Last month I stood on a wasp, an action I recommend others avoid at all costs. I felt the sting and it hurt, a lot, like being electrocuted and burned with a cigarette at the same time. I had my hands full at the time and although my instinct was to drop everything and tend to my foot, the object in my hand was my four month old grandson and I’m pleased to say I held on. My left big toe immediately began to swell as if it had been pumped up with air.

First aid responder

In the garden I was tended to by the caring hands of ‘Dr’ Iain who fetched vinegar and ice and the pain subsided but not the swelling. It took a week for my toe to go back to normal during which time I experienced the most intense and torturous itching I’ve ever experienced, well, since  I was stung on my finger last year. Whilst I’m not allergic to wasp and bee stings in the anaphylactic sense (swelling of tongue, throat and difficulty breathing), I do have a sensitivity that causes my body to over-react

‘Don’t play with wasps

People with my condition are told to avoid wasp and bee stings (are there people in the world who invite such meetings?!) and I really do. I’ve never been someone who panics at the sight of flying buzzing creatures though, unlike those people who wave and flap about and probably agitate the otherwise peaceful insects and make them more likely to sting other people around, like me!

I have a great respect for bees and enjoy nursing the ones that get trapped in situations where they become listless and need an infusion of sugar and water to recover (bee first aid is something I find satisfying – maybe this is how vets feel every day?). So, I think getting stung is a random and unavoidable act, cause by one large creature and one infinitesimal small one being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There is no safe place

I could have avoided being out in the garden all Summer but I refuse to be dominated by a 15mm long insect and just as well because my next sting, which happened yesterday, was indoors. There I was, lounging in my dressing gown looking at the Telegraph cryptic crossword, when I suddenly felt a searing pain in my left breast. As I opened the front to investigate, a very angry wasp flew out. Within minutes the area had swollen but hours later I had an bright red, swollen area with a diameter of 9cm (just measured with a ruler!). Since then I can’t wear a bra and having a constantly itchy breast promotes very anti-social behaviour. I’m looking forward to next week.

A useful role

Some woman would probably enjoy the prospect of their breasts increasing by 2 cup sizes and I’m guessing would even endure weekly stings to gain the effect (in my case I already feel over-endowed in the boob department and unequal boobs is not a good look!).  Maybe the wasp could become the source of non-surgical cosmetic enhancements, after all what else do they do that is of any use? They lurk around and ruin picnics, drown in people’s favourite beverages and build large nests in our homes which need to be removed by professionals (don’t suppose many people would tackle this themselves!!). Of course, they must do something useful in nature, kill other insects maybe? However, they don’t supply us with lovely honey or pollenate our flowers so it’s difficult to make a case to respect them, although I wouldn’t ever purposefully kill one.

How to get a phobia

A very interesting part of all of this was that after being stung, the next time I put on my dressing gown I felt some anxiety. This is the way people can develop a phobia because the brain makes associations with negative experiences. Although my logical mind knows that there is little chance of being stung in the same circumstances, my brain screams ‘look out!’ because it remembers the previous experience and sees the dressing gown as being an important element of the situation.

The best way to overcome this sort of thing is to keep doing the thing that feels uncomfortable until the brain learns that there is no threat, but it’s easy to see how phobias can develop, especially those that have been established from a childhood incident and followed by years of avoidance tactics. Phobias can come about as learned experiences (something that happened to you), role models (something that you observe happening to someone else), things that you are told that create a strong emotion (like fear) which become beliefs, although often we may never know where a phobia originates.

Please noteI am an early riser and frequently wake up with thoughts and questions on my mind. I write them down and record them in these short unedited, un-researched, unscientific bits of writing. They are written in a half asleep hypnopompic state and should not be regarded as anything more than what they are – random thoughts and musings. For sensible subjects and writing please visit Positive Psychology Learning website