Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I'm Still Alive

Now that a couple of days have passed since my blood draw (I believe it was my first blood draw of my whole life - is this really possible? I am 26! How is this possible? It is possible.) and I am still alive here, I'm able to view the experience with less fresh glasses. Not rosy, but less fresh/raw/it-just-happened-and-I'm-still-anxious-about-it glasses.
Honestly, I thought FOR SURE that I would throw up, faint, or do both. I'm so so shocked that I didn't do either. And you're probably wondering "why keep beating a dead horse, this is the 2nd or 3rd mention of it on blogger/twitter/etc. in the last few days?"  Well, if you knew my history of "doctors appointments" especially ones including needles, well you'd understand.
I think the Xanax probably had a lot to do with it, but to be completely honest, I still lost my shit. I basically had to lay on the exam table as flat as a pancake. I asked Nick to remove the thing they call a pillow (I disagree - def. not a pillow) from underneath the exam table paper so I could be closer to 180-degree and get the maximum blood flow to the head. When the nurse came in, I started getting dizzy and anxious (just from hearing her come in! - my free arm was already draped across my forehead so I couldn't even see anything because even just the sight of the needles could make me faint). When she tried to find a vein, I started to get antsy and move around a bit, moving my legs and feet and trying to disassociate.
She poked my right arm with the needle, which didn't really hurt, but then I hear an "Oops" and a scurry out the door. At this point, I was getting more and more anxious by the minute. I was probably starting to breath heavily and/or hyperventilate. The onset of an anxiety attack! Fun Monday afternoon activity.  And really? It's not the pain that gets me - I'm not really sure what it is to be honest!  I didn't even realize that I was having anxiety attacks re: doctors/needles etc. until my doctor said "why don't you try Xanax?"  
Back to my riveting story, a minute later, the nurse came back with another nurse (I'm assuming one who is "better" at drawing blood?) and they poked me in the left arm. They had to tourniquette my arm pretty tight because my veins were in hiding. (Poor things were just as nervous as me.) THAT made me anxious as hell, because I could feel how tight it was around my arm. The nurses and Nick kept giving me updates "You're doing great, wow, you're almost done, almost over, you're just about done, you're doing great" and that REALLY helped as well. Because honestly? It didn't feel like ANYTHING. The initial poke BARELY hurt, and after that 1 second poke, I didn't feel a thing. I don't even think I felt the needle get removed.  I make it sound like this was all a piece of cake for me, but it wasn't. I was still very much anxious and "in the zone" and freaking out. After they were done with the blood draw, my arm started to go numb, and my hands were hurting. At this point, like I said, I wasn't looking at anything, my eyes were shut, and  I was hyperventilating as well as sweating like crazy. I had a washcloth on my face and neck, and I couldn't see anything.
Finally, I peeked out of the washcloth and looked at my free hand, and figured out why my hands hurt - my fingers literally curled up in my hand. Picture making your fingers into a duck-bill profile, then try to touch the duck-bill profile to your forearm. YEAH, that's what my hands looks like - both of them. It was really bizarre and kind of frightening, but to tell you the truth, in hindsight, I'm glad I had something else to focus on other than the thought that I just had a needle piercing my vein and drawing blood. The nurses had to get my some hot packs to relax the muscles in my hand, they were stiff as a board and there was no moving my fingers. 
Anyway, to finish up the story, I laid on the table for a few extra minutes, trying to figure out what was going on with my fingers and gain my composure a bit and calm down. I think part of the anxiety that people like me face is the embarassment of having such an anxiety disorder for medical-related issues. It was very embarassing for me, but the nurse was so helpful yet unfazed, and Nick was so nice about it. I kept putting myself down, rhetorically asking myself mid-procedure "WTF. Why am I like this? Why am I such a freak?" because I just wanted to note out loud that "yes, I understand this is a weird reaction, I do realize that, I don't think this is normal" because I was so sensitive to how people would react to my reaction. I realize this is silly, but it was part of my anxiety as well. Now that it's sort of "established" with my doctor/nurse that I am this way, hopefully the next time I have to do this (way far away future!) that part of the equation won't be there.
Wow - I didn't think I would be so wordy about this - I didn't realize I had so much to say. But honestly, once I left that place, I felt like a million bucks to have the experience behind me. Well, more like fifty bucks, seeing as how I went home and promptly fell asleep for 15 hours. Anxiety/panic attack will do that to you. It DRAINS you, trust me!
Epilogue: I wrote this and left it in "draft" mode for quite a while. I typically don't talk about this with people, other than to say "Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of needles." Little do they know. But, this site has been so helpful to make me realize I'm not the only nut out there that I've decided to hit the "Post and Publish" button. If I know you in "real life" (I have what? 3 readers of this site?) I probably haven't talked in much detail about it. Although my close close friends know ALL ABOUT the time I went in for a cavity-filling and ended up throwing up my lunch (Nacho Cheese Doritos) all over the dentist office. It's actually quite cathartic to write it down on paper (screen?), and hit the publish button. Now it's not such a secret. Helps with the "apprehension of being judged" factor of the anxiety. Anyway, I thought to myself, "if someone reads this and they see a little bit of me in someone they know, maybe it'll help him/her to understand that person better." So there you have it.

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