The Concept of ‘Bontamination’

Here's one for those of us who are plagued by Contamination based Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)


So… If, whenever I touch that door handle or item, and by doing so, whatever I place down on it, or indeed pick up from it, is insufficient to overwhelm, my own, or someone else’s natural defences, and even at worst would, naturally stimulate those natural defences into becoming stronger, and thus a good thing… That would be ‘Bontamination’, Wouldn’t it?

So… Maybe I don’t Contaminate the world- I ‘Bontaminate’ the world. (And it in turn, ‘Bontaminates’ me…)

Okay, so what exactly is this word ‘Bontamination?

This is a brand new word. It is a positive substitute for the negative term ‘Contamination’.

In our world at the moment, we have Covid to deal with, and awareness of that is very important. Having said that, if we excessively sterilise our hands, we will be bumping off the good germs as well as the bad, and could be setting ourselves up for much worse possibilities. At one time, I would believe that I contaminated the world, not just by what I believed I was putting ‘on’ work surfaces, items, clothing etc. But what I was picking up from the said work surface, or item, or clothing, to then transfer that to something else by touch, maybe risking another persons health, simply because I ‘Knew’ that I had been in contact with the said work surface, item or piece of clothing… 

The intrusive thoughts would be relentless, plaguing me at every turn. I couldn’t carry my granddaughter in case her outdoor shoes contacted my clothing in some way. Door handles in supermarket toilets, fast food restaurants etc. In short, I believed that I contaminated the world. I was a health hazard. Walking on a carpet with outside shoes on, a carpet that babies and children crawl around on, that people sit on, leaning back against other furniture for comfort. And yet, other people would do that all the time, but no one got ill…

It is said that children from untidy homes tend to be more resistant to illness than tidy. Their immune systems have had time to build up resistance to their living environment. When we go on holiday, sometimes we hear people talk about, ‘Change of water’. Is that because we get used to whatever is in our water back home? We cannot breathe ‘pure’ oxygen, we actually need the other components in our airstream. This does actually make sense. 

When we buy something from the supermarket, we antibac gel our hands on the way in, then proceed to take stuff off the shelves, placing them in the trolley, or basket. We have never cleaned our hands between items. To do so, would take all the essential oils out of our skin, doing far more harm than good. When it all goes on the conveyor belt at the till, the operator handles everything… So, in theory, it is all cross contaminated before we even get it back into the car to take it home.

And when we do get it all home, have we ever washed our hands before storing all the stuff away in the cupboards? Really? We honestly haven’t have we?

Do we become ill? Hand on heart, We don’t, do we?

If a baby’s dummy/soother falls out of the buggy onto the ground, the temptation is to pick it up quickly, wipe it over with our fingers, place it into our own mouths, then return it to the baby/child. Well we did, Didn’t we? Were we sterilising the thing? No! Because we aren’t sterile, our saliva isn’t sterile, but we know that kissing is safe, so hopefully we have improved the situation, by licking the thing ourselves. The children survive, as of course do we. So, What about this ‘Bontamination’ word, then? 

Well, The bit ‘Bon’ is from the French for ‘Good’, in direct opposition to ‘Con’ , which is very negative.

If we look in the dictionary, saying something is good, is infinitely better than saying something is bad, likewise Positive, rather than negative. In the dictionaries, there are perhaps 100 plus synonyms for “contamination”.  To make things equal, there really needs to be a hundred synonyms for the word ‘Bontamination’. But it isn’t in there yet.

To ‘Bontaminate’, is the verb, the doing word. ‘Bontamination’ is the noun for the process whereby good/not so good, transfer from place to place, by everything we come into contact with, every breath we take and breathe out into the atmosphere. We have many times experience the odour of tobacco smoke in the street. That is exhaled smoke, and always has been. Not so long ago, smoking was something that most people did on a regular basis.  It is also mentioned about ‘breathing in second hand smoke’ can cause breathing difficulties in small children riding in cars when the driver is smoking. I guess Asthma is on the rise in our world, but considering the amount of antibacterial kitchen and bathroom sprays we use, this is hardly surprising. 

In the old days we didn’t know that we had to be careful what we breathed in. One of the things I did a lot of, was making plastic model kits. The polystyrene ‘cement’ turned out to be dangerous, and yet I could get it over the counter in my local toy shop. Then of course, came the glue sniffing epidemic, and we couldn’t get the glues any more. A real problem when we had a caravan that needed contact adhesive to effect repairs to the framework and interior. That was quite a few years ago now, fortunately.

In normal life today, we can smell a fish and chip shop at at least a hundred yards… So, what else have we been breathing in? We really don’t know, but so far, we’ve survived, or we wouldn’t be reading this, would we?

Whenever we touch a door handle, ‘We put down on/pick up from it, we always have. In a cafe toilet, they might have stainless steel door handles, which are apparently mildly antibacterial, but even so, the process still needs time to work. When we spray and wipe our kitchen worktops, we are actually supposed to wait maybe three minutes before wiping the surface dry, for maximum efficacy. I’ve never done that, Have you? And yet we survive. On modern TV cooking programmes, they use a piece of tree, instead of the multitude of different coloured chopping boards we used to have on a special ‘Toast’ rack on the kitchen worktop. Okay, wood is also mildly antibacterial, but it will still need time for the process to work, and chefs wipe them off with the same cloth! Is this safe? Well, it must be, or they’d be getting sued out of business, and dealing with viewers complaints. And yet, Cooking programmes are a very popular  genre for TV channels to carry. There are numerous competitions, and spin off shows about the craft of cookery.

Just a thought then: just maybe, a word like ‘Bontamination’, could be seen as a form of reassurance. Another way of looking at it, is that it is not ‘Reassurance’, but actually ‘Release’.

Blessed release from having to remember whether I’ve washed my hands enough, or whether there is literally a speck of dust on my shoes, from walking outside. I’m released from the feelings of guilt, that by walking in from outside, I stepped on the floor, where one of the grandchildren crawled, leading them to feel a bit sick as they ate their lunch in their high chair. Blessed release from worrying about what may have got on my clothing, that I unconsciously brushed off with my hands, before making a cup of coffee for someone.

I have no control over what other people do, and thus whether or not they choose to wash their hands before eating, just maybe it isn’t down to the way I prepared their sandwiches, that caused a minor tummy ache, that lasted a few moments, whether or not I even knew about it.

It can be natural for us, especially when feeling low, to actually seek out a bit of reassurance from others; reassurance that everything will turn out okay. The trouble with that theory is that reassurance tends to be counter-productive for us OCD sufferers, because we can deal with one concern, and feel great for five minutes, only to be presented by another scenario or event, long forgotten, and needing to then get reassurance for that. 

At the height of my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), I got right back to memories and things that happened during my schooldays. The thing is, I’m a pensioner, and those distant memories were getting muckraked up by my intrusive thoughts.

There is a ‘Serenity prayer’

“Grant me the grace to accept the things I cannot change, The strength to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference…”

The most important word in there is not ‘strength’, but ‘Wisdom’… Wisdom….

It took me years to accept that  I would need  to be able to go upstairs without worrying about the stair rail, because everyone uses that, and have done for as long as I can remember, because it is a very steep staircase… And I no longer carry anti-bac gel in my pocket. It is actually easier to do things this way, It simply isn’t there, so I don’t start cleaning my hands uncontrollably, I used to, you know!  

In ordinary life, and in most things, don’t we just have to be reasonably clean?


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