I’m not the best with needles.
Okay, technically, that’s not quite accurate. It’s not all needles I struggle with. Crochet needles aren’t a problem. Needles for sewing? No worries. Even needles actively giving me stitches aren’t that big of a deal.
It’s shot needles that get me. Those little devils that exist solely to extract bodily fluids or inject medical concoctions, those are the ones that petrify me.
Now, I know, I’m a grown man. I should be past such silly things. Only kids should be afraid of shots. I get that. Or, at least the rational side of my brain gets that. I just can’t seem to get the emotional side of my brain, the part that wets its proverbial pants each time I get a shot, on the same page.
Where It All Started
My journey down needle phobia lane began at age seven when my dad took me to get a flu shot. He sensed I was feeling anxious, so he tried easing my troubled mind by casually chatting about the critical role vaccinations play in stemming the spread of infectious disease. This little heart-to-heart, which covered everything from anthrax attacks to smallpox outbreaks and influenza epidemics, was remarkably effective. Not that it changed how I felt about needles, but it left me thoroughly convinced that I would likely die sometime in the next two hours unless I got a flu shot.
So, full of trepidation but driven by a deep-seeded sense of self-preservation, I reluctantly walked into the clinic, sat down next to one of the nurses, rolled up my sleeve, and said, “I’m ready.”
The nurse cheerfully smiled and said, “Ok, we’ll do it on the count of three . . . one . . . two” and then she stuck me.
“LIAR! You said you’d wait ‘til three!” my inner voice screamed as I instinctively tensed up.
“You need to relax,” the nurse instructed.
After several seconds of me not relaxing (in my defense, I did have a needle in my arm) she said, “We’re just going to sit here until you relax your arm.”
At first, I thought she was joking, trying to lighten the mood.
She wasn’t joking.
So we sat there, staring each other down. Finally, after approximately 17 hours (in seven-year-old time), I summoned every ounce of will power I possessed and relaxed my arm.
“See, that wasn’t so hard,” the nurse said as she finished the shot.
“Easy for you to say,” I thought as I vowed never to trust a needle-wielding nurse ever again.
Developing Coping Mechanisms
Even though that fateful autumn day left me scarred for life, I did learn a valuable lesson: unless I wanted a needle permanently mounted in my arm, I needed to find some way to relax while getting shots. So, I spent the next decade experimenting with various shot-coping techniques including deep breathing, counting to ten, and going to my “happy place.” After mastering these techniques, I’m proud to announce that I no longer tense up when getting shots.
I faint instead.
I happened upon this exciting response on the day of senior prom. After waking up that morning with enormous hives covering much of my body, I visited my doctor. She assured me that a simple steroid shot would solve the problem in no time. And she was right, the shot cleared the hives right up.
It also rendered me unconscious.
When I came to, I promptly vomited. Then everything that hadn’t come up came flying out the other end (if you know what I mean). Suffice it to say, this was definitely a low point in my life (ironically, another low point came that night at prom, but that’s a story for another time.)
The Most Recent Chapter
The most recent chapter in the ever exciting shot saga came last Thursday when I went into the dentist office for a couple of routine cavity fillings. Sometime between the first and second numbing shot (I was getting work done on both sides of my mouth), I found myself unconscious, dreaming about blogging (of all things.)
About 90 seconds later, I awoke to a very nervous Dr. Harper scrambling to get my vital signs back to normal. Seeing that I was awake, he decided to test my mental clarity by asking, “Will, what day of the week is it?”
I responded, “I have no idea” then thought, “Even if I hadn’t just passed out, I probably wouldn’t know.”
Once I got a little firmer grip on reality, the dentist, the EMTs, and I had a little chat where we discovered that the culprit in my “dental drop out” was overwhelming shot anxiety coupled with low blood sugar. See, my appointment was at 1:00 p.m. and I had chosen not to eat beforehand because I’m ridiculously self-conscious about going to the dentist with food in my mouth.
So, don’t worry, your favorite family blogger is going to be okay. Next time I see the dentist (in two weeks, ahhh!) I won’t let vanity get the best of me. In fact, I’m contemplating eating somewhere between three and five Snickers bars beforehand, just to make sure my blood sugar definitely won’t be low.
But even with my blood sugar at an all-time high, I still can’t guarantee that I won’t pass out. After all, I’m not the best with needles.
Previously published on Will and Sam’s Fam
Photo: Getty Images