After avoiding visiting doctor’s surgeries for years, it wasn’t possible to avoid the need for this, part one of two, vaccinations. For days I’d resisted the temptation to postpone the appointment and anxiety was massive, especially after badges declaring ‘I have OCD’ didn’t arrive to display prominently for the nurse administering the jab to see, and hopefully understand.
I was surprised to receive a text as early as I did, inviting me to book an appointment via my phone, and once done I decided not to think about it too much until the day before, but that was so much easier said than done. I rehearsed in my head how it would play out, what was best to wear, and what needed to be decontaminated when I got home.
On arrival there were two (security?) stops with people checking identity followed by a squirt of hand sanitizer with a leaflet handed to me, that I didn’t want to take as it complicated how to hold that whilst imagining how to expose my arm but not let my clothes touch anything. I entering the room (which was clearly ordinarily a doctors consulting room) to which I said to the nurse “Hello, I’m sorry but I’m highly anxious as I have severe contamination OCD and haven’t been in this kind of environment for many years”. She had a facemask on but her meager response and eyes told me she didn’t know what to do with that statement (my confession).
She said “Well shut the door and sit down” and seemed as nervous as me when I shut the door, not using the handle, but the edge of the door with my little finger and said “Is it possible to stand please?” She said “Eer yes” unconvincingly and continued to ask the mandatory questions. I felt awkward, and know from my past Emotional Intelligence training that standing over someone sitting is very bad body language on my part (but clearly not intentional).
So I tried to ingratiate myself by saying “I’ve been so tempted to postpone this appointment but managed to resist it” but she merely responded factually “well it would need to be done eventually” – not wrong, but not warm or friendly. After questions were finished she stood to do the jab so I said “Is it possible for you to wear fresh gloves and show me the needle is in a sealed blister pack please … oh I see you are taking it out of a packet, but could you put on clean gloves please” to which she answered “No these were clean” – presumably she put them on before I entered the room but I rehearsed in my head that they should be put on at the point they start the treatment not for the pc/desk administration.
I was so flustered, and embarrassed, by now that I can’t remember her adding the vaccine to the syringe, and worried about it later that night at home, but have to trust that she did her job as trained perfectly, and that I hadn’t distracted her to the point of making an error. Fortunately she didn’t touch my skin as she administered the pin prick and mopped up a small amount of blood (that dreaded word) on a clean cotton wool ball.
I quickly dropped my sleeve and rearranged my clothing, noting that I’d been successful in not letting my long coat touch the surgery floor, or anything else for that matter. She passed me a small card with the name of the vaccine, said I’d be notified for my second vaccine, and to move to the waiting room for 15 minutes to ensure I didn’t have a reaction.
With difficultly I opened the door, which was slightly ajar, with my little finger and said “Thank you, I’m sorry for being painful.” I can’t remember how she responded, it wasn’t memorable, probably, “that’s ok” or even “don’t worry” and I headed to the next and final stage of this horrible experience, the embarrassment of standing in a waiting room of ten seated people, with surplus soft/cushion seats available. On TV I’ve seen seats being sanitized as each person moves forward, but these chairs could not be cleaned – my nightmare – spongy cloth seats at a doctors surgery – it shouldn’t be allowed, surely plastic or leather to allow cleaning should be made mandatory in the 21st century, where people have infectious illnesses, body fluid leakage, and now COVID-19 virus.
The people sitting on them appeared totally relaxed, but I of all people know that appearances can be deceptive when I’m conducting my swan portrayal – appearing calm on the surface whilst flapping crazily below the surface. They all gave me a discreet glance, wondering why I was standing when there were seats available, but luckily no one said the obvious. Why I stood there looking like a fish out of water for the full 15 minutes baffles me now, but I suppose I wanted to conform and follow instructions, but it would have been more comfortable and less embarrassing to wait in the car just feet away outside for those 15 minutes.
I was so relieved to walk out of the building, cover my hands in sanitizer, and head straight home to strip off all my clothes/facemask into the washing machine and wash my arm thoroughly with hot water and soap, before a bath to wash away any possible microbe of contamination. All done, mission ‘vaccine 1’ successful until the second vaccine. The only evidence being a tiny mark at the top of my arm and tenderness in the surrounding area of the arm for about 30 hours.
Family and friends knew that I was going to find this vaccination process incredibly stressful so texts started arriving asking how it went, to which I responded briefly with “Good news; it is done and wasn’t as bad as I thought it could have been so won’t need to worry so much for the second jab, but the bad news is I don’t think the nurse I was allocated knew what to do with the statement “I am extremely anxious with severe contamination OCD.”
I should point out that I am grateful to be given the vaccine when there are people desperate, and more worthy, to receive it. That said, I hope the above account might help someone else with similar anxieties cope with the unknown, but not really optional, medical process. I hoped that being honest and confessing my disability to the nurse, she would have taken just seconds of her day to say something reassuring, or to acknowledge the stress I was clearly displaying with a wobbly voice – facemasks only inhibit reading mouth expressions, not eyes and voice.
So the above experience continues to motivate me to improve awareness of how difficult everyday activities can be when living with my type of, contamination, OCD. Unfortunately it hasn’t allayed my fears so I continue to worry that the older I’m getting I’ll need to be hospitalised and have to encounter a mixture of understanding/lack of understanding 24 hours a day rather than this ten minute procedure.
Ding ding – “Round 2” in 10-12 weeks time but at least I’ll know what to expect, will be able to make a clear unambiguous statement by wearing my ‘I have OCD’ badges, and keep my fingers crossed that it won’t need to be an annual visit to top-up efficiency or difference in COVID strains.