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.