Occupy Emmeline

Warning: graphic disgusting description of gross skin.

“I bet you are super excited to leave,” Lee, who works in the office, said to me this morning.

I’m not. I’m super excited for where I’m going — visiting Yolngu in another community, TFIOS in Darwin, the beanie festival, then family and friends in Victoria, and the next adventure in Melbourne. But I don’t want to leave for the sake of not being here; I love it here.

What I am looking forward to is getting my body back.

I have been struggling with my health for more than a month now. First it was ear infections in both ears. Actually I reckon that one has been going on all year. I would occasionally wake up in the small hours with intense ear pain and then just try to get back to sleep. Finally, when I was so dizzy and headachey I couldn’t work, I went to the clinic and got on antibiotics for two weeks. As the dosage was finishing up I got ravaged by a cold. It wasn’t a flu because I didn’t have a fever or much muscle pain. And I wasn’t actually in that much pain. I just had almost no energy, so spent the best part of two weeks in bed. Although to call it “the best” is stretching the reality quite a bit.

And then the cold overlapped with some awful bites that I thought at first were sandflies from a bush trip. But no, so much worse than that. Hence the following conversation with The Little One (TLO, my younger sister):

Me: I went to the doctor and it looks like I’ve got sc–

TLO: Don’t say it! Don’t say scabies!

Me: Scabies.

TLO knows everything, because one of her hobbies is googling disgusting medical conditions, so I didn’t have to explain it to her. But when I spoke on the phone to my other sister, she got me to tell her that story. She didn’t want to JFGI because of the risk of seeing images she would never get out of her brain (a mistake I already made).

“It starts out with mites,” I said, and she was already squicking at that word. “They lay eggs which they bury into your skin.” that line caused a full-on squick-out. “It causes an allergic reaction which is the reason for the itchiness,” I continued.

“How do you treat it?” Yapa asked.

“Insecticide,” I said. “Cover every square inch of your body. Leave it for 8 hours. Then wash every single thing you own in hot water.”

I actually posted the whole s-bomb story (I can’t stand the s-word) on Facebook in status updates, without actually stating explicitly that I had scabies. I wonder how many people understood. This was the story:

When I did the first lot of washing (I slacked off and only washed most of my clothes):

Just washed my sheepskin for probably the first time in 25 years. Kinda gross when I put it like that

After the s-bombs reinfected and we had a big conference about my disgusting skin at bible study:

“When I get to heaven, the first thing I am going to ask God is why He invented scabies” quote from bible study tonight

After I stayed up too late, didn’t put the s-bomb cream on until 12:30, so had to keep it on at work to get the full 8 hours:

Always the height of fashion, today Emmeline wears insecticide.

And then I put on my big girl pants (freshly washed in hot water) and actually washed every single thing I own:

Washing clean clothes SEEMS counter-intuitive, but it’s better than the alternative.

And of course that is the day the dry season chose to screw me over:

what is the point in this dry season. argh i never thought to check the radar before washing every single thing I own

Now I have no idea what is going on with my body. I am pretty sure the scabies are dead, but I am itchy everywhere. I have sandfly and mozzie bites all over my legs, and the leftover scabies rash makes my skin look like crocodile skin. I think I also have a heat rash. It actually feels like my whole body is on fire, like I could scratch anywhere and the itchiness would be activated. The other night I was talking to a friend who was watching Embarrassing Bodies, and I said, I don’t need to watch that show because I’m living it.

I feel like Job, except for the whole losing all my money and everyone dying except my annoying wife and unhelpful friends. Okay so basically the only similarity is wanting to sit in the dirt and scrape my skin with a rock.

I normally like my skin. I like the colour and I’ve never had acne. Now I feel like a foreigner in my own skin. All the bugs in the community have organised an Occupy movement on my body. The only safe place is my face, which is blemish-free, thank goodness. I keep getting woken up around 2am or 5am by my own sleep-scratching. Sunday night I woke up viciously scratching my legs, with a night terror that my legs weren’t part of my body, they were impositions in my bed and I had to scratch them out of existence. Fortunately my conscious brain soon woke up and corrected this belief. But it was freaky-deaky. I think it was a literal interpretation of this feeling of my body not being my own.

All this scratching has the effect you would expect — bleeding. Which gets me concerned about these sores picking up one of the many infections around here. And yes I have been treating it. With tea tree oil cream, and lavendar oil, which are both antiseptics. I have also been using a local beauty treatment make from a certain bark, which ameliorates skin problems. “It makes your skin look like a fifteen-year-old girl,” translation Lady said when she gave it to me. When I told my older sister, she said, “What, orange?”

So that’s why I am looking forward to leaving. Change of climate, out of the heat (although now we’re into the dry season there’s not much heat left) and I’m sure my skin will go back to normal. I’ll probably feel sad when the scabs and pockmarks fade, because it will mean this time in Arnhem Land will be gone.


Updated to add: I’m pretty sure someone’s been praying for me, because in the last few hours the rash has cleared up almost completely. PTL!


2 thoughts on “Occupy Emmeline

  1. Pingback: My writing process — blog tour | Emmeline

  2. Pingback: “Everything’s new to them!” | Emmeline

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