I am forever grateful that I now have a central line. But my stomach still drops when hearing the words ‘blood draw’. And while I look calm and collected, I am fending off a full scale panic attack as the nurses try again and again to get an IV started. Now, I have been poked and proded more times than I can count and have been though numerous procedures unaided by the Valium they administered. So, I should be fine with a simple IV start, right? No.
Not when every nurse or phlebotomist, that I warned beforehand, proceeds to tell me after an attempt or two, “Wow you ARE a hard stick, your veins are tiny!”. When I have to request a vein finder and sometimes, an ultrasound. When they hit arteries (they hurt like a bitch and throb btw) and still continue to try for a vein. When they tape heat packs to my feet, ‘just in case’ the next stick rolls or blows. Because my past central line placements give me nightmares. Because my brain forces me to imagine the snakes squirming in my veins when I remeber how the guide wire feels.
But its not just IVs and central lines that invoke my fight or flight response and set the intensity to 10. Its the feeling of the blood draining from me and the intense nausea hitting me like a brick, when I realize my situation requires an ER trip—and everything that ensues. Its the dismissive and condescending comments of the ER doctor who sees me as someone out for drugs and a wast of his time. Its the lack of control over my own mind and body, unable to connect the two, when I’m given certain medicatons. The feeling of helplessness as I am strapped to the table for x-rays and contrast studies. Its the feeling of sheer panic as they shove needles into my head and I hear the sound of the medication surging under my scalp. The holding back of tears until the doctors leave so they don’t write me off as overdramatic. Its the feeling of absoulte powelessness when faced with medical decisions that seem as is they have already been decided by my body. Its the frustration at the frailty and vulnerability that creeps in each time I have to call the nurse, because I can’t even walk 5 feet on my own. Its the insomnia that comes the night before every appoinment, even a simple check-up and flu shot.
Medical Trauma PTSD is a real and unforgiving condition. Just because I have never seen combat and never been threaten with a gun doesn’t mean my experiences have been any less traumatic. Don’t tell me to “buck up” or “put on a brave face”, because sometimes its all I can do to not breakdown and cry. Yes, I am open about my health and talk about it alot. But that is because it consumes so much of my daily life. If I didn’t talk about it I would explode from all the emotions being chroniclly ill comes with. Its the only way I can cope and function. And even thats a pretty half-ass job.
Please, don’t dismiss our fears simply because we are not veterans or survivors of domestic violence. Because everyday we fight battles some can’t even fathom. We struggle against ourselves. Take aggressive actions againt our opponent that just happens to be our own bodies. Destroying bits of ourselves just to win the round.
So find me in the ashes. I’ll be waiting. Ready to rise again and conquer another day.