I recently awoke in the middle of the night and on my way back to bed, I fell and bumped my head. I WAS able to get up… but what if I hadn’t been able to? This is just one of the potential hazards of living alone – at any age.
So, how did a relatively young and healthy woman – at least compared to the average Life Alert customer – end up on the bathroom floor, stunned after an abrupt meeting of a wooden dresser and the back of my head?
The Only Thing We Have to Fear…
There are at least two things that cause me severe anxiety – airplanes, and doctor visits.
I’ve fainted at least twice at a doctor’s office – once after a minor incision by my dermatologist, and once after I don’t remember what. I’ve been near fainting several other times.
I’ve even fainted once at the nail salon when half my nail came off, painlessly and unbeknownst to me. I didn’t feel a thing where the nail was removed, but when I looked down and saw my half empty nail bed, my world instantly faded to black. I awoke to three salon employees in my face, frantically fanning me in the chair and screaming to me in various languages I couldn’t comprehend, mixed with a few English phrases – “I love you! I take good care of you!”
This was a highly unusual outcome for a mani-pedi, which is normally a relaxing experience.
My anxiety is not about pain. It’s not about blood loss. It’s about my brain. It goes wild thinking of procedures, even the most minor ones involving needles and blades (or even nail clippers). Then my brain shuts me down until I pass out. After a few fleeting seconds of unconsciousness, I’m all better!
Iatrophobia is a fear of seeing a doctor. Could that be what I have?
My fear is not paralyzing. Just extremely anxiety-inducing. I’ve worked in the healthcare industry since 1998. My current employer is a physician recruiting firm. How can I possibly have iatrophobia? How I can have such fear of seeing a doctor when I work with them every day?
Repeat After Me: Doctors Are Not Bad People
Perhaps my anxiety about physicians is BECAUSE of my work with them. Not because doctors are bad people. But bad things do happen to good people, and I often hear about the terrible patient scenarios experienced by every doctor I’ve interviewed.
As a physician recruiter, part of the initial interview includes inquiring about each candidate’s malpractice history. In reply, the physician typically rattles off stories of three or four of the worst-case scenarios, the most dreadful patient outcomes of his or her career, sometimes in graphic detail.
I spent years hearing about every patient’s worst nightmare, and from hundreds of doctors over time. Even the best doctors have had one or two bad outcomes.
When Dressers Attack
The day of my recent midnight furniture fight, I had visited the doctor. I was poked and prodded as one typically is during the course of an annual check-up. (Except that my most recent “annual” check-up was in 2006.) The physical went well – uneventfully. I was given a clean bill of health for the year… Or, for the decade, in my case.
But when I awoke in the middle of the night, one shoulder sore from the tetanus shot, the other sore from where blood was drawn, and my mid-section cramping from the aforementioned prodding, my brain went into its overdrive mode thinking about the invasive tests and procedures.
I Think I Can, I Think I Can…
I knew if I could just make it back to the bed, I’d be okay. But I was so light-headed, I couldn’t even feel my feet touching the floor …3 …2 …1 BOOM.
I came to seconds later, after the back of my head smacked into my dresser, and then my backside hit the tile floor. I awoke, crumpled on the floor, the side of the dresser still pressed against the back of my head and forcing my chin down into my chest. Sharp pulsating pains shot through both back and neck, and my backside ached, too.
My doctor had just given me a clean bill of health a few hours earlier, and even thinking about the medical encounter somehow led me to involuntarily dive head-first into the hardwood furniture.
Perhaps my fear is tomophobia (fear of medical procedures, and no offense intended to anyone named Tom) rather than iatrophobia. Or perhaps I also have a touch of trypanophobia – fear of injections.
Unusual Phobias… Decisions, Decisions
Either way, I guess I’ll now have to return to the doctor and have my crackling, aching neck and back checked out, try not to develop basophobia (fear of falling or collapsing), and then get my head examined! Unfortunately, phobias, including iatrophobia, are treated by psychiatrists, who are, indeed, doctors…
So, where do I sign for expedited delivery of my Life Alert bracelet?
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt
In this ubiquitous quote from his inaugural address, our iconic American president FDR may have revealed his own phobic flaw: phobophobia, a fear of fears.
© Andrea Clement Santiago
Andrea Clement Santiago is a career advice columnist, writer, and communications professional. She has contributed to books, journals, websites and has made media appearances on television and radio in her capacity as a healthcare career expert. She writes about her experience as an adult orphan on her blog, No Parents No Problem. Learn more about Andrea here. Follow Andrea on Twitter at @AndreaSantiago, or connect with her on LinkedIn.