This past week, on two separate nights, I was treated to the unpleasant surprise of a bat flying around my kitchen. This isn't the first time I've experienced this. The first time was mere months after moving into our rented apartment in Goshen, Indiana. I walked to the bathroom in the dark and saw something flutter past, illuminated by the flashing blue light on my headphones.
After some frantic waving and … err … batting, we got the bat to fly out the door. A few months later, my wife, Emma, screamed from the bathroom. I ran to see what was wrong and found that she was showering with a bat hanging in between the plastic curtain and the cloth curtain. I put on some gloves, got him into a Tupperware container, and left him outside on a tree to go about his business.
During an eight-month lull without winged intruders, I educated myself on bats. Then came the practicum for all my book learning.
I woke up Emma and had her close off the kitchen from the living room with a blanket. Then I took a blanket into the kitchen and navigated toward the bat as it swooped around, using the blanket to make sure that the bat didn't maneuver behind me. Eventually, I got to the front door, opened it, and waited until my furry friend made its way outside. Then we closed the door, washed our hands, and headed back to bed.
After the last two encounters, I Googled about bats, realizing that a colony may be living in our attic.
I came across one word that tightened my throat and drenched my forehead in sweat.
Backstory alert: I suffer from (undiagnosed) health anxiety. If I think something is wrong with me, I Google symptoms. Eventually, I get so stressed that I have panic attacks. And sometimes, I manifest symptoms that I'm so concerned about.
I spent Thursday, Friday, and much of Saturday as a barely-held-together mess. From my research (read: frantic Googling), the symptoms of my anxiety exactly matched the symptoms of rabies.
Now, the facts. Rabies is very rare in the United States. Only one to three cases are reported per year. Most of these indeed do come from bats, but the number of bats that carry rabies is very low. Only 6 percent of bats brought in to be tested for rabies (the ones that people find in their bedrooms, on the ground, behaving erratically, or otherwise weak or sick) are actually found to be infected with the virus.
At no point during these four bat encounters did Emma or I have any contact with the bats. They did not touch, bite, or scratch us. We have never found them in our bedroom while we would have been sleeping.
I say all this to illustrate how illogical my anxiety was. But, as those with anxiety know, logic doesn't dictate how your mind and body react to those sorts of stimuli. Fear of something, whatever that something may be, doesn't respond to logic very well.
But in my case, it responded, in the end, to my taking some time to meditate, breath, and pray. When I do this, I talk out loud to myself and to God. I asked God, "What will it take for this fear to go away?"
I received my answer in the form of yet another bat encounter.
I had calmed down significantly by Sunday morning. As we left the house at early dawn, we descended the covered stairs from our second-story apartment. As we did so, we heard a chittering screech from the wall to our left. It was apparent that a bat had begun roosting there. Emma looked at me. I could see in her eyes that she expected this to trigger another panic attack. But in that moment, I had one thought: He's not hurting anyone. He's just sleeping. He's a tiny, cute puppy with wings.
This was, somehow, the answer to my fear. This bat in our wall was the last deep breath in a calming meditation that God had set to work in my mind. And with that, the last dredges of anxiety left, and I laughed. We continued down the stairs and elected to name our new neighbor Bruce, after Bruce Wayne, or Batman.
After consulting with our landlord, we've determined how the bats are getting into the living space. We've discerned we're likely not dealing with a colony of bats, but rather just a few unfortunate friends that went down the wrong chimney. Our home has been sealed, and we feel safer. We'll replace the faulty chimney caps as soon as the bats leave for the winter, to ensure no young pups are sealed within our walls.
Bats are an important part of God's creation. They're active pollinators and they eat a truly astounding 1,000 insects every hour. Even though they triggered my anxiety and fear, one of them became the healer that cleansed my anxiety. Be on the lookout for ways God is helping you deal with your fears.