I have a follow-up with my PCP next Monday. I am supposed to stop by the lab and have my blood drawn so he has the results in time. This means I have to go this week. I tried to have it done last month, but it didn’t work out so well (read here). With the upcoming snowstorm, it looks like I’ll need to go tomorrow. I am so dreading it.
At least I can go to any clinic that has a lab, so I have a few locations to choose from. My visit last time had a lot to do with my horrible doctor’s appointment right before, but it didn’t help that the medical assistants never seem to be very experienced blood drawers there. Twice before, they were training. The first time, the “student” watched while the “teacher” explained what she was doing. The second time the MA had to call her supervisor over. I don’t really know what happened the last time except that no one seemed to know what they were doing. So I’ve decided to try another clinic.
But I am still really afraid. I am on the verge of a panic attack. I feel sick thinking about it, but I can’t stop. It’s like I need to imagine and prepare myself for every situation that could arise. Some people can’t understand why having your blood drawn is so traumatic. They say “It only takes a second,” and “It’s not that big of a deal.” Not exactly true. For me, it IS a big deal. My doctors order many tests, so there often are 4 to 8 vials to be filled. It takes a while for that much blood to be drawn. It is not uncommon for them to need to use more than one vein. This means more needles. This means more time.
I have a history of self-injury. I have scars all up and down my left forearm. If they have me sit in one of the chairs with the left arm support, I am screwed. When you’re trying not to throw up or have a heart attack, it can be difficult to answer questions like “Why would you do this to yourself?” So the first thing I do when they bring me to the chair area is to find the one with the support for the right arm.
For someone who pricks her fingers and injects insulin into her stomach three times a day, you would think I wouldn’t have a needle phobia. Wrong. I do. When I found out I was diabetic and had to test my blood by pricking my finger, I freaked out. Sometime I’ll write about all it took to get me to finally prick my freaking finger the very first time. I associate needles with the painful and forced shots I would get as a child. My “father” would inject us to make us pliant, quiet, agreeable.
Also, I’m awful when it comes to blood. Now you’re probably thinking “If you self-injure by cutting, how can blood be such an issue?” Well, this should be a post all by itself, but basically, most self-injurers do it to “escape” in some way. Whether it’s cutting, burning, head-banging, etc., the pain and blood loss create a chemical reaction, a self-soothing or adrenalin-based feeling that can distract and “numb out” the emotional and psychological agony. For me, because I faint at the site of blood, the pain is my focus. I no longer cut as deep, but instead, cover a large surface area. I surf the pain wave to get to where I’m going.
So even though I look away and try not to see how many vials they need to fill, I can’t help but be fully aware of the blood draining from my arm. I sit as still as I possibly can and because I have a habit of holding my breath when I’m nervous, it can affect the blood draw. They will often notice and remind me to breathe. I hate it when they flick the syringe to get the blood moving again as if the other end isn’t stuck inside a person who can’t feel it. It hurts like hell.
I do know some of the ways to make a blood draw easier and more successful. Hydrate plenty before, relax and breathe. I know I can do the first one.