Shame loses power when it is spoken…. If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or a small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredible lucky. ~ Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
I read those sentences last night, and they stuck with me then because they reminded me of my #ppdchat and Mama’s Comfort Camp friends, as well as friends I’ve had half my life. And then today, I put them into practice when I needed help this morning. Further, I’m putting them into practice again now by writing this post.
Since this is an “I’m Doing It Right” post, I should begin at the beginning, which includes a self-pat on the back for something I did that needed doing despite my inclination to procrastinate more. It’s been a while since I had a complete physical–probably a few years before I got pregnant with Jax, who’s now 3. I believe that taking care of my health (and being proactive about it, more than anything else) is a responsibility I owe to my family (and it’s an act of self-care, although not nearly as fun or relaxing as a bubble bath). So even though I am terrified of needles and anything health-related tends to trigger my anxiety, I scheduled an appointment to have a physical. But first, my doctor ordered bloodwork, and today was D-Day.
I scheduled the lab appointment for 9:45 this morning, as early as I could get it, given that I had to fast ahead of time. This meant NO COFFEE. And this after a night of terrible sleep by Jax (which you probably noticed if you follow me on Twitter, where I tend to rant about these things).
The blood draw itself was the most painful one I’ve ever had, complete with a tourniquet that felt like an amputation. When the phlebotomist finished, she failed to have me bend my arm at a 90-degree angle and apply pressure to the site. Later, I learned that this is the reason for the trauma that happened to my vein.
She applied a wad of gauze and a crap-ton of tape to the area. It was bandaged so tightly that I couldn’t bend my arm. The second I got back to work–yeah, I had to go right back into the office after this good time–I took off all that get-up because it was excruciating! And then I had an instant anxiety attack when I saw the amount of blood on the gauze and then purple, golf-ball-sized lump under my skin. I’d never seen anything like this nor had I ever felt so much pain after having bloodwork done!
I very nearly passed out upon seeing what my arm looked like. It got to the point of my vision fading and my skin feeling cold and sweaty at the same time. I called over to my co-worker that I was about to faint and I rested my head on a stack of books. She brought me Smarties and water and rubbed my back a while. I will not forget her kindness. Another co-worker stopped by to check on me and reminded me that the Xanax I was about to take would kick in soon and I would be okay.
When the nausea and lightheadedness passed, without even really thinking about it I texted two of my friends, A’Driane and Susan, whom I know have experience with anxiety and whom I trust to walk me through mine.
Intuitively, this was the best thing I could have done. Immediately, A’Driane reminded me to breathe and said she was breathing with me. She even sent me a picture of her doing it, because that’s the kind of friend she is! It calmed me to know she was on the other end of the phone breathing with me and to see her face as I did the same. Then Susan called me, and we talked for maybe 15 minutes. When that call began, I was shaking with anxiety and in pain. Susan reassured me that when this happened to her years ago, she didn’t lose her arm! ;) And she convinced me to take some Advil. Halfway through the call, Susan said my voice had life in it again and I started to feel so much better.
When I went back to my desk, shame set in. I couldn’t believe I’d had an anxiety attack in front of several co-workers. How mortifying! And then shame piled upon shame when I said to Susan, “But the thing is, I know how to handle anxiety! I can’t believe that after so long without having it, here I am having a huge anxiety attack!”
So to send that shame packing, I thought I’d blog about this experience. Yeah, I feel kind of silly now that I freaked out over what, according to the nurse I spoke to, happens all the time when a phlebotomist screws up, but in a way I’m glad this happened. Why? Because I have friends I can lean on, who don’t judge me, who just love me and know what I need. Who also apparently have their phones at their side at all times, just like me.
I am proud of myself for leaning on them this morning. There is no shame in asking someone to hold your hand or for admitting you need this.
Brene’s quote resonated with me today. I am SO lucky to have so many awesome, wonderful friends. I could have texted any one of them, I know it, and they would have held my hand through my anxiety.