On Terror

A few months ago, I wrote about my needle phobia. The first time I ever had blood drawn, the psychological reaction was so intense that my eyesight literally blacked out for a few minutes. For no good reason at all, needles terrify me.

At 7:30 tonight, for the first time in my life, I will be getting an IV.

The procedure itself is nothing to worry about. It’s not even surgery or anything like that. Just a test they need to perform.

But the needle. In my arm. For how long? Three minutes? Five? Ten?

Yesterday I was feeling pretty zen about all this. After all, I’ve come a long way since that first blackout. I’ve had blood drawn several more times with only minor reactions. And I’ve been desensitizing myself to needles, trying to beat the phobia. I’ve had a screensaver running on my PC with photos of people getting injections, giving blood. The pictures don’t even bother me anymore.

I was planning to work my way up to watching videos, but never got around to it. Still, I should be fine, right? Zen, man.

Last night I had a vivid dream that a doctor gave me two injections. I could feel the needle going in both times. That alone was almost unbearable. In the dream, I decided that if injections were this bad, there was no way I could get an IV. I would cancel the procedure.

Then I woke up.

Sitting in the bathroom at 5:30 this morning, over the course of about five minutes, I talked myself back into doing it again.

As I write this, I am physically sick. I have a lump in my throat. I literally feel a cold spot on my arm at the place I imagine they will put the needle.

But for all that, I still have a lot of things going for me.

  • I’ve made up my mind. Resolution is hard, but indecision is agony. Knowing that I won’t back out gives me purpose and strength.
  • I’ve beaten terror before. I’ve been skydiving, which I chose to do solely because it was the scariest thing I had ever done. This is not my first rodeo.
  • I have a plan. Explain my situation to the nurse, don’t look at the needle, deep breaths, hum Canon in D, keep it zen. Plans are a good thing.
  • I’m Brian fucking Buckley. I have a black belt in karate. I’ve written three novels. I’ve jumped out of a plane. I got a 35 on my ACT. I’ve been to the National Spelling Bee twice, and I don’t give a damn how ridiculous that sounds. Fuck needles. I’m doing this.

Besides, I know too many courageous people to back out now. My wife had an awful experience her first time giving blood, but she went and did it again. I have another friend who’s given blood many times despite a phobia of her own. Another of my friends has been to Afghanistan, and not for the souvenirs. I live in a nation built on the bravery of men and women who faced fears a lot bigger than five-minute medical tests.

Not to mention, I can shamelessly milk the drama on the blog.

Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

On Monday I’ll let you know how it went. Carpe diem.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

6 responses to “On Terror

  1. Wow. Good for you. If I had a fear of needles, I know I’d never be able to overcome it like you have.

    I really tend to stay away from scary and dangerous situations and things. I rarely confront my fears. One thing I’m glad of is that I’ve never been afraid of much, so there’s little for me to avoid. I never overcame a fear of spiders or snakes- I’ve just never been afraid of them in the first place.

    I think the scariest thing I’ve ever done was riding double on my bicycle down a gravel road. Which makes me feel pretty pathetic.

    • You’re not pathetic at all, and you’re braver than you might think. To be honest, when I was younger, I didn’t think I could overcome fears like that either. Part of it is just getting older. Your brain learns how to deal with stuff like this. You’re still afraid, but you’re not afraid of the fear…if that makes any sense.

      Anyway, don’t sell yourself short. People are usually braver than they expect, when they have to be.

  2. God love our irrational fears, eh? Mine is a fear of being eaten by an animal (damn raptors in Jurassic Park), though I don’t particularly like needles either. Over the last year I’ve been poked and prodded more than any other time in my life and all I can say is that you can get used to it. Personally I think you were crazy for looking at all of those images (might have set off your dream), but I can understand how facing tangible reality rather than the fantastic terrors our minds can produce would be helpful.

    I’ll be praying for you!

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