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Do I have an irrational fear of something? Some might think it’s ridiculous and just plain stupid. But I think they’re just hypocrites.
Right now I am reliving a nightmare this linoleum tundra reeking of isopropyl alcohol and sterilized vinyl. I can hear a small child screaming in a room down the hallway. I look down unseeingly at the Time magazine in my hands, trying not to think of what will happen in a few minutes.
The scream goes on and on, mingling with blubbered protests and subsiding into a gurgling wail. I’ve heard that scream before because I was the one who screamed. But no one else knew; it was all in my head.
I try to block the image out of my mind, but I see myself in the room with the needle in my arm. I hold my eyes open and try not to think.
There really is no reason to be scared.
This is what I’ve been told for an eternity, and this is what I’m telling myself right now.
There’s no reason to be scared.
Be there a reason or not, I’m terrified. And nothing’s going to change that. I feel my legs going weak already. I’m almost sure this is going to be a repeat of my last visit, myself slipping into a welcome darkness as the deadly needle tries to sneak into the skin of my inner arm, a place where it utterly does not belong. I will be forced back into a bright, sterile nightmare with the blood running down the crease of my arm and struggling to breathe.
I can still hear the scream that wouldn’t stop even though it never left my throat. I can almost taste the steamy tears and hiccups creeping their way back into my face.
The torture I’m facing is mostly mental and that’s the worst part. For a few minutes I do nothing and just sit there, trapped in an unstoppable cycle—unstoppable because of the momentum these sickening memories have gained. This was not how my perfect Saturday was supposed to start. I woke up expecting a cheerful, lazy morning. Instead I woke up to my mom telling me to wake up so I could get blood work done.
So here I am now, once again stuck in this hellish reality.
They call my name and I slowly follow some woman in a white coat down the hall. I look into one of the doors and I see a victim with a band-aid and gauze on her arm. I try not to gag. Then I see the screaming child wedged between the chair and his mother’s leg with snot and tears dripping down his red, swollen face. I see the red pinprick on his leg and I try not to fall on the floor and vomit.
I hesitate as I walk into the room. Should I throw down the magazine I’m clutching in my hands and run for it? Oops, too late. Have a seat, says the woman with a smile. Suddenly I feel a rush of rage and hatred for everyone in the world. I feel like throwing the window open and jumping out and running. But that isn’t socially acceptable, so I just cry. This is the epitome of darkness and despair for me and I have to get over it, only that’s not possible. Now I’m not scared. I’m just mad and I want to get out of here. I don’t care about anything.
Of course I don’t kick or scream when my arm is stuck with the needle. I feel it going in and I feel it suspended in the skin of my arm. I feel like screaming. But my mouth is clamped shut, my stomach is twisted into a knot, and my hands are rigidly locked into fists when the technician tells me to open and close my right hand. I can hear the heavy thumping of my heart, uselessly trying to push the blood through my system. Now I can hear the hushed whisper of my blood leaving through the needle.
I just pretend that I’m okay even though my stomach feels like it’s being deflated. I can hear the chilling stream of blood going through the needle and my arm feels like it’s being run through with a pole. I’m under the illusion that the dark outline of my hand clamped over my eyes is becoming fuzzier and the sounds are becoming distant and muted. I feel a cloud of inky obscurity entering my head. It’s just like last time.
After I’m done I feel sick beyond belief and I tremble and feel like an old person. I’m a mess and I’m pretty sure I look as bad as I feel. The cup of cold water in my hand does nothing to help me, it makes my stomach feel like it’s being wrung out by a vice.
I stagger back to the waiting room as fast as I can, glaring at the ground. I feel neither a sense of relief or courage, only a sickening fatigue that threatens to wipe me out. Whether I feel it or not, I have managed to look one of my greatest fears in the eye and not pass out. The gauze and band-aid covering the wound in my arm will be my testimony.