Exposure Therapy Pt 2: Therapy

Credits: Chato B. Stewart https://www.bphope.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/1525_MentalHealthHumor-Medical-Maggot-Higher-Purpose.jpg

My friend and I had decided to rent an apartment instead of staying in the University hostel again. We wanted more freedom and better food to eat since we were getting sick of the same weekly menu provided by the hostel mess. Life was good. That was until summer break. My friend headed back home for the break. I had stayed back for reasons I cannot recall.

My friend and I had a routine where we’d take turns cleaning and cooking, which we both followed diligently. But after she left, I slacked off a little. Previously, we’d dispose of the kitchen trash every day as it’d start to smell since we were living in a hot place. But due to my slacking off, I’d forgotten to take out the kitchen waste for a couple of days and by the time I got around to it; the trashcan was infested by maggots.

I could not bring myself to even look at it without feeling like the maggots were on me. So, I called up another friend who lived nearby to take out my trash. He sympathized and helped me out but I couldn’t help but feel bad about it as he had to not only take my trash out but clean my trashcan as well; the darn maggots just wouldn’t let go.

The principle behind exposure therapy was not lost to me; subjecting oneself to something that one fears or avoids and, as a result, getting over the fear or repulsion. A quick example of this principle could be the people’s relaxed response to the pandemic now, as opposed to when it first started. People have now been desensitized to it after seeing it in the news and hearing about it everywhere to the point that it has been normalized.

I decided to read up on the proper way to conduct exposure therapy on myself. I could have included the help of other people for this but I wanted to do it at my pace and not have people be concerned about me. I found a website that had listed steps to reduce fear of spiders; I decided to repurpose those steps and added a few of my own to get over my repulsion of maggots.

  1. First imagine a bunch of maggots until the thought no longer produces a repulsion response.
  2. Then look at images, then gifs and then videos of maggots until they no longer invoke a repulsion response.
  3. Read up on maggots. What they are, what they do, their physiology, development, anything you can find. (Ignorance adds to the fear, so the more you know, the less you are afraid)
  4. (This step is another one I added on my own and I, now, feel that it was unnecessary because I wasted food because of this) Watch videos of maggots while eating until you can do it without losing your appetite.
  5. Look at real, live maggots until they no longer repulse you.
  6. Touch them.

It ended up not taking as long as I first thought. The first step took about a day. The second took longer because watching them move in the gifs and videos made me want to shower each time. The third and fourth step, I had added myself: the third being very helpful; and the fourth, very unnecessary (but as a result, I can eat noodles while watching maggots wriggle around… so yay?). Fifth step was easy. The last one, I breezed through it as well. I was surprised at how nonchalant I had become by the time I had reached the last step.

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