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Confronting my fear (inner conch experience)

The past few months have been difficult on me. Ever since I wrote openly about my needle phobia, I've received many encouraging responses. No, you're not crazy. You do need to overcome this, though. It was a common, honest, and truthful response to my rant which would prove to weigh on me for the next few months. After all, I couldn't expect to live the rest of my life and never fall ill or get into an accident which would require medical attention, unless of course my life were to be extremely short and whatever were to kill me would do so quickly.

Something needed to be done about my fear. I knew that in order to overcome it, I had to confront it, and do so in the most positive way possible to hopefully prevent further damage to be done. I had trouble trusting doctors, blood donation centers, or anyone else who'd be impatient and insensitive. One person suggested to me that I'd get another piercing. Since it is a service business with a lot of competition, someone good enough to stay in business for a long time would have to be patient with the slew of teenagers and young adults who want to look badass in their Myspace photos, yet are terrified to actually get pierced. It's not like the medical profession, who don't have to care because they'll have business no matter what.

I searched online for studios near my house. One studio stood out to me in user submitted reviews. There were no bad reviews. Most of the reviews were extremely positive, including some long time customers who continued going there even after moving to another state. They didn't appear to be written by someone paid to do so. (Hey, it could happen) And their own website appeared professional and included a portfolio. I paid a visit to them, and had a long chat with Jef. He was friendly, knowledgeable, but most importantly seemed like he would be up to the challenge of dealing with me. I made sure he knew that I sometimes had panic attacks bad enough where I'd pass out. As for the piercing, I wanted to get something I've done before. I didn't want any procedural surprises, and I wanted to make sure it was a pain level that I could handle. I picked my right ear, an inner conch piercing to match the one that I had done previously. Granted, that was almost eight years a go, when my phobia was nowhere near as bad as it had been the past few years. But I had to keep in mind that I'd done this before, it was something I could handle, and I just needed to get past the needle.

Jef wasn't too worried about me. It was something I'd done before, so there was no additional fear of the unknown. I couldn't have been too bad of an emotional wreck to handle it, since I had been thinking of ways that I could learn to face my fear. I was still scared as all hell about it, mostly of passing out or other side effects of my panicking, and not the pain of the actual procedure itself. I'd shown up at the shop maybe four or five other times before actually deciding to get it done. Most of the times, I considered that this would be the day, but got scared away by non-employees in the shop waiting for their piercings. One time earlier this week, I decided that it needed to be done as soon as possible, so that the fear would no longer weigh on me. That day, I went there, and was greeted by someone other than Jef. Oh, yeah.. Jef only works mornings. He'll be here tomorrow.

I came back on Friday morning. It was my day off, so I didn't have to worry about losing sleep for it. It was a weekday, so there wasn't going to be a crowd there that I could scare off. And yes, as expected, the only people there were Jef and another employee. After filling out the form, which asked questions such "Are you drunk?" and explained that they aren't responsible for it if I'm a moron about aftercare, among other legal concerns, I began to shake visibly as I waited for the private room to be cleaned and the equipment to be sterilized.

Come on in, we're ready to go. I went to the private room, where the piercing would take place. While cleaning my ear, Jef continued to talk to me. How are you doing right now?

"I can't stop shaking." At that point, my nervousness was probably at about a 6 or 7. I didn't see any needles or anything like that, but the cool liquid used to clean my skin startled me.

I understand that you're a bit nervous. I'm just going to mark where the hole is going to go now. As soon as the ink touched the back of my ear, I jumped. I wasn't hurt, but that was when the nerves really started to hit me badly. "A bit" was a bit of an understatement. I was on the verge of panicking. All right, when we do the actual piercing, I'm going to have you lie down. He knew it was probably the only way I'd stay still, and it would mean that if I did pass out, I couldn't possibly hurt myself by falling over anywhere.

OK, please lie down, with your feet facing this way, and your ear up towards me. Now, you're going to feel a tube on the back of your ear. As soon as the tube touched me, I went into a panic attack. The panicking lasted maybe about 5-15 minutes (I had no way of telling for sure), but eventually subsided from a 10 to about a 6. During the attack, he pulled the tube away from me, and waited for me to respond to an all-important question: How are you feeling?

"Still scared, but better now."

We don't have to do this today, if you're not feeling up to it.

"As much as I'd like to call it quits, I know I'll be shitting myself about it no matter when it's done. If I come back another day, I'll still panic."

All right, we can try this again. This time, I'm going to hold the tube in the same spot, and let you get used to it. I will also hold the needle next to your skin. As soon as he'd done that, another panic attack happened. This time, it was worse. I was making noises that no human should ever make, and worried that I had scared him, which added to the panic. He pulled away the tube and needle, and patiently waited for my panicking to subside.

How about this? I'm going to see if I can get you to take some deep breaths. If I still feel you are panicking too much today, we can do this another time. At about that time, I heard some people come in the building. Fuck, that's just what I needed. I had worried that those people would be scared away by my screams of terror, or that I'd have been laughed at as soon as I came back out.

OK now, relax, relax, relax. Big deep breaths. I had a third panic attack. Jef had made an important observation. Panic attacks don't last forever, and if he could just wait this one out without moving away the tube or needle, I'd eventually calm down. After the worst part of the panic attack was over, and my stress level went down to about a 7 or 8, I heard a loud crunch and felt a sharp pain in my ear. He had timed the needle push with my breaths, quickly pushing it in on my breath out. I screamed. It was not what I had expected at that point, since the last few times, he had just pulled the needle and tube away from me.

I hyperventilated. You did it. The painful part is now over. You really need to stop breathing like that, or you will pass out. As soon as I was over this initial shock, I was able to start breathing slowly. I stayed motionless in the same position, fearful that any sudden movement would cause me to faint after the fact.

"I'm not going to get up quite yet."

Don't worry, I don't want you to. Just take the next few moments to relax. I stayed there for the next 15 minutes or so, and told him more about my fear. I practically spilled my life story to the poor guy, but it didn't matter. I was so relieved to have been able to confront my fear finally, after all this time. And it was quite possibly the best way I could have done so. The pierce was the least painful needle that I remember, despite also being the largest. Jef was patient enough to wait through all my panic attacks for the perfect moment to pierce me, one when I was not expecting the needle or still panicking. The panic attacks were certainly the worst of the whole experience, but not something I could have avoided without being drugged to a point where I'd have no recall of what had happened.

Now, I certainly don't have to tell every random person I come across about my panic attacks, when they ask "Did it hurt?" or comment about how my jewelry is passing through an extremely tender looking part of my ear. But, I have one sure response for all of those questions: If I can handle it, so can you.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 14 Dec. 2009
in Ear Piercing

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Artist: Jef
Studio: Rockstar
Location: Providence%2C+RI

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