My Needle Phobia Is Not A Fear Of Needles
Last updated: June 2023
I had a very interesting conversation with one of my CF nurses the other day just as we were preparing for the dreaded monthly port flush. As I mentally psyched myself up for the sharp scratch I could feel my sweaty palms and churning stomach. It isn't the infamous “sharp scratch” that bothers me.
Digging deep to understand what it really is that makes needles so unbearable, I had an epiphany. My phobia is not of needles. In essence my phobia stems from the very fear of not having any control when CF takes centre stage.
Lack of control with CF
That feels so apt because all the stored subconscious memories that haunt me are those ones where I am quite literally out of control, thrashing my tiny arms and little legs around fighting off my caregivers. Desperate to get away from the bright white lights and clinical smells of the treatment room as if my life depends on it. That is just the the thing, paradoxically my life did depend on it. Every single one of those needles my life depended on.
I have all the awful memories of lines busting, veins popping, the sting as my arm swells. But at thirty four years old, I realise that is just one element to a very complex phobia. A dreaded fear of the unknown, of the next procedure that is out of my control. So, my nurse and I got talking about what helps when facing another needle:
Tips for needle phobia
A confident, empathetic nurse
Whether it is a port flush, peripheral bloods, a picc line or a cannula; having a nurse who believes in herself as a professional jabber is key. I always find a nurse with an air of confidence brings my anxiety levels down a few notches.
Numbing creams and sprays
I’ve had the same port-o-cath for ten years, the skin has been pierced so many times it is nerveless scar tissue yet I still request a spritz of freeze spray every single time. Why? Because psychologically it really helps me to prepare for the procedure by feeling a little more in control of what is going to happen next.
Your own personal phobia plan
Visualizations, music, a friend or relative by your side, picking your “favourite vein”, to watch or, not to watch what is happening. Whatever it is that helps you to feel prepared and most importantly, in control is paramount to making a planned routine around needles that helps relieve anxieties. Always make sure you talk to your nurse beforehand so they are aware of what will help you.
Time between port flushes
If you are having a port flush, the best advice I can give you is stick to the 6 weeks like clock work. I find if I go longer, I feel more anxious about things that can go wrong like line blockages.
Water, tea and breaks when having bloods
I like to down plenty of water leading up to the tests too, as that will help you bleed better and I often hold a medical glove filled with warm water on my veins to bring them to the surface. This kind of preparation makes me feel more in control of what is happening which helps manage my phobia. If you need to have bloods but your veins aren't playing ball, I ensure I have regular “time out tea breaks”.
So, after putting this all in place, the port flush this week was a breeze!
Have you or a loved one had needle phobia during your CF journey? What was that like? Do you have any tips for other CFers? Share below!
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