Saturday, October 6, 2012


I have not shared this before, but I have a phobia. The free dictionary defines a phobia as "A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous." In my case, I have a needle phobia. I've had this phobia for as long as I can remember. This phobia played a huge part in my decision to choose natural childbirth - twice.

I manage it though. When I need bloodwork or a shot, I don't say no. I try to prepare the nurse ahead of time. I explain, through tears, that I am going to get upset. I will need to sit in a corner. I am going to try to pull away several times. I won't faint. "The key part," I tell them, "is that I won't try to pull away once the needle is in. I'm too petrified by then." I have to tell them that last part or they freak out. The entire experience is humiliating every time. But I do it because I refuse to let this phobia make important health decisions for me.

Last week I was sick and my doctor wanted to run some bloodwork. The extremely nice nurse I had been working with throughout my visit freaked out and left me in the midst of a panic attack to go get someone else to draw my blood. I'm pretty sure that is the first time I've actually scared someone off. She came back in with another nurse that she introduced simply as the office expert in blood draws.

I wasn't completely listening at that point. I really just wanted to get it done, but I nodded assent. This woman came over to me and told me, "Now, if you're going to behave like a child I'm going to treat you like a child and hold you down." Somewhere in the back of my not entirely rational mind I was pretty pissed, but I certainly wasn't able to articulate anything at that moment. She made the other nurse hold my arm down at the wrist and elbow while she used her body to restrain my torso. Then they drew my blood.

Being restrained pretty much against my will at a time I wasn't able to even articulate a protest contributed further to my sense of panic. To be honest, I felt somewhat violated and was left with a lingering sense of extreme dislike for that nurse. I gathered my things and left as soon as possible.

My husband wanted to call the office and lodge a complaint. My mother suggested I write a letter to the physician. I would feel bad about that. I don't hold grudges. I don't want a negative letter to be put in her permanent file or anything. Nevertheless, the incident lingers in my mind and I've been trying to put my finger on what exactly it was that I couldn't let go.

Then I figured it out. She said, "If you're going to behave like a child, I'm going to treat you like a child..." That is not how you treat a child. And it is certainly not how you treat an adult. No person deserves to be treated that way. If anyone had tried to handle my child in that manner I wouldn't have permitted it and I probably would have complained to someone in charge. Why won't I apply that same logic to myself?


  1. Thank you for sharing your ordeal. I knew a doctor once, who also had a needle phobia. He has even passed out when getting a shot. Having a phobia has nothing to do with maturity, and that nurse needs some serious empathy training.
    I also agree, that is not how you treat a child! Restrain a child for being afraid? How horrible! Again, I'm sorry you had that experience, and I fear for children who may similarly suffer.
    It's interesting you posted this today, because just a few hours ago, I made a CPS report on a new neighbor. These people have been yelling at their little boy incessantly all week, every few minutes during waking hours. I've gotten to where I cringe when I hear his name. I'm sure he also has come to despise hearing his name. The verbal abuse was so severe that the other children in the family have joined in, and when a parent wasn't berating him, one of the kids would be too. When I finally confronted the parents, the mother was holding the poor kids arm in a twisted position to where he couldn't walk straight, and was dragging him to the house. The parent's excuse: He had hit another child (no doubt the child who seconds before had been berating him). They also told me that they had been told by the police that they could BEAT their child any time they want. I was nearly in tears when I called CPS. Because he's a child, it's ok to beat him? NOOOO! Children need to be protected from violence. They also need to know that when a parent calls his or her name, it's most likely for something good, or at least neutral. And, as you pointed out, children need to be shown compassion when they are suffering, not be mistreated.
    (Btw, I also have a phobia, and I've suffered from other anxiety disorders. I won't say I know your pain, but I do understand first hand that anxiety should be treated with compassion.)
    Take care and keep up the good work!

  2. Wow. I'm sorry you were treated like that. I would have been furious had it been me or my child in that situation. I don't agree with the nurse's comment about acting like a child. Fear is not childish, (refusing to get the blood work might be a little different) but neither is the case to physically restrain you. I find it odd that they jumped to that extreme when you told them that you weren't going to move.

    Talking With Rebecca

  3. Wow - I'm sorry that happened to you. I also have had a phobia of needles for a long long time, however with different medical procedures I've had to have over the past 10 years (including horrific pregnancies and over 200 skin biospies for suspicious moles) I can get through it with minimal tears and deep breathing and guided relaxation/meditation on my ipod.

    That being said, there is a blog I also follow called Pigtail Pals: Redefining Girly where the author's young daughter had been restrained and pants pulled down for a flu shot and the whole ordeal was just awful - so bad, that she left the practice.

    You must be feeling so violated and no one should make another person feel that way. I do hope you speak to the office manager and/or doctor about how you were treated. There are ways to do a blood draw that doesn't have to be so violating. :( I'm so sorry.


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