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To the Nurse Who Held My Hand During a PTSD Trigger

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When you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), there are all kinds of little things that can set off a trigger. A phrase. A sound. A touch. A smell. I certainly experience these on a fairly regular basis, and each time, I’m frustrated. Even though I know the triggers themselves are beyond my control, I just simply have to focus on what I do have control over and manage my reaction to said trigger.

• What is PTSD?

But as with all things in life, there is one that gets me every time. Needles. I have always been afraid of needles. I was the child who had to be held down by four dads for my kindergarten shots, and who locked myself in the bathroom at the doctor’s office at age 9 because I didn’t want to do a blood draw. Over time, I started to at least tolerate this fear… until suddenly I couldn’t. Perhaps this phobia was exasperated by my PTSD, but since I started experiencing my PTSD symptoms, I have continued to struggle.

I still allow shots and give blood, etc. I just handle it to varying degrees. Shots make me extremely shaky. Giving blood for tests often makes me pass out. But when it comes to an IV, checkmate. It’s not the fact that it’s getting put in but that it’s still there that gets me. Like a violation of the very substance that makes my physical being. I try so hard to tough it out, but I usually don’t make it too long before breaking down into hysterical sobbing. It’s not fun for me, and it’s not fun for whoever is placing said IV.

I’ve had over 10 medical procedures in the last six years that have required the use of an IV, and much to my incredible embarrassment and humiliation, I have reacted this way. Every. Single. Time. Any time I interact with a medical professional and the use of a needle is required, I warn them. But when it comes to an IV, I still don’t think they’re fully prepared. Their reactions have varied. Some surgeons were wonderful and allowed me to be put out before the IV was placed. Others would chastise me and comment on how this is what happens to spoiled children, as if my PTSD was a byproduct of my upbringing. I even had an anesthesiologist attempt to make me reschedule to a different facility, as if I wasn’t humiliated enough.

But for my most recent procedure, I had a different experience, and it was all because of you. When I explained my predicament, you listened without judgment. Understanding my fears, you brought me something for the anxiety. You held my hand and asked me if I would be OK to proceed. I made it further into the whole procedure before crying than I ever had before, and when the sobbing began, you kept your composure and encouraged me. I know that type of bedside manner is often reserved for children, or at least that’s how I feel. Regardless of what you actually felt about administering to a sobbing 20-something woman over an IV, you made the procedure far less traumatic then it could have been.

So even if you went back to the nursing station and exclaimed to your co-workers about the hysterical woman in bed 12 or complained to your husband later that night, I still will never be able to tell you how much your understanding and compassion in those moments meant to me. Just know on that day, you made such a huge difference to me, and getting me safely through a trigger is no small feat. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Follow this journey on Alyce’s blog.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: February 14, 2016
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