The past few weeks, geckos have only been at the back of my mind.

Most of my attention was taken up by moving house, downsizing from the nice-yet-huge place we’ve called home for the past year.

Like many Vietnamese houses, this one was tall and skinny, with many bedrooms and bathrooms — and stairs. For they are designed for multi-generational Vietnamese families. 

Such space and design made it very hard to take care of my baby girl, who is now scooting around the floors, pushing doors open with her head and looking desperate to tackle the steep and scary stairs.

I was upset at having to tell our super-nice landlord we were leaving. Even though he couldn’t understand why I’m afraid of geckos, he installed bug screens and checked the sealing of the skylight window to ensure geckos couldn’t crawl through.

I bet my running tears and tic-like checking of ceilings were enough to convince him.

Hunting down an apartment in Ho Chi Minh City is not a difficult. The supply is huge, and so is the demand.

The expats pouring into the growing city make the real estate market fast-moving, with many options to meet the diversified needs and tastes.

I had a set of criteria that I shared with real estate agents to narrow down the search, yet some criteria were hard to explain.

I was secretly evaluating apartments against the possibility of attracting reptiles. Obviously, this is not something I could tell the realtors, or anybody for all that matters. It just sounds so insane.

When inspecting apartments, I examined how well sealed the windows and doors were, how much greenery was around and the distance of the complex from the river.

I was initially interested in an apartment on a higher floor, until I spotted a gecko on the 22nd floor!

Despite the chaos that comes with moving, I was still capable of continuing with phobia therapy, as the online feature comes with a lot of flexibility. I guess it helped me find my Zen.

My therapist’s advice revolved around two main pillars: understanding why geckos scare me; and thinking about how I can stop the fear from taking over.  This is called systematic desensitisation, or called graduated exposure therapy. Supposedly it’s the methodology used by clinical psychology to help overcome phobias and other anxiety disorders.

Desensitisation, as explained by my therapist, is a process that is broken down into several steps.

First we identify what makes us afraid or anxious, then analyse why, realising that it’s not a rational fear.

Then we slowly face the object/situation that induces fear in an escalating form to be able to conquer it.

The therapist promised to guide me through the steps till I normalise my relationship with geckos, as we both agreed that our current relationship is not healthy.

The process seemed logical except for the last bit of facing my fear to conquer it. I got very nervous and kept asking the therapist “what do you mean by facing my fear? Are you going to make me touch a gecko?”.

Thankfully me touching a gecko was not in the plan, all I had to do for now is to understand why I am afraid of geckos and what I think will happen. The point is that I don’t think – I freeze, I panic, I go blank.

The therapist kept digging into why I am so afraid, wondering if a gecko ever harmed me before or even touched me but the answer is no.

I don’t know. I never had an encounter with a gecko. Only seeing them gives me the creeps.

I am sure hoping my analytical mind can master my reflexes at least till I break down the reasons for my phobia.

To make it more appealing to myself, I compared my geckophobia to motherhood. I am able to curb my reflexes when the baby pulls my hair, slaps my face or bites me as she tries out those two very sharp teeth she recently acquired.

It’s proof that I can control my reflexes, so hopefully I can extend that from baby world to gecko land.

Who knows?

Will keep you posted!