For part 1 of this guest blogger series, let’s talk about blood! Sharon has already discussed this, but I want to revisit the topic, because it was the most important barrier I had to overcome.
Throughout my entire life, I have been afraid of blood, veins, and arteries. Until my early 20s, I couldn’t even say the word “artery” without feeling a little nauseous. In my high school Biology class, I was the only student who couldn’t take my own pulse – I just couldn’t stand feeling my heartbeat. I don’t know how many times I’ve said or thought this statement: “If only I could handle the blood, I would be a vet.” When I decided to leave graduate school in pursuit of becoming a vet, I was still unsure that I could overcome my blood “phobia,” but I had to at least try.
When I started, I was scared of even holding a needle. The first few times I tried to draw blood on a dog, I was a mess. The first surgery I witnessed in person, I wound up on the floor trying not to pass out. But over time, I got used to all of it. I got used to drawing blood from a cat’s jugular vein. I got used to seeing the varying amounts of blood involved in invasive surgeries. I even found myself monitoring anesthesia during the removal of a tumor that was situated next to the cephalic vein on a large dog. There was the cephalic vein, on display in all its pulsing glory, and I loved every minute of that surgery. I realized just how far I’ve come in only a few years.
If a blood/surgery fear is a big problem for you, like it was for me, the best thing you can do is to start off slow and work your way up. Find a doctor willing to be your mentor, explain your fears, and ask them to help you. Maybe you can work at the front desk and occasionally watch the doctor do blood draws, watch just the incision process of surgery, etc. If this is not an option for you, try to expose yourself through photos and videos of surgery found online. It IS possible to overcome this fear, but it doesn’t happen overnight. If you find that your fear is debilitating or meets the criteria for a clinical phobia, please consult a professional – the expertise of a cognitive-behavioral therapist can be invaluable in helping you overcome this hurdle.
Next post: Relationship Concerns.