Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bloody Fears

The last therapist I saw taught me that avoidance only makes fear grow. Which I swear is not the reason I stopped seeing her.

She was right, though.

I feel foolish and silly and stupid to admit how I've spent the first waking moments of nearly every day of the last year -- evaluating whether or not today is The Day I Will Go and Have Blood Drawn in a Fasting Test.

It all started out well. I had a physical February 10, 2011. February 11 I went off to the clinic to get it over with. Except, while I had fasted, I was chewing sugarless gum in an effort to calm my nerves.

(Why the nerves, you ask? Are you afraid of needles? Well, no. I don't fancy needles and I'm not keen on watching, but I'm quite fine with needles. My fear goes back to about 1992 or 1993 when we lived in Toronto and I had a fasting blood test as part of a physical. Because my appointment wasn't until noon, I had fasted a good 18 hours before the test. Afterwards I sat and ate a bag of Sun Chips and drank a bottle of orange juice. Then I got into my car and started to drive back to work. Within blocks I was feeling queasy and I opened my window a crack. I crossed Yonge Street and felt worse. Within a block of that major road, as I pulled up to a stop sign, my world went black. The next thing I knew was someone knocking hard on my car window. I had no idea where I was at first. A man from a nearby house brought me a glass of milk, kindly. Then, once the tingling subsided in my hands and feet, I drove back to work. Scared. And ever since then, I've avoided that test where I can. I've never fainted before or since, but still. I was a fainter.)

So, back to February 11. I brought Dave to drive me home afterwards. We sat and sat for about ninety minutes, among coughers and sneezers, the elderly and the pale. It was finally my turn and I walked into my cubicle, scared but determined. The humourless vampire wrapped the band around my arm, asked me if I had fasted and then looked me in the eye and told me that the gum I was chewing would invalidate the test. She said she was still willing to take the blood (of course she was) but that the test would be skewed. I walked out.

A coupe of days later, Dave got really sick, really really sick. And then two of my kids got sick, and one of them had a systemic reaction that lasted for months. I decided it wasn't a good time to faint, so I put off the test a little. And then a little more.

Friends mention a fear of the dentist. It's very similar but there's one small difference: the dentist tells you exactly when to appear. Not so much the blood test. It's at your convenience - and really, I asked myself, when was it convenient to Go To My Doom?

Some mornings I woke up ravenous -- nope, not today. Other days, I awoke exhausted -- people faint from exhaustion, no? I didn't want to go during my period. The beginning of the month, apparently, is a very busy time for such clinics. Sundays and holidays out of town were a relief because there was no way to go to the clinic.

Let me say that this was not something that has plagued me all day long. As soon I committed to the first cup of tea, bowl of granola or piece of sugarfree gum, I would put the question out of my mind entirely.

Something about this morning, though, seemed reasonable. I had found out about a clinic that was out of the way, that might have a shorter lineup. I told Dave and he had a free schedule to be able to take me. The dog was settled. We didn't have to drive anyone else anywhere. Rats.

Maybe my requisition was out of date, I thought hopefully, as we drove in the car. Maybe there would be too many people in the waiting room. As I waited for my number to be called (there were four people ahead of me), one man did bring in an outdated requisition and they happily called the doctor's office to send over a fresh one.

I was happy to see that unlike the clinic I had been to before, this one offered a private area for the actual Scene of the Crime. Not only that, there was a small washroom only a few steps away from the chair.

My strategy while waiting to be called in was to think of airport security. I don't like airport security; it makes me feel anxious and I believe that's deliberate on their part. And yet, it's a necessary step to be able to get on a plane to go somewhere fun. You sort of blur your eyes and grit your teeth and focus on getting to the other side. That's what I did until I went in.

In The Chair, I had a different plan: I decided I would hold the rock I had in my pocket in my non-draw arm, that I would go to my happy place.

"Why are you holding a rock?" the nice vampire asked. (Did she suspect I might throw it at her?)
"I'm nervous," I said and then I confessed all while she bound my arm for the ritual, injected me, told me to breathe, and then -- before I knew it -- told me to hold a piece of cotton firmly over the site.
"That's it?" I said.

No, that wasn't it. What happened next was not that I fainted, not at all. I got into the car, reclined the seat, ate a slice of orange and burst into tears. Because it hadn't been as hard as I had made it out to be (stupid therapist was right!) Because I had built it up in my mind for a whole year. Because I was a nincompoop. Because I was a brave girl. Because I didn't actually faint.

My reward was to spend the next hour in bed with my laptop, working, rather than at my desk. I emailed Dave twice to tell him I hadn't fainted yet, and then once, when the hour was up, to tell him that the Faint Watch was Over and he could Resume Normal Activity.

So far the only side effects have been a tendency to capitalize -- and deep relief. I'm glad to have the first few moments of my days back. I'm glad I was brave. My word for this year is anticipation -- and I practiced its dark reverse for too long when it came to these bloody fears. I'm glad to have this behind me so I can look ahead without holding back.

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