Monday, March 4, 2013

Tears (and passing out) for fears...

I am not afraid of much.

Bugs, while sometimes annoying, do not give me the heebie jeebies. I can handle heights, as long as I don't have to walk a tightrope or something ridiculous. Since I've never had a cavity, going to the dentist does not send me into a tailspin - I get a free toothbrush! How can you beat that? Now that I am slightly older and wiser, I have moved past the abstract fear of "being alone", whatever that means. I stopped being afraid of the dark before I got into Kindergarten.

If you want to to incite full-blown fear in me, take me to get blood-work or shots.

Yes, everybody knows someone who is at least a little squeamish about needles. I have friends who ENJOY donating blood, something I cannot even begin to understand. Sure, I can grasp the need/benefit, but let's just say I won't be assisting the Red Cross anytime soon, considering that just seeing a blood drive in progress somewhere is enough to throw my nervous system into overdrive.

Since this is something I've been battling for about fifteen years, I have developed some strategies that (sometimes) work for me. First, I try to sit very still and make sure I am inhaling and exhaling properly. I picture a "happy place" and focus in on that. Niiiiiiice and calm. Once it is time for the work to be done, I lie down (I learned the hard way that sitting upright does not work for me), put cold,wet paper towels behind my neck and over my forehead and eyes, and if possible, chew gum. I make small talk with the lab tech, and absolutely DO NOT want to hear what is happening with the process. Best-case scenario, they get what they need, and I leave feeling only slightly nervous (but don't get me started on having to remove the bandage or see the bruise afterward).

Today was not a best-case scenario. I showed up at the lab, feeling very anxious. The folks in the waiting area probably thought I was doing some sort of Lamaze homework, as I was sitting with very pronounced posture, taking awkward, controlled breaths. My hands were sweaty, and I did not like the feel of my feet touching the ground. Once I was called back into the room, I tried to employ my normal methods, but they weren't working. I start nervously laughing, which then turns into crying. I start to convulse, and feel like I am going to vomit. Next thing I know, there is an additional tech in the room, and they keep asking, "are you with us?". I was told to slowly drink some water, and heard that my color was still gone. They made sure I was able to sit up and stay standing for several minutes without passing out before I was able to leave.

This is all well and good, except for the fact that they didn't even get any blood. That's right. I freaked out and passed out before a needle even came into the equation. Sometime around the rubber tube being tied around my arm and being told to make a fist, I just lost it. Now I have to go back again, and you can be sure that I am going to ask my doctor for some sort of sedative to get me through this (since they are going to need seven vials, I will need all the help I can get). You would think that if I passed out, they could just go ahead and take all the blood they needed, but I guess things don't work like that (except for in urban legends, where you end up in a bath full of ice and realize your kidneys are gone).

Despite today's failure, I'm doing much better with this than I used to. I can remember being at the doctor sometime in 2000, and the blood draw required someone to hold down each leg, someone to hold down each arm, and someone to actually draw the blood. Apparently flailing and hitting a nurse is frowned upon in the medical world! Somewhere along the way, the number of people involved whittled down, and now I can get it knocked out with just one tech (assuming I don't faint; that always crowds up the room with folks). Baby steps!

I am not sure of the genesis of this fear. I remember not really enjoying shots as a child, but I don't remember having a complete breakdown. The first instance I can really recall is being tested for mono after an outbreak among kids in marching band (I tested negative). The gal missed a vein or something, and this suction/gurgle sound came from my arm. The only other somewhat-related memory I have is seeing blood in the catheter tubes attached to my grandfather when he died. I sat on the floor and just stared at the tubes, realizing that was the last bits of him flowing away.

Although this is one of those quirky things that makes me who I am, I am very serious about trying to overcome it. I do not want to be in a situation where I can't help someone who is bleeding (this doesn't freak me out as much as the thought of having blood drawn), and if I ever want to have children, I imagine I am in for quite a few needles here and there. I have never put much stock into things like hypnosis, but I am ready to go out on a limb if it means a future without freaking out unsuspecting lab technicians and embarrassing myself in the process.

So, who wants to go get a tattoo with me? Just kidding, of course...

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