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The Anticipation Is Usually Worse Than The Shot

, , , , , | Healthy | November 10, 2021

In Year Eight, all the girls in my school had to have what we called the “cancer jab”, which was administered during school hours. Logically, I knew I needed this jab to vaccinate against something and that not having it would be bad, but emotionally, I was a wreck.

I’d never had a jab without my dad present before, and on the day of the jab, I found out they weren’t using the painkiller cream I was used to. Combined with a rather severe phobia of being “stabbed” by needles — thanks, egg donor — and the rumours going around about the pain and numb arms other students were experiencing, I was not exactly looking forward to my class being called for ours.

Eventually, the time came, and we were led to a room of the school we had never been in before. There was a row of chairs and nurses, and they were calling out names in alphabetical order, which meant yet more waiting because my name was in the middle. I was trying not to watch the others get their jabs and trying to convince myself that I was not going to freak out. I had it all sorted out in my head. I was going to sit in that chair, the jab would magically just happen without me freaking out, and then I could leave.

This plan fell apart the moment I sat down. The nurse had to ask me questions rather than psychically knowing I had this phobia and wanted to just be stabbed quickly so I could leave. I answered all the questions, albeit kind of curtly, despite not seeing the point in most of them. Like, I was twelve; of course I wasn’t pregnant. Why would you even ask that? In hindsight, I know that all the nurses were kind and professional and non-judgemental the whole time, but Kid Me didn’t understand that yet.

After what felt like an eternity, the nurse asked if I was ready for the jab. Nope, I am not ever going to be ready to be stabbed, thank you very much. This question pretty much started me spiralling into a meltdown. Most of what happened next was a big fuzz of panic in my memory until my best friend came over and held my hand. Her class was called sometime after mine and she walked over after getting her own jab, so I’d been here a while.

Another nurse came over and tried to talk to me, and the first stood quietly far too close, and my friend was trying to be reassuring, and I “knew” I was being watched by all of the other students and maybe the other nurses, even though I couldn’t focus on them to check if they were actually looking. It was all far too much, but at least I could vaguely see and hear by then, even if the time between hearing words and understanding what they meant was far too long. The nurses also occasionally spoke to my friend, but I couldn’t focus on what they were saying.

I kept getting asked if I wanted the jab and I kept choking out that this was very much the opposite of what I wanted but I knew I needed to have the jab, though nowhere near as eloquently. Eventually, the other nurse told me that they could not force me to have the jab, but if I didn’t have it, then they’d have to tell my dad that I’d refused it.

I did not want them to tell my dad. I was supposed to have this vaccine, so refusing it was a bad thing to do. I didn’t want my dad to know I was being bad because that would lead to lectures and not being allowed on the game consoles. So, I managed to pull myself together enough to stop rocking while one nurse held my arm still and my friend kept her grip on my hand. And then, while my eyes were squeezed shut and looking in the opposite direction, the other nurse administered the jab.

It didn’t hurt as much as it should have. I still felt it, so I know I had the jab. But it confused me because there was supposed to be so much more pain. I knew what needles felt like; I had memories as recently as five years earlier where the entire memory consisted of pain and hurt and dread and screams. This couldn’t be over yet. I kept asking the nurses if it was really done, and they were all reassuring smiles and sent me on my way.

Someone asked my friend to escort me to room F11. There were quite a few autistic kids in our school, so we had a couple of rooms just for us, and this was one of them. My friend was allowed in with me even though she usually wasn’t, and we just sat there together until I’d calmed down and then talked until the school day ended.

Thankfully, my general phobia of needles has lessened to the point where I haven’t freaked out this bad in years, though my phobia of the specific kind of needle the egg donor used is still bad enough that I cannot physically say what kind it was.