Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Needle Phobia

I took my first Folistim shot this evening. Rather, C gave me my first Folistim shot. He's in nursing school so I figure I should support his education by providing additional practice opportunities ;)

At first, I was very excited by the gadgets and accessories. My pen came with a really cute carrying case in a lovely shade of green. I was just in the middle of plotting how I could re-use this as a cosmetics case when C got to work and I remembered that I had a fear of needles. As he re-read the instructions three times, my anxiety slowly climbed. I'll admit that I may have quickly questioned letting the student do this when my mom, the actual practicing nurse, was right down the hall. Then he poked me and it felt similar to any other shot I've ever been given in my life. No big deal. Immediately afterwards, the injection site felt a little uncomfortable, mild throbbing and tenderness. That's it. It was actually relatively anticlimactic. C asked if I could feel it working and I told him not to bother me because I was busy growing some eggs like a chicken. 

The slight irony of my anxiety, which C took delight in reminding me, is that I actually cured a teenager of needle phobia yesterday. She came to me initially getting herself in a panic at the mere mention of needles and blood draws. This was problematic because the physician needed blood work and her family wanted her to get the flu shot with the rest of them (two years ago she had to be held down by several people and last year they didn't bother trying). Well after a few treatment appointments with me alone, I coordinated an appointment with nursing and she got her flu shot last month without any difficulty. Yesterday she came in to get her blood drawn and let me just say, she was a champ. I was so proud of her. I was also proud of myself for helping her. Her treatment was textbook and went exactly as I had hoped and planned. Sometimes you just need a win and after last week, I deserved it. 

The most important factor in treating phobias, or any anxiety for that matter, is exposure to the feared stimulus. Avoiding the things that make us scared or anxious will actually serve to reinforce, or heighten, the anxiety. I give this example to my patients: Imagine that you're afraid of heights and I have you stand at the edge of the ledge 11 stories up (it's convenient that my office is on the 11th floor, overlooking a balcony). Initially, you're anxiety is going to be sky high, no pun intended. Your gut reaction will be to back away from the ledge and if/when you do, your anxiety will decrease, thereby telling your body that avoidance is a positive thing because it makes your anxiety decrease. So the next time you come in contact with heights, you will be primed to run. Now imagine that I don't let you back away. I make you continue standing at the edge of the ledge for 15, 30, 60 minutes even. At some point, usually much before 60 minutes, you anxiety will decrease. Partly due to exhaustion. Partly due to the fact that you haven't fallen yet and your body begins to realize that it's not so much the ledge that is scary, it's the falling to your death that is scary, and so far this hasn't happened. After both the shot and the blood draw, my teenage patient reported "That wasn't nearly as bad as I was afraid it was going to be," and this is the typical experience when people face their fears. 

I do not like needles, but perhaps by the end of this experience I will have exposed myself enough that it will be as easy as taking a multivitamin. I certainly don't seem to be avoiding them these days! I also don't like flying, but I don't let that get in the way of traveling to cool new places and visiting with friends. And what is fertility treatments overall if not facing your fears head on? We are all brave souls. 


  1. Glad that it was relatively painless!

  2. I remember having to check my blood sugar the first time--I was shaking so hard I couldn't push the button to allow a finger prick! Come Follistim time I could eventually inject in any part of my tummy or thigh in any situation, including my office. LOL. You will get the hang of this, and get over the fear quick! Good luck!!!