As part of my treatment for my autoimmune/inflammatory arthritis, I have to have blood drawn regularly. The first time I had this done, they took vials and vials of blood, I think it was around 8 because they were testing for lots and lots of things. As you can imagine, it took a while. Nowadays when I go to the lab, they only take one or two vials, and it’s a much faster procedure. But still . . . every time I get blood drawn I have the same physical reaction: I get hot and nauseous and light headed.
The first time this happened, I was around 15. I had lost a lot of weight, everyone was convinced I was anorexic (I wasn’t) and they were testing me for all kinds of things, including TB. I remember feeling nauseous and seeing spots and my vision just sort of . . . narrowing . . . and then I was out cold. Ever since then, when I have blood dawn, I tell them I need to lie down so that I don’t pass out. When I get to the lab and they gesture to the chair and say have a seat, I instead gesture to the bed and say that I need to lie down. And I am embarrassed about it every single time.
So here I am, 56 years old and getting blood drawn regularly. And my thinking is, now that I’m doing this frequently, I will get used to it and not be squeamish about it. I will sit in the chair like everyone else. I won’t need special consideration or attention. I will, finally be a grown up about the whole thing.
Last Thursday I went to the lab for a blood draw. I mentioned to the phlebotomist that I usually need to lie down but I want to try sitting in the chair this time. And she looks at me and asks, do you lie down because you feel lightheaded? And I say yes, but I’m trying to make myself get over that and not be a baby about getting blood taken. And she says . . . completely nonplussed . . . oh, that’s a vasovagal response. You can’t get over that, it’s the way your body responds to this situation. You aren’t a baby for asking to lie down, you are being proactive and taking care of yourself.
Hunh. How about that.
For nearly 40 years I thought it was a character flaw. That I was childish and silly and I needed to get over it. But nope. It’s a thing and it has a name and it doesn’t mean I need to fix myself. It just means I need to ask to lie down when I’m getting blood drawn. Pretty simple, really.
I carried so much shame about this. And now I know I don’t need to do that. And it has me thinking about all the other stories we tell ourselves about who we are. That we are flawed or unlovable. That we don’t like movement or sports. That we need to cover up our bodies so we don’t make others uncomfortable. That we aren’t good at math or science. That we are bad if we eat ice cream but good if we eat a salad.
Those are just some of the things that run through my head on a regular basis and I bet you have the same sort of thing happen to you. The stories you tell yourself might be different but the end result . . . limiting what you think you can do . . . is probably the same.
So let’s stop. Let’s not carry shame about the things we can’t change. Let’s love ourselves for the amazing things we can do and let’s remember that we are all perfect just the way we are. And if we need to lie down when we get blood drawn, let’s remember that it’s not shameful. It’s just who we are.
Oh yes, vasovagal syncope for sure. My big brother does that every time he sees his own blood, but not anyone else’s. LOL He started passing out at the sight of his own blood when he was a kid when he mashed his finger in the car door, passed out and broke off 2 teeth. He has had several close calls, especially when people don’t believe he needs to lie down. NO SHAME!! But it’s easier said that done to give up shame, at least for me. Great advice, Carole. We all have quirks, and we should own them without feeling badly about them. I am soooo jealous of your weather. Send me some, will ya?
I used to draw blood as part of my duties when I worked in hospitals, and I can’t believe nobody ever mentioned this before! It’s vasovagal syncope, you can’t tough it out over your nervous system, no phlebotomist wants you to faint while they are drawing your blood, and that’s why the bed is there! No embarrassment, no shame, just go in there and lie right down. We should all stop carrying shame (often harder to do than say).
I am thankful for a caring phlebotomist… who knows that sharing knowledge makes everything more equal.
