MH – Phobias and anxiety *guest blogger*

Thank you Katrin, (name used with permission) for contributing this post and explaining how a phobia is developed very early on and can be disasterous when not respected. I really appreciate you sharing this with me, and like I’ve said, I really wanted to keep this series as personal as possible. Guest posts are so valuable, in my opinion, to really get a message acrossed.

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Phobia: An unreasonable sort of fear that can cause avoidance and panic. Phobias are a relatively common type of anxiety disorder.

Panic: A sudden strong feeling of fear that prevents reasonable thought or action.

A phobia of a situation, animal, object, etc is something that prevents reasonable thought or action. In other words, the person can’t just “get over it” by force of will power. Generally phobias need to be worked through with various types of behavior modification such as systematic desensitization or cognitive behavioral therapy and it can take years for treatment to reach a level where the person can now rationally and reasonably look at what is happening at that moment in time.

Sometimes phobias are of things that can, if the phobia is not treated, cause the person harm. For example I have a phobia of needles, specifically needles that inject or draw things in or out of my person. This phobia began many, many years ago when I was a child and was inappropriately treated at my pediatricians office for routine blood draws and inoculations. At that time I was a young child so had no control over the situation and no one addressed my fears of being restrained and I felt attacked and assaulted every time there were needles involved from the time I can remember on, which was about age 2.

Once I reached an age that I could more effectively communicate my fears, I was still ignored and told that I was being unreasonable at that these procedures had to be done and I needed to get over it. Guess what? I didn’t. Time after time I was placed in flooding situations where my fight or flight mechanism clicked into play and very quickly a thoroughly engrained phobia arose.

Having a phobia of this type can be very dangerous especially if you are in the situation where you need medical attention that requires needles.

For many years I avoided this problem. I just couldn’t handle reliving those memories of those traumatic experiences. Just thinking about having lab work would send me into a panic and meltdown. Then over time, with work, it got to where I could manage having blood drawn if it was done in a very specific way that I felt I was in control of the situation and the lab technicians were listening and respecting what I had to say. I still cannot handle having injections done.

I really felt that I had made progress on this and for the past few years have found a lab that generally respects my problems and works with me to get what blood draws need to be done accomplished with the least amount of stress to me. That was until recently. I take a medication currently that requires yearly lab work to test for certain levels in your blood to make sure the level is not too high. The time had come around for that yearly test so my sister drove me to the hospital where I normally have a good rapport with the technicians, except this time things went very wrong.

This time the technicians did not respect what I said and were belittling. I was told I was being uncooperative and that I should get over it. I felt that I was being very cooperative. I was being calm, I was being rational, I was being communicative of what I was capable of doing and not doing. I was told that I was not giving them options. I did give them options, I just did not give them one specific option that they wanted in particular as at this time I am incapable of having blood drawn from one specific place due to my previous history when I was a child. I am still working on that. The fact that I was able to sit there all the while I was being told that I was not being a “good patient” and that I was choosing to be “difficult” and not have a meltdown or just get up and leave was a testament to how far I have come in the past 5 years even with having blood draws done.

Finally the technician agreed to take the blood the way I asked her to and I was able to leave. At which point I had my meltdown in the car and in my own home for the rest of the day. I felt like I had just taken about 10 huge steps backwards in the process. Simply because the technicians that day were unable to listen to me when I attempted to very clearly explain my phobia and how I needed to have things done in order to get my blood successfully drawn. Instead she felt the need to belittle me and tell me that I just needed to get over my fears. I am sorry but if only it were that simple.

Phobias are real problems. They are not simple silly things that can be turned on or off at will. They are not things that a person can just “get over.” I will now have to go back and work twice as hard to get myself back to the point where I was before I had my most recent blood draw. All because one person decided that a phobia was not a real problem and that what I had to say was not to be respected or listened to.

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I have to say I’m sickened by the way you were treated in the lab. I was a phlebotomist back in my sighted days and while I might have thought some requests were a little odd, I always did what the patient wanted with a smile on my face. I had patients that had to lay down, I had patients request a certain kind of needle, I had one patient request a spray that makes the skin cold. I always wanted my patients to be comfortable, and I’m just sickened by how you were treated.

We never know why someone needs something done a certain way. While it might not make sense to us, we have no idea what someone has been through in their past that might have cause a phobia and lasting anxiety. Again, I think a little understanding would have improved this situation. Again, the running theme here is that we need to be understanding of our fellow humans.

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