Inoculating against OCD
When I was about four, I was attacked by a suicidal fundamentalist with a poisoned needle. We caught each other off guard while I was playing in my backyard, and his go-to response was to plunge his weapon into my foot and take his own life. To be fair though, I was 20,000 times his size, and there’s not much else a honey bee can do when they’re about to be crushed by rampaging mammal the size of Godzilla.
Shortly afterwards, I swelled up like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and had trouble breathing. I don’t remember much after that, except that I was taken to the hospital. Still, you shoulda seen the other guy.
In order to treat my allergy to bee stings, the doctors proposed a course of injections with bee venom, starting with a minute amount, and gradually upping the dose. The idea was that my body would become accustomed to it, kind of like vaccines use a weakened or dead virus to train the immune system to fight it.
And it worked; my final injection was equal to two bee stings, and I had no allergic reaction. The only problem is, they recommended that I get stung by a bee every few years to keep my immunity up, and it’s been 12 years since my last one. If I copped one today, I have no idea what would happen.
Nearly two decades after my brush with the Stay Puft life, all this got the Mad Scientist lobe of my brain ticking. Because for me, a lot of the symptoms of my autism and OCD were almost like an allergic reaction, in that my body wildly overreacts to an outside stimulus, to the point of doing me harm.
So I thought; if a bunch of gradually escalating bee stings can make me immune to the real thing, maybe I can desensitize myself to my panic triggers in a similar way.
Just like the injections; I had to start small, instead of just running out, finding a member of the kamikaze honey bee cult, and picking a rematch. One of my first targets was cigarette butts; I used to be petrified of standing on them because they’d been in a stranger’s mouth. So I forced myself to stand on one every time I was out walking and encountered them; not every one I saw, just one for that walk. Over time, the fear lost its bite; now they don’t bother me at all.
Next, (TMI warning for the rest of the paragraph) I tried not stripping to go to the toilet and showering directly afterwards. Now this was a tough one; to this day, I keep conquering it, then relapsing. It was easy at my house in Orbost, where there was room to sit without touching the walls. At the house I live in now, with a toilet the size of a kitchen fridge, it’s a lot more stressful, because if I so much as brush the walls or door I feel like my clothes have been contaminated.
I had more success with rubbish bins; when I was 18 I would walk three meters around them; in my first year of Uni, I’d learned to walk passed them unaffected, and even get close enough to throw rubbish in.
Physical contact was another hurdle. At 18 or 19, I honestly didn’t know if I would ever be able to kiss someone. At age 20, I did so. Now, admittedly, my first was pretty scary; I was talking to a guy at the University bar, we were both drunk, and I mentioned I’d never been kissed. He immediately took it upon himself to relieve me of this awful burden, and kissed before I could react. It wasn’t as bad as I’d expected, but thoughts of Meningococcal and Herpes still swirled in my head, compelling me to rush away to wash my mouth out.
My second kiss, however, was much better, mostly because it wasn’t an out-of-the-blue surprise, it was no longer a terrifying new experience, and this time it was an attractive girl. (In addition to the fact that I’m heterosexual, I had observed that girls tend to have stricter hygiene than guys and as a result they scared me less)
And so, one by one, I immunized myself to individual triggers. Granted, it’s a slow and painful process, but the results have been worth it. It might take years more for me to get rid of them all, but in the mean time, they get fewer and weaker every day.
Thank you, kamikaze honey bee; your death was not in vain!