guts of any kind, live or dead.  When I had my own kids, I couldn’t bear to see the cord and placenta cause they looked like guts.  When I had my bladder scoped, I couldn’t look.  When my dog’s stitches opened up and I could see the inside of her leg, I nearly died.  It was such a NOVEL experience for me to see the insides of anything, that even the suggestion of such a thing would kick off an anxiety attack. 

We live in a sanitized society.  We almost never see animals go from alive to dead in front of us.  If we want to avoid that experience, we can do it indefinitely.  But I’m into homesteading stuff, right?  I had to get over this….and STAY over it.  I can’t let it become a NOVEL experience again.  If I go a few days without seeing it, I get hot all over again.  Here’s my *favorite* (blech) fish cleaning video to keep this from becoming novel again.  I’ll spare you the hen, rabbit, and pig killing videos.  Oooh, it’s been too long again.  I got dizzy just looking for the links.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Grace January 1, 2013 at 8:28 am

That was fascinating and something I wouldn’t have expected of you. Good for you for facing it straight on.

This makes me wonder how many veg*ns are rationalizing the same kind of phobia by saying they don’t eat meat for health or ethical reasons.

HeidiAphrodite January 2, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Amazing. I have a similar phobia–if food likes like what it was when it was alive, I can’t eat it. I have a hard time with bones, too, so fried chicken is right out, and if I think about the ham bone too much, I have a very difficult time with spiral-cut ham. Sometimes it’s so bad (tied to anxiety and stress) that I can’t eat at the table during Thanksgiving if the turkey is still there. 🙂 Your insights have me thinking about this in a different way, though. Maybe this year, I’ll try looking at the bones instead of running away. Thank you.

Adica January 4, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I haven’t read the book you linked, so I don’t know how detailed he gets with instructions on exposure therapy (basically what you’re doing), but you might also try practicing relaxation techniques on your “days off” from watching the videos (IIRC, they usually use breathing exercises) and then doing the same relaxation techniques while you’re watching them, if you’re not doing so already. It’ll help the process.

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