[Disclaimer: The aim of this blog post is to tell my experience with honesty. Therefore, some content may trigger an adverse reaction. If this post is beginning to upset you, I advise that you please stop reading it immediately and talk to your support team. Content and Trigger Warning: Phobias and Needles]
I faced a fear this weekend. It might not seem like a big deal but to anyone with anxiety, facing a fear is very daunting and sometimes debilitating.
My fear is needles. I've been scared of them since early secondary school and will actively avoid any situation that could lead to me requiring an injection or blood test. The thought of having either of these makes my heart pound in my chest and my breathing become rapid. I've never fainted due to needles, but I've been reduced to a blubbering mess in floods of tears.
A few months ago I had chest pains, pains that meant I could not stand and genuinely feared for my life they were that painful. I'd had chest pains before that were connected to my anxiety, but this was much worse. I ended up in A&E but the wait (due in part to Covid as cases were very high at this point) would have been over 8 hours, so I had to make a GP appointment for the next day instead. I was told I would need an ECG and a blood test... and at that I considered not even going. "It's probably nothing", "they'll just blame it on my anxiety anyway", "you're probably just overreacting" were the thoughts that were going through my head. I was trying to find any excuse not to go. But that experience scared me, scared me more than the idea of a blood test (but not by much) and I needed to know what was happening... I walked over to my GP shaking, and guess what. They worked out what the problem was before I even needed the blood test so I didn't have it after all. I was so relieved! Both to find out what the problem was (I wasn't dying) and that I didn't have to encounter a needle.
I know it's never going to be as bad as my brain thinks it will be. I know I will be fine, but that doesn't stop me fearing it. I'm also aware of the hypocrisy of my fear... because I have 4 tattoos and somehow that needle is different to an injection?! It's irrational, yes, but it also has it's roots in fearing the unknown and giving up control. Having a tattoo means you hold onto a certain amount of control in the form of the design, size, placement, the artist etc. You control the pain and are there by choice. With an injection you don't know if there will be side effects, how much pain to expect, what the injection administrator will be like and a lot of the time you are on a mandatory basis. You have no choice.
So when the news was announced that the Covid vaccine would be administrated nationwide to all, starting with the oldest and working their way down the age groups, I instantly started panicking.
There was never going to be a situation where I didn't have the vaccine, I knew I would get it and wanted it so that me, my family and friends would be safe. But again that didn't stop me counting the days until it was my turn and then stalling with booking my appointment; yes we had been busy but I needed time to psych myself up. So I booked my appointment and tried to put it to the back of my mind, tried to ignore the stories people were sharing about their reactions or the reactions of people they knew, and pretty much pretended that I wasn't having the jab at all until the day.
The morning of the jab I got up and made sure I had breakfast and a cuppa as usual, despite not having an appetite, whilst Lewis (my fiancé) and I watched Brooklyn 99. Funnily enough we watched the episode House Mouses where Rosa Diaz, straight-up badass, decides to face her fear of having her blood taken. No, I'm not making this up. This episode could not have come at a better time. She manages it, but is literally screaming "Stab me! Stab me! AAARRRGGHHH!" as she does so which had me howling with laughter. It broke the tension I was feeling.
For anyone who fancies watching it, here you go: Rosa Diaz Afraid Of Needles
So Lewis and I arrive and they let him stay with me for moral support, all the staff were lovely and gentle and tried their best to put me at ease. I wasn't really paying attention to anything other than the next thing I had to do i.e. go to this station, read this, stand over there, because I was in panic mode. Lewis held me hand the entire time and I just pictured Rosa screaming in my mind which actually helped drastically. It was not as painful as I thought it was be and I didn't feel ill in the 15 minutes after having it which was comforting. Lewis then bribed, I mean, treated me with lunch and some new Warhammer dice for being brave. I don't care if that makes me sound like a child either as it was comforting and dice are cool. I know I have another 2nd dose to come, and right now I feel okay about it, but we'll see when the time comes.
All fears are valid, whether rational or irrational, and any small step you take to combating them should be celebrated. No one should make you feel ashamed of your fears and the people around you who care will help you get through them one step at a time. Sometimes we all need reminding that fear, if left to it's own devices, will grow and control us, when in reality we are the ones that can control our fears. We can fight them and we can win. So celebrate the big wins and the little ones too. I am proud of you for the progress you are making, so you should be proud of yourself too.