Bad-Tempered Nurse Cured My 30-Year Needle Phobia
Phobias are strange things...
Phobias are funny things. Although if you're the person with the phobia then they're not really funny at all. They can be very serious and scary things that can rule or even ruin your life.
To other people they may seem irrational or ridiculous. How can someone be scared of birds (ornithophobia)? Or afraid of being in the middle of a field (agoraphobia)?
Well if you're phobic you might not know why you feel the way you do, but the fear is very real indeed.
Most people are scared of something. My own particular phobia is called trypanophobia, a fear of injections. I'm fine with snakes, love spiders and I'm okay with crowds, but show me a syringe and I won't be happy.
At least that's how things were until very recently. I'm hoping that this phobia's now a thing of the past...
Ready for your shot?
I've had a needle phobia for as long as I can remember.
As a child I needed to have a lot of dental operations, and one of my early childhood memories is fainting on the floor of the doctor's office after he told me he was going to put a "tiny little needle" in my arm to make me go to sleep.
In the years that followed, any inoculations or blood tests made me dizzy, and just the thought of having one made me sick with worry for days beforehand.
If a television programme showed somebody getting an injection I had to turn over until that part was over.
And one time at school during an English lesson we were reading a book about somebody who had to be injected with something, and I had to ask to leave the class so that I didn't pass out on my desk!
Although some people just grow out of such phobias, mine continued into adulthood.
Whenever I went for a blood test I would ask to lie down as there was less chance of me fainting that way. (And if I did, well, I was already lying down!)
I always fled any conversations where somebody was describing the details of an operation or talking about needles, and to be honest even a photo of a syringe would make me feel quite woozy.
Then when I had my daughter I could cope with any amount of labour pain, when the alternative was a big needle in my back or my arm.
So recently when I had to get a blood test I was dreading it. Especially because I couldn't find anybody to look after my four year-old and I would have to take her with me!
Now, my daughter is fantastic with needles. As a baby she hardly cried during her jabs - we started to think that maybe she had no feeling in her arms or legs.. And her recent injections have also been a breeze. When I took her for her MMR last year she was happily dancing around the nurse's office, both before and after her injection. The nurse was so much more nervous than she was!
Well, I really didn't want to suddenly make her scared of needles because she saw me making a fuss, so I refused to think about what was going to happen. I was determined to make it a fun day and not dwell on the thought of the needle.
(Gratuitous pictures of sweets to balance out the nasty needles..)
Think happy thoughts
Thinking happy thoughts, we went to the hospital via the sweet shop. So while we were waiting for my appointment my daughter was happily munching, and also chatting non-stop.
Normally by this point I would have broken into a cold sweat, head feeling woozy, my body would have tensed up, my mouth would be numb, and I would be hyperventilating slightly.
But my daughter's presence and her funny chatter (including loud, slightly embarrassing enquiries about the man sitting next to her and why he had a funny face), took my mind off all of that.
Then when my name was called I felt pretty calm and collected. I could handle this! That is until I asked the nurse if I could lie down.
"NO!", she practically bellowed. She pointed to the chair she had in the cubicle. "This chair does convert into a trolley, but there is no way I'm going to convert it for you. I've got a bad back, and that would put it right out". I could feel the wooziness rising up my body..
I politely explained how I'm not great with needles and there's a good possibility that I might faint. Should I maybe wait for another cubicle with a trolley?
"Don't be ridiculous! If you don't get yourself all worked up then you will be fine".
While I felt slightly shocked at her tone and annoyed that she talked to me like this, (especially in front of my child), I thought maybe she has a point. So I somehow turned off the wooziness, blocked any thoughts, sat myself down in the chair and smiled at my munching daughter.
The needle prick made me jump - and then it was over!
I couldn't believe how easy that was, or that I was still conscious. I thanked the cranky lady profusely, and practically skipped out of that hospital!
I always thought that the only way I would get over this needle thing would be to go to some kind of sympathetic therapist, (or hypnotherapist). Who would have thought that my life-long phobia would instead been cured by an extremely rude, bad-tempered nurse?
Pull yourself together! (Sorry, bad joke....)
So what does this say about phobias?
Are they all in our head? Well, yes, we know that they are. Phobias are irrational fears, and fears, we know, are things of the head.
So to cure somebody's phobia should we simply tell them not to be afraid, just to pull themselves together?
And then they won't be afraid any more - Phobia Over!
Well, I wouldn't think it's really that simple. Speaking personally, I don't know for sure that I am "cured". I would have to go through another blood test or needle experience to know that for sure. And a phobia of needles might be a bit of an unusual case, as they are difficult to avoid.
We are told that to cure a phobia we need to face our fear. And I suppose that if my phobia were gazelles or radishes (or something else that I could easily stay away from), then I probably wouldn't ever need to face it. But it's a little more difficult to avoid injections and needles. We all need to have them at certain times in our lives.
And on this particular day, it appears that the double whammy of trying not to freak out my daughter and the no-nonsense reprimand I received from the bad-tempered nurse forced me to face my fear, and see the irrationality of it.
How to overcome any fear.
A Pill to Cure Phobias?
- Scientists discover the secret to the feeling of fear | Mail Online
A drug that activates these brain cells could help people face their phobias, from spiders to heights to public speaking.
An Update - Some Months Later...
I had another blood test today. I didn't have my daughter with me this time.
But I felt quite confident about it, as keeping calm worked so well last time. Every time I felt the panic beginning to rise I made myself turn off the feeling immediately. And it worked great.
The fear of the 'thing' is undoubtedly often worse than the thing itself. Roosevelt was right!
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