Almost a year ago, I first wrote about my needle phobia. Since then, I’ve gotten an IV, which was a major milestone (I wrote about that before and after). It isn’t the pain that bothers me – that’s minor anyway. For reasons I don’t understand, my phobia is a mental reaction to the idea of the needle itself. The symptoms – mostly nausea and lightheadedness – have been triggered in the past just by looking at pictures of needles, or even talking about them.
Since that first post, I’ve embarked on a campaign of systematic desensitization to lessen my horror of needles. First, I set my screen saver to a slideshow of needle-related images, which it still is to this day. (That does get some interesting reactions from guests.) The pictures used to bother me so much I couldn’t even look at them, but they’re no big deal anymore. Then, I upped the ante to videos. Every day, I watch a YouTube clip of someone having blood drawn. Again, this used to make me so sick I had to look away after a few seconds, but now I have almost no reaction at all.
That’s the great thing about systematic desensitization. With remarkable consistency, it just works.
My ultimate goal is for the experience itself to be mundane. I want to have routine medical procedures without fear. I want to donate blood – my last major milestone, my Everest. I’m not there yet. But if the videos don’t bother me anymore, what’s next?
I’ve decided to start volunteering at blood drives. In keeping with the systematic desensitization plan, I’m starting small. Last week I sat at a desk for an hour and a half, in the waiting room outside where the procedures were happening, and registered donors. When I had downtime, I read through the donor guidebook. Minimal exposure to the phobia triggers, no big deal. Next time maybe I’ll volunteer to be a donor escort, and go into the room with them.
Already, the idea of donating blood has changed in my mind. It’s gone from being a personal vision of hell to a personal objective, a target to which strategies and tactics may be applied. I call that pretty exciting.
What are you frightened of?