I know your pain. My hand has been ripped to shreds. My back hurts from all the puncture wounds. My hand spins when I think of all the time expended, all the words unheeded, all the energy I could have spent on my family, myself, even household chores. Most of us have suffered from this condition at one time or another; in fact, many of us will continue to battle it for the rest of our lives. The scientific name is Marsupium crotalus, more commonly known as rattlesnake in pocket. (See also being played, taken for a ride, used and abused, bamboozled, or doormat syndrome.)
The condition is symptom-free at its onset. After initial contact with the viper, the patient may not notice any negative changes. They may interact with the infected reptile for months, even years, before the bite occurs. Marsupium crotalus is the result of the slow-acting toxins released from the snakebite. Marsupium crotalus may include the following symptoms: chest pains, headaches, stiff neck, clenched jaw, back spasms, depression, anxiety, anger, irritable bowel syndrome, and a host of other physical and emotional complications. While treatable through a regimen of self –care, including therapy, it can recur through a person’s lifetime.
You may wonder why anyone would willfully put a rattlesnake in one’s pocket. There are a number of reasons why someone would take such a risk. The person may suffer from empathy, the need to nurture, hope in someone’s untapped potential, or consistently feel the urge to help others. Many people want to “pay it forward” in an effort to give back to the community at large. Occasionally, people who have pre-existing conditions may have compromised immunity to Marsupium crotalus. In any case, it is highly unlikely that the rattlesnake will successfully sublimate its instinctual need to attack. Sooner or later, someone is going to get hurt.
I too have Marsupium crotalus. My therapist asked me a few months ago how one recognizes a rattlesnake. I said the rattling tail is the giveaway. She pointed out that the rattlesnake gives fair warning. I agreed that I don’t have any good reason to pick up the damn thing. The snake, and all the snakes I have known, revealed from day one what it was. The key is learning to head in the other direction when I hear those cascabeles shaking.
I have previously written about my failings in helping others. (betrayal blues) I have been disappointed and devastated by the negative outcomes of helping relatives, professional colleagues, romantic partners, and friends. I wish I could say I am completely healed from Marsupium crotalus. After all I have experienced, some of which has been chronicled in previous writing, I thought I was cured. The last several months have taught me that I still need to work on being aware, assertive, and self-protective. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a resource to someone who is struggling. I can’t control how the person I help will respond. I can control how far I will go in offering my support. Sometimes the best choice I can make is the one to walk away, to not engage, and to care from a safe distance.