Please remember this is one woman's dramatic (and valid) interpretation of the process of a routine lab test. This is in no way reflective on everyone's experience. If you are a person who experiences anxiety around getting your blood drawn, here's some concrete advice. This sarcastic reenactment was written with the hopes of inspiring some solidarity around mental health.
Spoiler alert: You got this.
Step 1: Your doctor will put in a request for a lab workup on a Friday afternoon. (Deep down you've known you were due to check your levels. You knew this was coming, but the news still makes you cringe.)
Step 2: You'll leave the aforementioned lab paperwork in your car overnight and completely put off making an appointment for the rest of the weekend.
Step 3: Sunday morning, begin freaking out when you "remember" you need to choose a day to go to the lab. Begin crying hysterically just at the thought of the rubber band on your arm. Go to the lab's website. Immediately open a new browser tab for Facebook. Then one for Pinterest. Then one for your own blog. Check out your archives. Go on with your day and "forget" all about making an appointment.
Step 4: Spend Monday like a woman possessed: go for a run (more of a brisk walk), finish a blog post, get your oil changed. Meditate.
Step 5: Decide to just get this all over with and make an appointment for Tuesday.
Step 6: You'll cry. Then cry some more, just at the idea of having to do it the next day. Journal about your feelings. While journaling, recall that you've written about this subject before. Flip back to that page and read your previous entry. You'll cry again because you are proud of your old self. #Growth. Fall asleep that night with the help of your favorite sleep meditation app.
Step 7: Wake up on Tuesday panicked. Decide you'll cancel the appointment. Eat an egg sandwich just in case you do end up giving blood later. You'll need your strength. Drink a bunch of water.
Step 8: You'll eventually decide in your heart that it is best for you to go that afternoon. Look up the closest clinics while running errands. Notice that they are all closed for lunch. Decide that you will not go that afternoon.
While going about your regularly scheduled programming, you think about giving today another chance. Your heart starts racing. You drink more water.
Step 9: Drive to the lab closest to you just before it closes, hoping that maybe they won't have any space for you that day.
Step 10: You'll take 1/2 an Ativan in the parking lot. Guzzle a bunch more water.
Step 11: Go inside and see only one person waiting and two people doing intake behind the desk. Uh-oh. Give the man your form. He doesn't notice your hands are shaking. He's super nice and seems relaxed? Resist the urge to ask him how he manages to work at a lab such as this. He must not feel the earthquake-like sensation from within, when he thinks about a lab test, like you do.
Step 12: Sit down and realize he has your form so now you have to go through with this today. Ugh.
Step 13: Scroll through your inspirational Pinterest board while taking DEEP BREATHS. Zip your hoodie all the way up and place your hand on your chest casually. (This tricks your sympathetic nervous system into turning down the adrenaline. Think of it as giving yourself a hug.)
Remind yourself that this is a normal reaction to this process. Your body (+ mind) is trying to protect itself from a perceived threat. You are a feely-type person who feels all the things. There are no points deducted from the imaginary score if you cry. Be kind, especially to yourself.
Step 14: The door will open and you'll pray they don't say your name, even though you are the only person sitting in the patient waiting room. "Andrea?" Crap. "How you are doing?" -- "Not bad", you'll reply. You'll wonder why the blatant lie came out of your mouth. Maybe you wanted your new friend to think you were "cool", if only for the 10 seconds it takes you both to get to the 3rd door on the left.
Step 15: You'll sit down in The Chair. The woman you just lied to asks you to spell your first and last name. You will, and she'll tell you her name is Shirley*.
Step 16: You'll give Shirley the news that you, "aren't fond of THIS", while turning your head and neck completely away from her. The action will feel inherently rude, talking to someone while looking away from them, but it's for your own well being- the less you see, the better this may go.
She'll ask about the weather as she (you assume, based on the noises) organizes your paper work. You'll look out the floor to ceiling window in the room and answer that you think it's going to rain.
Step 17: She'll rubber band your arm and add, "Oh, you are jumpy" as you wince. She'll ask if you want to lay down instead. "I don't know," you'll respond. Yet, you'll start getting up from The Chair and lay down on the paper covered table, simultaniously taking off your red boots, in one swift motion. She lets you know that you'll have to flip around and face the other way, since your right arm looks like it's better than your left. So, you'll flip around and breathe.
Step 18: She asks if you want her to count down from three and you answer, "No, it's better if you just-". But before you can finish the sentence, she's stuck the needle in. Ouch. You realize that this isn't Shirley's first rodeo. She's seen patients like you before. She's taking care of you. You make a mental note to bring her a thank you card and flowers, if/when you make it out of this place.
A warmth comes over your body, starting with your toes working its' way up to your head. You can kinda feel the tug as she changes to a new tube. You are doing this. You thank her for "being so kind".
She asks you about the weather again, and remarks, "that there isn't a cloud in the sky". You are staring out the giant glass wall on your left and notice the sky is completely overcast. You try to get the words of disagreement out, but can't. The nonsensical nature of this comment takes almost 15 seconds to register in your brain, and again, you are thankful for Shirley's expert ways. She's distracting you.
Step 19: Your body gets cold, and then it's done. You did it. She stands there pressing the cotton ball to the bend in your elbow, and you feel two tears roll out of your eye, directly into your left ear. You realize you sorta stopped breathing and remind yourself to start taking in air again.
She reminds you to stay laying down while she finishes labeling your samples and gets them out of the room "for you". You thank her for what feels like the 17th time for being so kind.
Step 20: You sit up to attempt to sip the cold water out of a styrofoam cup that has just appeared. You sign the form she hands you, with your non-dominant hand, completely forgetting to read what it said.
You say you'll just go sit in the waiting room and she lets you know that you can stay in the room you're in for as long as you'd like. "If you need anything, just yell for Shirley".
Step 21: She leaves. You did it.
Step 22: You start to get the shakes so you put your right arm back in your hoodie sleeve. Here comes the nausea. Get out of this room, you think. You feel sweat drops forming on your brow and upper lip. Suddenly, your body gets SO warm. Get outside.
Step 23: You use your left arm to lift yourself on to a nearby rolling chair and then scoot yourself across the room towards your purse and boots. You weigh the possibility of fainting against the relief of being outside in the fresh air, and decide it best to give yourself 30 more seconds to steady yourself. You stand, and feel your shirt sticking to your back and stomach. You've sweat through it. Get outside.
Step 24: You walk out into the hallway and head straight for the main double doors. You made it. The cold air hits your face and finally you breathe a full, deep breath. Your entire body relaxes for the first time since Friday when you got the paperwork. Thick rain drops hit your hair and face. It starts to rain and you realize, you were right all along.
Step 25: You write an overly detailed blog post about it, just in case anyone else feels the same way you do. Turns out, you're not alone.
*Name has been changed to protect the innocent.
Originally written March 30, 2016.