March 10, 2010


In my life I have known many unnerving emotions.  Deep Sorrow.  Painful Regret.  Heartache that takes your breath away.  Earth-shattering Anxiety. 

Until today I really never knew what it meant to be terrified.

I get it now.

Today was my first allergy shot.  Seems innocent enough.  Not like I’ve never had an injection before, right?  And, in theory, all of that is true.  The problem is that part of the instructions from the physician prior to arriving at the office to learn how to do this is to bring your Epi-Pen – in case you have a severe reaction.

Right.  Because you are injecting me with the same things that really enjoy keeping me from breathing.

I was given an Epi-Pen several months ago after it was finally revealed that there are some things I used to like to eat that are out to kill me now.  I understand the function of the Epi-Pen.  In case of severe anaphylactic reaction, jam it into my leg, release the epinephrine into my blood stream to stop the life-threatening reaction and get to the hospital immediately.

Because epinephrine and your heart have issues when they get together.

And that?  Right there?  Is where I shook hands with terror.

Over the past several months I have realized that I don’t trust my body like others trust theirs.  And for a long time, for no known reason, I have always had a concern about my heart.  There is no evidence to support there are any issues, but in my mind I’ve always been concerned.  Therefore, in my mind, it is real.

So when you tell me that there is a very real possibility that at any point in these allergy shots I could have a reaction severe enough to warrant using that Epi-Pen?  It makes me think about this.

It makes me think about this until I am in tears and scared to start a treatment that might actually help.

It was not a good night last night.  But, like any good girl in denial, with help I got to push it aside for the night and get some sleep.

But sitting in that doctor’s office listening to the nurse talk about how to prepare the needle, how to organize the vials, how to set up the schedule… it was as if I was in this tunnel.  Her words echoed when she spoke.   But it’s not as if I heard her – all I could hear in my head in a voice just short of hysteric was, “I don’t want to do this.  I don’t want to do this.  I don’t want to do this.”

All I could think about was, “What if I have to use that Epi-Pen?  I don’t know if I can handle that kind of reaction?” and… “Can my heart handle it?”

The adrenaline was just powering through me.  My heart was pounding already.  I was hot and cold all at once and I either wanted to sit very, very still or I needed to keep my foot bouncing in quick rhythm.  I was shaking from what I realized was just plain, sheer terror.

That is a life-altering feeling.  And then I realized that I would feel like this every time I took one of these shots.  Twice a week for two months and once a week after that I would have to face this frightening potential outcome – and that made everything worse.

What if I was traveling? What if I was alone?  What if I was with the kids?  What if I was driving?

I don’t want to do this.
I don’t want to do this.
I don’t want to do this.

I can’t do this.
I can’t do this.
I can’t do this.

Husband did the best he could to help me.  “You don’t have to do this now.  If you’re not ready to start these you can pick another time and we’ll come back.  But the risk doesn’t change – just the calendar.  Whatever you want to do is fine.”


There really is no choice here.


“Nurse?  Tell me again.  How quickly will I know if I’m having a reaction?”
“Within 15 minutes the local skin area will swell if it’s a local reaction.”
“And a severe one?”
“Anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours.”
“And can you have a severe reaction without a local one?’
“Not usually.”
“So in 15 minutes I’ll know what kind of risk I have for the next hour and forty-five minutes”
“Most likely.”

I don’t remember much about the shot.  I remember wet eyes, a clenched stomach, hair in my face and I hung my head, my right foot in constant motion, no noise, holding my breath.  I never looked at the injection spot.  It hurt.  A lot.  It burned a little.  Husband sat and watched it intently for several minutes – at one point he thought something bad was happening at the site and wanted to get a nurse, but I begged him not to leave the room.  A nurse or doctor will walk by – or yell if you have to – but don’t leave this room.

Eventually whatever was alarming him started to go away.  He looked at his watch incessantly.  I stared at the floor.  The only things on the wall were close up pictures of wasps and bees that are dangerous when you’re allergic.  REALLY?!  Do I need to see scary insect pictures?!   Christ.  Does that twitch in my neck mean something?  What about that weird warmth?  Am I breathing any differently?

Jesus, how much LONGER?  It’s been 13 minutes.  The home stretch. 

Nothing at the injection spot.  Maybe it’ll be okay.  Just don’t ask me to talk right now. 

Finally the fifteen minutes passed.  It was time to go.  It was, in fact, lunchtime.  I tried to compose myself a bit – honestly I was still kind of a hot mess.  I was still shaky, still a little weepy.  Still a lot scared.  I didn’t trust that I was out of the woods.  In my head I still had another hour and forty five minutes to worry about.

Husband drove to lunch so I didn’t have to drive right away.  I was terrible company, but I appreciated having company to distract me.  I sat and watched him eat.  My appetite was nowhere to be found.  Eventually I found myself relaxing a little.  I stole some of his chips.  Drank some water. 

As the adrenaline wore off the crushing Tired set in.  I wanted to lay down.  It was time to go home.  It was time to just not think about any more.

Until Friday.

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7 Responses to “Terror”

  1. Knighton Says:

    You did it. You looked Terror in the eye and did it. YOU. DID. IT.

    Courage is tiny pieces of fear all glued together. ~Irisa Hail

  2. Pammer Says:

    Thank you for the kind words, but I assure you – this was not courage. I’m already dreading Friday.

  3. hope Says:

    you got me more scared than when i watched friday the 13th part 3 in 3d!!!
    i’m pullin for ya. hang in there…

  4. Kollette Says:

    I am sorry you had to feel that way, and I am regret to say I have a ton of experience with terror, so if you ever want to chat…
    Anyway, beautiful writing.

  5. Jonathan Says:

    Fear is a strange thing, isn’t it. My other half has always worried that she is not good with blood – worried how she would react if the kids were hurt.