Thursday, July 3, 2008

CTW, OCD and Me

Kenny recently broke his miraculous "sleep in til 9 a.m. streak", which means I find myself watching children's programming earlier than I'd like. But when it comes to PBS's offerings, I can't help but love Arthur.

Today's episode featured Buster the bunny getting called out by the rest of the gang for less-than-stellar hygiene. The smelly little rabbit was unaware of just how many germs seethed upon every surface, and didn't prioritize washing his hands or his trademark harmonica. His friends had an intervention before his much anticipated pool party, in hopes that he would shape up and not be a dirty bunny who pees in the pool or blows his nasty harmonica spit everywhere.

In an effort to educate him, one of his egg-head buddies showed him a microscope slide with germs, showing Buster that they do indeed exist, even if they're not visible to the naked eye. He laughed it off, commenting that the germs looked like "wild rice". That night he began to dream of germs. The reality that they are everywhere, but unseen, settled into his consciousness.

This dream kicked off a mighty spell of OCD. It was awesome.

Homeboy went to school wearing hockey mitts. All he could see was hallucinations of germ-clouds on every surface. He went totally insane, washing his hands every three seconds, avoiding touching anything in his path. He resorted to wearing a gas mask to his own pool party and even chucked out his treasured harmonica. Finally, his friends were able to chill him out without the benefits of pharmacology. It is a cartoon, after all.

It brings me back to my own childhood, and my own foray into the world of OCD. Strangely enough, it was another woodland creature that brought about my episode: the raccoon. My mother had read somewhere that raccoon shit had roundworm larvae in it that, if accidentally ingested by, say, a careless kid in a sandbox, could invade the bloodstream and eat brain tissue. I lost my fucking mind. Sandboxes were my favorite thing ever, and I lived in an area with plenty of raccoons.

All my mom wanted me to do was wash my hands when I came in from playing. That's all.

Instead, I launched into my own little world of paranoia, which could only be assuaged through obsessive and compulsive hand washing. The mere though of a raccoon had me standing before the sink, scrubbing away at my poor baby mitts. I washed my hands so much the skin cracked, thereby allowing all manner of germs entry to my system. Oh, how the irony of that was lost on me.

Fortunately, like Buster, I finally found the shit that I had lost. Somewhere between my ninth and tenth birthdays, I finally realized that I had taken my irrational fear of accidentally ingesting raccoon shit to a crazy level. And, as most fears that I eventually face tend to do, I became inured to the terror or germs. I mean, I'm all about a good hand-washing (another bit of irony that was lost on me: my nemesis, the raccoon, also likes the whole hand-washing bit), but the idea of rogue germs invading my body and eating my brain lost its power. Well, that's not entirely true: I have a justifiable terror of MRSA. But come on; no one can blame me for that.

I suppose the lesson in all of this is if your kid or a kid you know ever goes batshit crazy and becomes an OCD handwasher, eh, don't worry about it. Buster came to his senses in about ten minutes, thanks to his meddling friends. It took me a few months to outgrow my fear of death by raccoon shit, but I got there eventually, and without the help of modern psychology or pharmaceuticals.

What's my advice? Be careful how you expose the truth of germs to kids. You think you're just trying to be helpful and informative, but you just never know what's going to set someone off on their own neurotic little path.


theeriver said...

I wonder if girls suffer from OCD more then boys, or does it manifest itself differently in the sexes. It seems like alot of girls that I dated (which I admit is a very small sampling, and the places I meet them at might not be the most "Scientific" places in the world) seem to have OCD compared to just the guys I know.

Nora said...

Riv--I think it's just more socially acceptable for a girl to admit being a ball of neuroses, don't you?

theeriver said...

Mmmm...well that could be the case, but most times I call the girls out on it after observations. Maybe it's I don't pay attention to the guys neuroses cause I'm not trying to get in their pants..err I meant to court them with the best of intentions :)

Nora said...

I think most people are nuttier 'n squirrel shit, non?

theeriver said...

oui...well except me. I have papers that say I'm sane. Do you?

Nora said...

Sure do. Framed and mounted in the living room right next to my crossbow.