Friday, August 27, 2004

Physical vs. Psychological

I hate this.

For years, I've had a physical aversion to needles and/or blood. Not psychological, but physical. Oftentimes when I see a syringe or some other medical instrument intended to poke into me, or when I see blood I start to:

1) sweat
2) my head gets so light it feels as if it's lifting off my shoulders
3) (others have told me) I turn deathly pale in a matter of moments
4) my hearing starts to disappear, as if everyone were getting farther and farther away
5) finally everything goes black like the iris of a camera lens, and I'm in the floor

Now, lest some people question my toughness - it's purely a physical reaction. I have no problem with needles or blood - mentally, I have no aversion to either. I've watched my share of movie splatterfests. But sometimes they're just like kryptonite to Superman - their mere presence, and my understanding that they're about to, or being used on me, can cause a blackout.

In the past, it's happened when I got a mole removed from my back (that was the first time, and for a while after I and the doctors thought I was allergic to the local anesthetic they used). Then I wiped out after witnessing a particularly nasty car crash. Other times were when trying to give blood, have blood taken for testing, or even when they were showing what an epidural needle looked like at childbirth classes. One time it happened when I was ill with a stomach bug, and riding (not driving, thank God!) in a car. I ended up in the ER, dehydrated and with a abnormally low BP after that one.

It's been awhile since it's happened. I've gotten several flu shots, standard cholesterol screenings - nothing. Till today.

There's a new cholesterol test that takes only five minutes (!) to get the results back, and our Community Health team was demo-ing it at my office this morning. The only requirement was to fast for 10 hours beforehand, so I came to the office hungry.

So there I sit, one of our new CH employees began administering the test. A quick needlestick on my left middle finger, and the oozing began. As she collected the sample in a tube, I could feel the symptoms charging toward me like a freight train.

Thankfully, by now I'm able to recognize them early. Unthankfully, no force of will can stave them off - at least not till the inevitable conclusion.

I bent down with my head between my knees, breaking out into a cold, clammy sweat. Some of them around brought me water, and a paper towel to wipe the sweat. After a few minutes, it passed.

And I hate this. I hate that this happens to me, I hate that I have a purely physical reaction that I can't resist mentally. Well, yes, I suppose it is a psychological reaction, too, since it's caused not by the objects themselves, but the thought or idea of the objects. I feel I should be able to mentally order myself to not react this way, but it doesn't help.

I'm assuming it's related to vaso vagal syndrome, but I've never been able to medically pinpoint it.

So it continues to plague me. I just hope it doesn't ever hit at a most inopportune time, like when I'm trying to help out in a crisis.

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