Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Stop Needling Me

Today I went to the dentist to have two cavities filled. In the hierarchy of medical visits, the dentist is very low on my fear scale. I mostly find it irritating, and as I have a tight jaw, uncomfortable. Still, I am no friend of needles (that's an understatement). During my younger years, needles were, in fact, my mortal enemies. All doctor's visits were presaged by, "Will I have to get a shot/my blood taken?" My parents got good at lying.
The first needle stick I remember came out of my finger when I was about 7. The gruff nurse with the terrible bedside manner and the meaty arms--who should have been banned from Pediatrics--noticed that I was getting pale or something, and shoved my head between my knees in a manner more suffocating than restive. From then on, doctors had to be instructed to pull out their teeniest needles, fill only the smallest of vials, be sure I was lying down, and never, ever let me see them put the needle in.

That said, I can usually handle the dentist's needle. They numb your gums with that gelly stuff first anyway and the needle is very thin.

But as I have gotten older, my body has gotten trickier. The same near-fainting experience followed by a wave of unexpected nausea and sweating (which passes in about 5-7 minutes if I am left to lie down) has come to me in many less than perfect situations: gynecology appointments, flu shots (which I no longer get), when getting acupuncture and yes--even once at the eye doctor, where not so much as a sharp pencil was anywhere near my body. I am a hopeless patient.

But the last time I had a dental shot for numbing purposes I did just fine, so I didn't think twice about today's procedure. They had to give me a few shots to numb enough area, and before I knew it, the faint feeling--as if my head is a balloon that has detached from my body along with nausea-- came on. The most maddening thing is that it happens even after I think I am fine. The first time I experienced this was at age 16, during my first visit to the gynecologist. Suffice it to say that she came back in only to find me ass up and near fainting.

Anyhow, my dentist got to know this side of me today and thankfully, was not only patient but kind to me. Many, many doctors and OBGyns have cocked their heads at me as if I had just begun foaming at the mouth. I don't understand how so many trained professionals can be perplexed by a slightly queasy patient staring down the tip of a needle.

But today I felt ashamed. Enough already, body! Why must we do this silly little dance over and over again? Nobody is hacking you apart limb from limb; or doing surgery or worse...

I feel like it's something I should have grown out of, when the truth is, it's only gotten worse.

And the worst part is, I really don't know if it's all in my mind or if it's just a sensitive symptom of my physiology. I just know that I hate it.



At 1:59 AM, Blogger Ellen said...

I SO relate to this! My body plagues me with the same treachery. Like you, it's mostly needles that make the room go dark, and it can happen before, during or even after a procedure. (As a teen, I once blacked out after an oral surgery procedure as the doctor described to my mother and me what he did.) For me, hypnosis was hugely helpful. I think I had 8 sessions, and I would say I'm about 80% cured.

I do think it's more physical than emotional. Of course, it starts with fear. But a lot of people are afraid of needles. Our bodies just take that fear and manifest it physically, shutting down our capillaries with wondrous efficiency.

I also have a hairtrigger adrenaline response to danger. Are you like that, too?

At 8:20 AM, Blogger tracer said...

Reading in your previous post all that you've done lately, I'd say getting faint at the dentist was par for the course. It would take less than a needle poking into my mouth to make me nauseous if I'd been that busy and tired.
Great seeing you, sweetie!

At 4:36 PM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Ellen, I remember you telling me about you being similarly sensitive! How on earth did you have three children?

The thing is, it's not just needles...it's any invasive procedure, and sometimes I don't know it's invasive until I have the reaction (and for you dorks who even think it, no I have no troubles getting, er, amorous).

I do have a hair trigger adrenaline response, yes.

Tracy: thanks for the sympathy. But this stuff happens even when I'm not tired or stressed :)

At 7:43 AM, Blogger gerry rosser said...

I just shut my eyes.

At 8:20 AM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Well Gerry, consider yourself lucky. I too shut my eyes, but my body is never fooled.

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Ellen said...

*The thing is, it's not just needles...it's any invasive procedure, and sometimes I don't know it's invasive until I have the reaction *

Well ... um ... yeah. I fainted the first time an eye doctor put contact lenses in my eyes, so I know what you mean.

As far as childbirth, the hypnosis was a crucial, I think. But also, pregnancy hormones went a long way toward reducing anxiety. I was mostly blissed out to the point of the stupidity. (Fat and stupid. Those were the days!)


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