Worth Living Ambassador Jessie Fawcett
Hello, my name is Jessie and I’m a student attending Ryerson University to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. I am dedicated to being able to work in a juvenile detention centre in order to help aid youths who are struggling with their own lives. Mental health has always had a huge impact on my life and I’m finally starting to be able to share my story in hopes to help others who are also struggling with the same issues as well as shedding some light onto mental health
Being Scared of Life Saving Procedures
Firstly, I need to begin by stating that I have not been diagnosed with a specific phobia, nor do I condone self-diagnosis. This information and these opinions are based on academic knowledge and research with correlations to life experience.
Have you ever been so scared of something that is has impacted your health and/or your day-to-day life? Unfortunately, if this is true you may want to seek professional help. A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by intense fear of an object or situation that persists for more than six months. They typically cause panic attacks and can develop into panic disorder.
Have you ever heard of the term “white coat syndrome”? To put it simply, a person with white coat syndrome gets extremely elevated blood pressure levels known as hypertension when in medical environments. This phobia can have detrimental and life-threatening impacts on people with this disorder.
Ever since I was a child, I have always been afraid of anything that is medically related. Doctors, dentists, hospitals, needles, nurses, clinics, and the list goes on. It was not simply just being afraid of these people and these places, it was the fact that I would have panic attacks, nightmares, and fits when having to experience these situations. Uncontrollable fear and anxiety overtake my body. I feel as though I have no control over my body or emotions when in these environments. I have incredible mood swings, unfathomable fear, uncontrollable crying, exacerbated pain, and intense stomach aches. There is very little that can be done to comfort me in these scenarios. I will share multiple examples and stories with you of situations that I have been in that have caused extreme and unnecessary duress for myself.
My fear and extreme anxiety are always invalidated and undermined when I am in medical environments. I have been made fun of at school for having panic attacks when receiving vaccines, I have been diminished by health practitioners and professionals when refusing certain treatments and procedures, I have had eyes rolled at me and prolonged sighs, I have had irritation and impatience from nurses that did not have the time for my “outbursts”. It seems as though medical professionals have no respect for those with this type of fear. Not only is this unhelpful, but it also aggravates the situation by causing more discomfort and panic on patients that is absolutely unnecessary.
The first story in which I am sharing is one that I often get made fun of and ridiculed for. “It’s not a big deal, get over it, how old are you?” are comments that I was subjected to and still am to this day. I was seventeen years old at the time, returning to the dentist after nearly five years. Dentists give me intense panic attacks even for the most remote things. I went to the dentist for a simple cleaning. I was panicked regardless. Luckily, in this particular situation, the dental hygienist was profoundly understanding and empathetic. She let me calm down before beginning, she explained every step of what she was going to do, she let me listen to music during the cleaning, and she talked to me in a reassuring and soft voice. She did not treat me as a burden, she did not roll her eyes at me or give me attitude, rather she empathized with me. She could see the fear in my eyes was not fake and was definitely not exaggerated. Then when the dentist came in he discovered a cavity. That did not go over well for me. I had a panic attack because I knew what a filling entailed; a large needle being pocked into my gums while wide awake. Instead of getting frustrated with me she consoled me. Yes, I am aware that these are small procedures that will most likely not cause me any harm. Unfortunately, anxiety does not listen to logic and I cannot always reason with myself or others. I apologize if my anxiety is embarrassing to you! Imagine what I must feel like having parents stare at me in the waiting room while I’m crying, and their small children are not. I can feel how annoyed they are, and trust me I am just as annoyed, discouraged, and embarrassed with myself as anyone else there if not more; I do not need more ridicule.
The next situation infuriates me every time I think of it. I think that we can all agree that having our wisdom teeth removed is a big deal for most people, especially those with a fear of it. Having someone slice into your gums, remove giant teeth, and sew them back up all while being wide awake is unappealing to almost anyone. There was not a chance that I was going to let anyone near my mouth while being conscious. I explained profusely to my surgeon that I had severe anxiety and that I would need to be put under general anesthesia in order for the surgery to take place. The surgeon reassured me that I would be fine and that they would sedate me enough that I would not need to be put under. I had no choice in the matter because the procedure was being performed through government funding and general anesthesia costs more, so the dentist made the final say. The day of the procedure, I arrived at the office and had one of the most severe and extreme panic attacks that I have ever had. I was crying and trembling uncontrollably and there was nothing that could be done to soothe me. After an hour of this, the surgeon finally called us into the back (my mother and I). Once he saw me, he refused to perform the procedure on me and blamed my mother for the situation. He said, “I would never put my daughter in this situation if she was this upset.” My mother was dumbfounded by this comment since we both insisted on general anesthetic. He finally realized how serious my anxiety is and rescheduled the surgery for a month later under general anesthesia. I was put into that highly stressful and debilitating situation for nothing just because a medical professional did not take my disorder seriously.
The final story that I am about to share definitely shows the lack of empathy and training that nurses and doctors have when it comes to mental illness. I had woken up in the middle of the night with something feeling wrong. I did not know what it was, and I was not in pain, but I was uncomfortable. I tried to fall back asleep and ignore the feeling. I woke up in unimaginable pain, pain so bad that I thought I was going to die. My roommate and her boyfriend rushed me to the hospital where I continued to moan and vomit in pain. They wanted to run tests on me which included taking blood. I had never had my blood drawn before because I never allowed it. It was just one more thing for me to panic over. Now, not only was I in severe pain, but I was also terrified out of my mind. I was five hours away from my family, in a hospital where I knew and trusted no one, and thought I was dying. This sounds stressful enough right? Well, to make matters worse, the doctor on call and the nurse who was assigned to me were as cold as ice. They were unfriendly and uncaring. They seemed bothered by my anxiety and tears. They barely checked on me during my eight-hour wait and were distant when they actually did. They needed to do more testing and so they sent me for an ultrasound. The technician wanted to perform another procedure on me that was invasive. I went into another intense panic attack, but after making a couple of phone calls home, I gave consent for the procedure. I was still very shaken by it and so the technician refused to perform it after finally convincing me. I was infuriated; I tried to push myself to do something that petrified me, and I tried to wrap my head around it and he just abruptly changed his mind. The cause of pain was a kidney stone. For those of you that have not experienced this, a nurse compared it to labor pains. Even though the other procedure would not have been necessary to diagnose this, the doctor was extremely annoyed with me for not doing it.
Therefore, the point of this post is to bring awareness to how serious and intense anxiety can be. I am constantly made fun of and diminished by friends and medical professionals for my extreme fear. Let me just remind you all that pain is exacerbated exponentially when in fear. Not only am I embarrassed with myself, but I am usually in a great deal of pain. That being said, before being ashamed of someone for crying at the doctor’s office or dentist’s, think of how frightened they must be, put yourself in their shoes. Always choose kindness. There is no need to put anyone down especially for something that they cannot control.