Facing our fears: Aichmophobia (needles)

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From the July 26, 2012 edition

I was one of those kids whose doctors had to chase them around the room when it was vaccination time. (Sorry, Dr. Park.) As a youngster, I never thought of it as an irrational fear: Needles hurt! Unfortunately that dread never went away, and to this day I usually refuse a vaccine if at all possible.

When it came time to face my fear for Alive, I chose acupuncture because it required lots of needles at once and therefore seemed more daring, and also because I have painful tension that I thought might benefit from some healthful prickles.

Before the appointment, Melanie Campbell, the owner of Fine Balance Acupuncture in Gahanna, asked me to sign a form that required my acknowledgement of the risk of punctured organs. Lovely. But Campbell was kind and reassuring during the 45- to 60-minute health consultation she goes through with every new patient.

Because my neck and shoulders hurt me the most (and probably because Campbell could tell I was freaking out), I lay on my stomach for the needling part and never had to see the needles go in.

I was terrified as she began using a little tube to insert what she considered a conservative number (15) of needles into my back, shoulders, wrists and calves, but honestly, it barely felt like anything. There was no pain — just an occasional tiny electric current. Then she said she’d let me rest for 20 minutes. Mild panic set in at the idea of having to remain still while covered in needles.

But I made it through, and when Campbell painlessly removed the needles, I suddenly felt tension-free. Knots that had existed in my muscles for years, despite many massages, were gone. I felt calm and lethargic for the rest of the day.

Even though I waited on pins and needles for that appointment, I might even decide to go back. Just don’t ask me to donate blood.