October 7, 2009 at 10:52 pm (Mental illness)

PG for mention of adult content.

I (more or less) achieved something today I’ve been trying to do for around thirteen years. It wasn’t major book publication. It was donating blood.

I always seem to have a cold or some other minor illness, or a recent tattoo, or a bad medication. Plus it’s simply an unfamiliar task (yesterday, I mopped two and a half rooms for the first time. It took all day, and I only managed it by using no soap or bucket – just cold water from the tap. Even in my own house, an unfamiliar task spins my world into disarray. Either that, or cleaning is just a health risk).

My husband and I went to donate blood some months ago, and there was some reason I couldn’t do it (a cold, I think). He did, and I at least got to know what the waiting room etc looks like (making the place slightly more familiar).

It really creeped me out even then. I think it’s that doctors (if they’re any good) do a convincing job of seeming to care. Most of the time I feel I’m able to hide my craziness behind the simplest of facades – but not with doctors. Weird but true. Also there’s SO much occupational health and safety stuff that I feel certain something horrible is about to happen (OH&S always has this effect on me – it was arguably the number one reason I decided to quit regular classroom teaching).

I tried to set up an appointment for last Monday (public holiday), so my partner and I could go together. Not surprisingly, it was closed. But I made an appointment for just me, today. Even at the time I realised it was dumb.

I’m a little anaemic, plus anxiety makes me sluggish and unco – as if I’m drunk, sometimes. And there was no knowing if I’d have a weird first-donation reaction like fainting or something. (I’ve had dozens of shots, but have become less and less able to deal with the slightest bit of pain or blood. I’m turning into a friggin’ GIRL!)

Aaaannyway. . .

The preceding night and morning I ate a LOT and drank (water) even more – as per the web site instructions.

I got hopelessly lost on the way (already having a panic attack – crying, and unable to remember even the simplest directions for more than half a second), but luckily stumbled across the right street, and even parked in the right place. That was the first hurdle. The second was getting a parking permit from reception, putting it in my car, and going back in.

This is the kind of thing I find really difficult – not sure why. On the way out I dropped the ticket at the door, struggling to not cry, to carry my bag, and to push the door open. As I picked it up, I stumbled into the door and a nurse (or someone – I averted my face) asked if I was all right. I wasn’t able to answer.

Put permit in car. Closed and locked car. Went back in. Picked up folder with form in it. Filled out form (no I have never had man to man sex). Another hurdle down.

Waited, reading a book I’d prepared earlier and eating lollies I’d also prepped.

Had my “interview” where they follow up on the form (“Are you SURE you’ve never had man to man sex? And how recently have you not had man to man sex?” – okay, I admit they didn’t follow up on that bit) and also prick a finger very slightly to test your iron levels (which for me they did twice because the first reading was incorrect). Didn’t cry. Mentioned anxiety without crying. All good. Managed to take off my jacket without braining myself or the nurse, or flailing enough to damage expensive medical equipment (clothes freak me out, too. Especially heavy outer clothing).

The nurse could tell I’d drunk a lot because my blood was flowing beautifully. Yay for gushing torrents of blood.

She gave me a first-timer sticker for my shirt, so people “know to keep an eye on you”.

Went into the big room with the comfy chairs and the ominous arm-rests. It reeked of efficiency, competence, and sanitation. I actually liked the fact that the chairs look like dentist’s chairs – dentists are usually borderline psychotic (in my opinion) and don’t really care if you’re in pain. I like that.

Sat down fine, and was more or less okay as they put a strap on my upper arm and poked at my veins while I squeezed a foam ball.

Blood is life-force. Every writer knows that. I’d tried not to think of the symbology of what I was doing – having my life-force sucked away in the goriest possible way not involving CGI monsters. Naturally, I failed.

Oh, and of course I had to try to keep still. (I’ve heard that’s the toughest aspect of Chinese water torture.)

The instant the needle went in my arm, I cried – quickly attracting a small crowd. I was very lucky – I was still able to speak (“it’s just anxiety, no it doesn’t hurt, nothing’s physically wrong”) and I was mercifully snot-free (since there was no way I could blow my nose).

Someone fetched me a drink of water (with a straw) which actually was extremely helpful – symbolically, the intake of water balanced the outtake of blood, so I felt that I wasn’t losing anything.

Unfortunately, it turns out I was wrong about my anxiety being only crippling and humiliating to me. It turns out it slows blood flow, too. The staff got some blood, but it was so sluggish they thought their machine was either broken or about to be broken, and they gave up.

So. . . fail. But success too, because they have enough of my life-force to tell me my blood group “for next time” – which is something I’ve always wanted to know.

I cried plenty more in the recovery room (weeping into my free strawberry milkshake and chewing morosely on my jellybeans of shame), and SMSed my husband to please leave work and take me home – which he did.

For obvous reasons, I’m never going back.


1 Comment

  1. Ann said,

    I have to say that I am glad that they dont let me give blood! I have issues with fainting….. Nothing to do wiht anxiety, or shock, or hating the sight of blood, something to do with my blood pressure or something. I give blood, even one little tube at the doctors, and I faint, wake up, sit around for 20 minutes, stand up and faint again……. They dont like that for some reason, and told me not to come back!

    Btw, I see you have joined the legion of regulars on Notes from a Hospital Bed. He really does brighten the day doesn’t he!!!!!!

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