And still… I share with you that this post brought tears to my eyes and lots of yes’s to my lips. And so many why’s… I am lifting you today and thanking you for shining a spotlight on shame… light is the best thing for that, I am thinking! XO
Michele dovell says
I too have intense anxiety with needles and blood draws. It stems from getting a tv shot in the second grade. Those 4 little prong inoculations put me into a cold sweat and boom, I passed out in front of my classmates and Gawd forbid I peed my pants!! Well I still carry that post traumatic stress to this day. I will request infant needles when I get lab work done and I too want to lay down to feel better. It’s usually not as bad as I think it will be but I sympathize with you Carole.
Yep. The stories we tell ourselves are absolute poison much of the time. Figuring out what they are (which is amazingly hard to do) is the first step in countering them. I’m so glad you had a caring phlebotomist explain vasovagal syncope to you. You’re challenging so many of your stories this year, Carole, AND you’re sharing them with the rest of us . . . which helps us ALL challenge our own stories. Bravo, Carole! I’m so proud of you. XOXO
What an inspiring Monday Morning Message!! 🙂 Will certainly share this with my “needle phobic” friend.
Amen to all of this! I have fainted at least once at the sight of blood or in response to pain, and it’s not a moral failing — it’s just how our body reacts. I am sorry that it’s taken you this long to realize this, but I thank you for sharing your realization. I hope someone is able to recognize that a story they’ve been telling themselves is based on entirely false assumptions.
What a kind phlebotomist. And I am entirely on board with your message. I need to recognize the stories I tell myself are that.
Robby H. says
I had a really bad reaction to an injection at about 4 or 5 years old. They were trying a new delivery system and some, scary to little me, side effects happened. For a long time, I would pass out at some point in the injection or blood draw process. I was convinced if I could just give blood (I was an admin in a hospital), I’d kick the fear. I never got past them doing the finger stick. So, I realized I needed to own my passing out so it didn’t create a medical complication for someone sometime and began just telling people “I’m kind of a wuss. I need to not watch what you’re doing or hear it described and we’ll be fine.” Two things happen, I’ve trained myself to be fine because a needle in my arm isn’t something I have to watch, but I’ve told myself I’ll be fine repeatedly. I had about 20 vials of blood, plus vaccinations and boosters in the last year or so and as long as I don’t watch, I don’t pass out. I think the repetition has convinced my body it’s all going to be ok. The other thing I find is that sharing my hesitation allows the person doing the needling to focus just on me in that moment and it goes really well, which I thank them for.
Thank you again for sharing and helping us all, as you are being vulnerable and sharing your innermost feelings. You are a Goddess! And I swear, you must be my twin because we have sooooo much in common!
I’m mad that no one ever told you that it’s a THING with a NAME!! I’m so happy that someone finally did!
A great post today, Carole.
Great post! This happens to both our daughters also.
I had a dr give me a piece of paper with that written on it years ago and I think it’s still in the last little calendar I used to carry in my purse. It wasn’t for passing out with blood work though. I had passed out at home after having an awful stomach ache. I was told to lie down no matter where I was if I ever felt like that again. It happened to me at home and I was leaning on a door waiting for the one bathroom to be free and I just slid down the door and ended up sitting against the door.
I’m glad they finally told you what it was. My problem with bloodwork is lousy veins but I now have a dr that has a phlebotomist at the office so I just go there and we have a plan if my veins are lousy one day. One of the Quests I used to go to had a guy who was great at drawing blood but I never knew when he was working so now just go back to my dr to get it done.
Jeannie Gray says
I am so thankful that blood draws are one of the few things that don’t scare me. I have to have frequent draws and one of the nurses at the lab I go to gets freaked out and upset with me because I have to watch the needle go in. As long as I’m watching I never feel the stick but if they surprise me…. It upsets her terribly when I insist on watching.
I’m afraid of so many ridiculous and trivial “normal” things, I think God gifted me with no fear of needles or blood. LOL
AMEN that!! (it still sucks to have blood drawn that regularly, and I’m glad you don’t have to feel shame about it anymore!)
Have you thought about sending this in somewhere to publish? I think it’s excellent…