Tag Archives: fear of needles

The Things I Do For Love

Long-time readers of this blog, or knowers of me, are well aware that I have a severe needle phobia. Actually, to call it a needle phobia is an understatement. I have a crippling fear of any kind of medical work which involves me, my blood, pointy objects extracting my blood or touching my skin, and doctors in general. So, deciding to get pregnant was the ultimate in forced therapy. After a few months of actual cognitive therapy, some intensive internal work, and good medication, at 28 weeks pregnant I was able to accomplish my first ever blood draw. And I mean ever. Nearly 30 years of life and I’d escaped with no more than a finger prick or two and no shots since middle school.

After jumping that hurdle, I thought when my nurse midwife told me I should get a Tdap vaccine to help protect Baby G from pertussis (whooping cough), that it would be no sweat. Then, she told me they didn’t offer them at the birth center due to requirements around storing vaccines, so I could just pop into a CVS or Target – really any pharmacy, and just get one. That’s when I started to get nervous. It is one thing to face your fear in a nicely decorated room with a nurse midwife you’ve been bonding with over the past few months, some relaxing music, effective medication, and your husband squeezing your hand. It is another to walk up to a Publix pharmacist and ask them to perform a procedure on you in the middle of a grocery store which is literally the thing you fear most in the entire world. Like, seriously. I can’t undersell this. I’m so okay with child birth, and totally terrified of a tiny needle. Why? Because one is totally my body going into action and doing something it was programmed to do. The other is trusting someone else to inflict pain on my body for ultimately good reasons. It’s a mental thing. Totally mental.

So, yesterday was the day. Although he probably didn’t need it, I asked Brian to go with me and get one too. I then asked him to go first, totally chickened out myself, violently ugly cried, and told him this wasn’t happening. Poor Publix pharmacist. Probably the worst day of work he ever had. He was super nice and patient though. Mad props to Publix. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to do it, honestly, except for the nurses I’d been working with at my birth center. So we left the pharmacy area. I was so mad at myself, but just couldn’t face my fear. We go to check out (because we also came to buy groceries, duh), and I’m just mentally berating myself. The check out lady starts looking at Brian like he is a horrible person because my face is all red from my ugly cry. I can’t stand to hear her kindly asking if I’m okay, so I stalk off to the bathroom to give myself a pep talk.

“You can do this,” I say. “You will not let your baby be 1 of the 20 who die each year because you can’t handle a stupid prick which will take less than 5 seconds of your life. You are going to get back out there, walk up to the counter, and let Ryan (the pharmacist) give you this damn shot.”

And I did. Because already, I love this damn kid more than anything in the world. And although the chance might be a tiny one, whatever I can do to protect him where I can, I’m going to do it. And, just like my dad and mom used to do for me when I got those shots back in the day, I treated myself to ice cream after.

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So this may be the most serious and difficult post I ever write. Mainly because I tend to lose consciousness every time I touch on the subject. No joke.

I suffer from a condition called trypanophobia.

Trypanophobia (noun) — the extreme fear of medical procedures. Also commonly known as needle phobia. It affects 10% of Americans, but when I tell people I have it — most just laugh and assume I simply don’t like going to the doctor.

No, I don’t like going to the doctor. A lot of people don’t like going to the doctor. But I bet most of those people also don’t spontaneously faint when they take their cat to the vet for a rabies shot, or are in the middle of a crowded theater watching Bella sip blood through a straw in Breaking Dawn. These things have happened to me. True. Story.

When I was a child and needed to undergo medical procedures I had my parents to lean on for support and force me to do the things I knew were in my best interest. It terrified me, I cried, I fainted, but I got through it. Probably because back then bubble gum ice cream and a hug was a big enough reward to take my mind off of my fear. Now that I’m an adult and responsible for my own decisions when it comes to these things, I tend to go with avoidance (also there isn’t anyone handing me a pair of Jimmy Choos and a hug.) Thank goodness in general I’m relatively healthy, but every once in a while something comes up.

Well, recently, something has come up. It probably isn’t a big deal. I’m sure the procedure is routine, and in fact I’ve had to undergo it before so I even know what I’m walking into. But that doesn’t stop be from obsessing over it — feeling my heart beat accelerate, my vision tunnel, the urge to burst into tears clogging my throat and the panic rising in my chest.

This time I still have my mother to lean on for support. She’s coming with me; still protecting her 25-year-old little girl. I’m lucky in this case, because when the next thing comes up she may not have the time to hold my hand and support me through it. What then?

I’d never anticipated having to go through any of this alone. My biggest fear is I will choose to run from the medical care and treatment I desperately need because avoidance is easier than the trauma of being strong — of knowing that it’s likely I will flip my shit and lose it, but I just have to do it any way.

Next to losing a loved one, feeling like your own body is betraying you is probably the most horrific experience I’ve had so far in life. No matter how much I steel myself against reacting, once I’m faced with my fear I can’t control the response. My dad suffers from a similar condition, but he has this mantra that helps him get through it. He’ll just repeat “it’s no big deal” over and over. I apparently haven’t found my winning mantra yet, as it does nothing for me.

And worst of all — I think my condition is becoming more severe the older I get. When I go in for my annual visit it starts as they are taking my blood pressure. This is the most non-invasive part of the whole process and I already start to feel light-headed — the anxiety beginning to take over. A few years ago I vomited during my lady doctor visit. There wasn’t an exposed needle in the whole room. I knew exactly what we were doing and no sharp objects or bodily fluids were involved. WTF. Why? Why does it have to get worse. I’m an adult now and I should be able to hit this beast head on.

I worry about my future, and whether having kids will even be a possibility for me. Having an aversion to hospitals isn’t really conducive to the whole child birthing thing. What if I get really sick — like cancer or life-threatening illness sick? Maybe if there is something that I want more than anything else in the world — a child, or more seriously to continue living — maybe that will give me the strength to do what’s necessary.

I really hope so.

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