If you had to confront your fears, something you feared irrationally and completely involuntarily, do you think you would be able to do it?
As I write this I am recovering from having a drip in my wrist to deliver 6 months worth of iron store. I say recovering as, although the drip was not out of the ordinary for getting a drip and although it was over in about 15 minutes and I went to work and continued with my day, anything involving needles is exceptionally traumatic for me.
I don’t know when it started, or what set it off. I’ve been to counsellors, psychologists and hypnotists and I haven’t been able to figure it out or beat it. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been petrified of injections.
It was once explained to me that what I have is not a phobia as a phobia results in raised blood pressure and increased adrenalin. What I have is an extreme fear with exactly the opposite physical response.
At least, I often do. The last few times I haven’t fainted. The last blood test I had I didn’t even cry. I was so proud I called my best friend and my mum to brag about my achievement. First blood test without tears in my whole life. Luckily they know me well enough to revel in my success.
Today’s episode with the drip involved me lying down. It took about 5 minutes for the doctor to get my blood pressure high enough to get a vein in my hand/wrist area and it was then 10 minutes of having it in my hand. The doctor, who was literally there when I was born and has looked after me ever since, is as trusted as anyone I know. But I’m still afraid. Today he chatted to me about going to medical school at Sydney, The Simpsons was playing in the background, the Viking was by my side, and still I lay there shaking.
I wiggled my toes to keep the blood running. Tears streaming down my face, I couldn’t even look at the side of the room where the doctor was without getting dizzy.
But today, on my way home from work as I was still shaken by the experience and texting with my mum I felt ridiculous. I felt humiliated, weak, and childish because I am unable to get over my fears.
Harden up. Get used to it. Just don’t look.
Or worse – laughter.
These are the things I hear every time I have to explain that I can’t get a needle without fainting or at least coming close to doing so.
A previous colleague of mine stared at me incredulously, scoffed and said “What, if getting a filling doesn’t go well?!” when I explained I might be late to work the following day due to some dental work and wasn’t able to accurately predict how late I would be or if I’d be able to come in at all.
I realised as all these thoughts were going through my mind on the train home today – how often do other people have to face their fears?
How often do “normal” people have to encounter their worst anxieties in such an intimate and confronting way? How often do “normal” people have the thing they’re afraid of literally inserted into their bodies?
We often make allowances for people not to do things they’re afraid of. I will speak in front of crowds to save my colleagues or friends from having to do so when it’s something they don’t like. We will catch and remove spiders when other people are scared of them. We will go out of our way to prevent those who are scared of heights from ever having to confront that fear or look over an edge.
And yet, when it comes to my fear, I’m confronted with it all the time and instead of understanding, I am met with humiliation, laughter and shame.
It might seem ridiculous to you that a grown woman can’t get a blood test without tears streaming down her cheeks and a feeling of total violation for the entirety following day. But to me, that’s just a reality I have to face.
And it makes me wonder – if you had to face your fear, would you do so well?
What are you afraid of? Do people make fun of you for your fears?