When the first bee flies into your body, it’s no big deal. We’ve all experienced the occasional bee or two buzzing around in our chest cavity. Your pulse quickens a little, your muscles tighten, your breath becomes shallow as you wait for whatever prompted the bee’s entry to end. A single bee, or a pair, usually don’t stick around long—though it feels like an eternity when they’re inside us, doesn’t it?
Bees are beneficial, in a weird way. The buzzing (and occasional sting) heightens our awareness, often when we need it most. The relief when they depart is euphoric, too. A reward for our vigilance.
But when the bee doesn’t leave, when it’s joined by another, and another, and another, until you have a basketball team’s worth of bees inside you, that is when the problems start. And let me be clear, a dozen bees suddenly bouncing off your kidneys and crawling through your vena cava would send anyone running to the doctor, but it never happens suddenly.
After the first one or two bees have settled in, the sensation becomes normal. You start to forget there was a time when you didn’t have bees inside you. The constant buzzing? White noise. We filter it out. Humans are adaptable. When a third bee shows up inside you, it’s barely noticeable. Two, three, who can tell the difference? After three becomes normal, the fourth bee flies in. Repeat for the fifth bee and so on.
A tiny part of you will always know that something isn’t right. When the bees wake you up at 3am, buzzing around your brain, pollinating thoughts of despair and hopelessness, that tiny part screams, “Get help! We should not have all these bees in here!”.
The bees, now annoyed, buzz more loudly and drown out any cries for help you send to yourself. You lie awake for hours, in the dark, thinking it would just be nice if you could fall asleep forever and never hear the buzzing again. You don’t want to hurt yourself, you just desperately want this feeling to stop.
It’s here that I need to note that the bees aren’t actively trying to harm us. I suspect they would much rather be out bopping around from flower to flower, making honey, and hanging out in their hive than flying in circles around our pancreas and watching us digest our disgusting human food. They are just as confused about this as we are.
Sadly, things can get much worse for us and for the bees.
The longer those dozen or so bees spend inside you, the more agitated they become. Agitated bees stuck inside humans send out all kinds of pheromones and other silent signals to their fellow bees on the outside. If steps aren’t taken to free the bees inside you, soon you may have a lot more bees to deal with. Give them a big enough opening—unemployment, domestic disputes, financial uncertainty, a global pandemic—and BOOM, now you have a swarm.
A couple of bees is annoying. A dozen bees is painful. A swarm of bees is debilitating.
Once the swarm gets in, it’s only a matter of time until your body breaks down. The buzzing becomes as loud as a fleet of helicopters circling directly overhead. The bees sting everything they touch. Every muscle tenses, your hands shake, your heart pounds, your chest tightens until it feels as if you are constantly on the verge of a heart attack. You’re not sure if you will pass out or throw up, all you know is that this can’t continue.
If you’re lucky, you get help. If you’re very lucky, you have someone in your life who helps you get help and helps you as your recover from the swarm. And it is important to allow yourself time and space to recover—this didn’t start overnight, and it will take a while for you to heal from the damage.
You may be asking, “Why don’t people seek help for their bees earlier? There are many professional bee-wranglers out there who can help remove bees from the body.” The answer is that the problem with bees isn’t the bees, it’s how people think of the bees. The problem with bees is us. Despite untold public awareness campaigns, there remains a serious stigma around people with bees inside them.
Some people think that bees can’t really exist inside us—it’s all a bunch of hooey! Some people think that those with bees are exaggerating or just looking for attention. Some people think people who let bees inside them are weak. Some people think you don’t need a bee wrangler or anti-bee medication or rest and self-care to deal with your bees—as long as you get fresh air and exercise you can get rid of your bees or never get them in the first place. Some people think that if you have bees inside you then it’s your own damn fault.
There are all kinds of reasons for the bee stigma, mostly rooted in a lack of understanding and compassion. I must admit that before I experienced a swarm of my own, I didn’t completely understand or fully empathize with the problem.
Now that I have been enlightened, let me share a few tips I learned from my time with bees.
First, that tiny part of you that says, “This isn’t right”? Listen to it. Acknowledge it. You may not understand that there are bees inside you but admitting that you’re not feeling like yourself is a good starting point.
Second, ignore the bee-deniers (even if you were one), and go talk to your doctor or a bee-wrangler.
Third, if you do talk to a doctor and they recommend anti-bee medication, DO NOT FEEL ASHAMED! Yes, there are all kinds of things you can do to help yourself and prevent future swarms but first you need to get rid of the bees you have right now. You need to get back to a bee-less state and if medication can help with that, then use it. Having bees is no different than having any other medical condition. You wouldn’t feel ashamed for taking antibiotics to cure an infection, would you? Well, anti-bee medication is the same thing—it helps to rid you of something harmful.
Fourth, be patient. As you heal, you may feel as if all the bees are gone and then end up getting stung when you’re not prepared. This is normal. Take a deep breath, do whatever you’ve found that helps to calm the remaining bees. Talk to your bee-wrangler, (if you have one), they may have some extra tips for coaxing out the more stubborn bees.
Fifth, reach out to supportive friends or family. You may be surprised to learn that some of them have dealt with their own swarms. You’ll be amazed how good it feels just to have someone text you: “I’m thinking about you. I hope you’re doing okay with your bees.” Compassion is miraculous.
You may have to live with the fact that some of us will always have a few extra bees inside us, and so we need to take steps to manage our buzzy buddies. What I’ve learned from my bees is that we never really know what another person is going through. If bees can teach us to cultivate more empathy, then that’s a kind of honey of it’s own. So, thank you, my bees, for bringing a little more sweetness into my life.