Gail’s short story yesterday reminded me of my own juvenile therapy experience. I was five, and don’t remember much of it. I remember bits and pieces of small chairs and tables, colors and smells. I remember the event that lead to the therapy almost like a movie, looking at myself in third person, watching the events unfold like a spectator instead of a participant.
When I was five, we lived in Germany. Dad was stationed at Ramstein, and we lived on the army post at Kaiserslattern. It was fun. We lived in a first floor apartment with uber-waxed wood floors that caused my first two trips to the emergency room that resulted in stitches. There were always kids around to play with, and we took trips all over Europe in our beefed up VW pop-top camper. While my cousin Andy was visiting us, we went out to the country to look for some nature center mom had heard about. Lacking good directions we ended up running down paths through the wood looking for something that resembled our intended destination. My cousin and I had run up a hill to see if maybe we had missed it or something. As we ran back down the hill, my sock got caught on a branch and my foot jammed into a beehive. For some crazy Bavarian evolutionary reason, German bees (who are especially efficient) build their hives at the base of trees, in the ground. The bees decided that the best way to remove me from their home was to sacrifice their lives by stinging me repeatedly until I left.
My cousin had already reached the bottom by the time I started screaming. He ran back up the hill, took off his sweatshirt and started beating the crap out of me with it to get the bees off. I dislodged my foot and we ran down the hill. I don’t remember much of what happened next. I remember there was this older German couple walking their (wait for it) German Shepherd. She was deathly allergic to bee stings and had some weird thing around her neck that was supposed to ward them off. I think she had some cream for stings that she gave us. I don’t remember anything else about that day.
In total, I was stung more than 35 times, and developed an allergy. And worse, I developed a crippling fear of flying bugs. If I went outside and saw a fly or some other buzzing insect, I immediately ran back inside. This is when the therapy started. I remember the office was in a small beige building (all offices on a military base are some shade of biege and usually small). There were bright simple paintings on the walls. I remember sitting on a chair at a small table across from (I think) a woman and looking at pictures.
Not too long after that, we moved to Iceland (which I’ve talked about a couple times). I don’t remember going to therapy there. I do remember the ulcer. It took forever to diagnose. I had to go to several Icelandic hospitals in the capital, drink barium and watch it slide down my throat and into my now porous stomach on TV. I was a member of the Frequent Mylanta club and went through a large bottle every few days. My pediatrician said I was the first six year-old he’d ever met with a stress-induced ulcer. I don’t remember when the ulcer went away… but it did.