Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Trypa- what?

Trypanophobia is the fear of needles.

About 20 percent of humans are needle-phobic. Being afraid of needles is actually a beneficial evolutionary trait. Thousands of years ago, the early humans learned that they had a greater chance for survival if they avoided stab wounds or punctures. If these humans fainted upon seeing a tool that could result in pierced flesh, they signaled that they were not a threat. Passing out when seeing something sharp and pointy allowed them to survive, thereby producing the next generation of fainting humans.

Needles can be someone’s downfall. Tough guy rocker Alice Cooper says that the only thing he is scared of is a needle. He explains, “I can put my head in a guillotine and play with a snake. But no needles!” In Game of Thrones, young Arya is given a sword that her brother Jon had made for her. Jon tells her that all the best swords have names. After being coached to stick her enemies with the pointy end, she names her sword Needle.

Fear of needles is actually in our blood, so to speak. Deep in our reptilian brains, we recognize needles as a threat. I have never really been afraid of needles. It’s a good thing too, because needles are now significant objects in my daily (or at least weekly) life.

It’s not fun giving myself the Avonex. I don’t yearn to get home so I can dose myself with interferon beta. I can play connect the dots with the bruises on my thighs at my injection sites.

The first month I took Avonex, I used a pre-filled syringe. Now I use the auto-injector pen, similar to the Epipen carried by people with severe allergies. The needle in the auto-injector is much smaller than the needle of the pre-filled version. And you cover the needle with part of the pen before you place it on your leg and push the button. Done and done.

But the syringe… I can’t tell you the high amount of intestinal fortitude I need to push that needle I am holding through my own skin. I am not afraid of needles. I’ve been inoculated, epidural-ed, pierced, and tattooed. I’ve given blood, where they stick a needle the size of a Capri Sun straw into your arm. I’ve gotten IVs. I’ve had a catheter in my arm for a week when I was receiving daily infusions.

I’m not afraid of needles. But holding a syringe in your own hand, piercing your own skin, pushing the plunger to administer the medicine with your own thumb... It’s hard to do. Even now--while I have transitioned to the Avonex auto-pen--I still have to stick myself with an old-school syringe when I give myself my B-12 shot. 

As much as I hate those needles loaded with medicine, I love, love the needles loaded with ink. I love my tattoos. I love getting tattooed. I love the day after getting the tattoo, when the colors are so bold. I love the healing process, where the fresh ink sheds its scab and emerges like a butterfly from the cocoon.

I really want another tattoo. I am trying to figure out how to break it to my dad. My current strategy is to talk him into going with me to get one of his own. I am not completely confident in this strategy. Maybe I should start working on my mom.

Isn’t it funny how the simple needle can generate so much fear, deliver so much health, create so much beauty. How many things in this world can we say that about?

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