Image found here.
As long as I can remember, I’ve had a horror of needles. Even looking at the picture above, right now, is making me physically queasy. Actually getting an injection is very unpleasant, and worries me for days beforehand. Having blood drawn is worse.
I distinctly remember the first time I had blood drawn. The actual procedure went okay, better than I expected. Afterward, as I sat in the truck while my dad drove me home, the impact of what I’d done finally hit me. I felt more and more nauseous, dizzy, and light-headed. Dark spots swam across my vision. These grew thicker and thicker until, for a few minutes, I went completely blind.
It’s better now. I have a ritual. When they draw the blood, I look away, close my eyes, and hum Canon in D to myself. I feel silly doing it, but it’s better than the alternative. Afterward, I rarely get dizzy anymore, and I drive myself home.
But it still sucks.
Partly because I hate worrying like this over minor procedures. Partly because I’ve never in my life gotten an IV, and I’m terrified by the thought that sooner or later I’ll probably have to. And partly because I would like to donate blood at some point in my life.
As you can imagine, giving blood is one of the more horrifying experiences I can imagine. And yet – it saves lives, doesn’t it? What am I supposed to say to that? “Haha, oh man! I was thinking about saving your life, but, turns out, it makes me uncomfortable. True story. I’m gonna go play Zelda now.”
So I’ve decided to do something about it. I’ve embarked on a campaign of systematic desensitization, which has been shown to be consistently effective in treating phobias.
The concept is simple. You imagine a hierarchy of fear, from 0 to 100. 30 is, say, looking at a photo of an injection, 50 is watching a video of it, 70 is actually getting an injection, 100 is donating blood, etc. Then, you work your way up.
Right now I’m desensitizing myself to pictures of needles. I’ve set the screen saver on my computer to cycle through a bunch of photos of vaccination and other needle-related procedures.
I can already tell a difference. When I first went on Google to find the pictures, I felt sick to my stomach for half an hour afterward. Now, just a few days later, I can look at the pictures without flinching, without even feeling too uncomfortable. Yeah, I still feel sick sometimes, but it’s getting better.
I’m on my way up.
Do you have any phobias?