Fear of the Familiar

I have a confession to make.

I am afraid of the hospital. Not “hospitals” in general, but one specific hospital.

This is even more of a conundrum because it’s the same hospital where I work. Fabulous.

This is something I’ve been keeping secret for awhile, because I’m honestly ashamed of it, although it hasn’t reared its ugly head and become a problem until recently.

I was supposed to go for an appointment yesterday afternoon. (Ended up not making it due to another health incident that came up at the last minute, blast it all.) But anyway, I was up until almost 6 am worrying about it. Not about the appointment itself, because I was somewhat looking forward to it, but just…going back to that place.

I know this sounds ridiculous. I’m a healthcare professional, a pharmacist. I’ve worked at this hospital for over six years. I know a lot of behind the scenes stuff that most patients don’t know. I know how things tend to work.

But I’ve been a patient enough times now and been through more than most people go through in a lifetime. Now my heart starts racing every time I go near that place, and sometimes I almost start to panic. Because I remember…

The multiple IVs…

The blood draws…

The Foley catheters…

The smell of the hospital blankets…

The sounds the IV pumps make…

The sound of the vitals monitor when your numbers go out of range…(“Take some deep breaths…”)

The feel of the operating table under my body…

The cold and sticky feeling of the ECG leads…

The feeling of the mask on my face when they go to put me under…

The smell in the mask when it changes over from oxygen to the sedating gas of their choice…

The sounds the MRI machines make (the chirping before and the cacophony of sound during)…

The disturbing warm sensation that rushes over you when the CT scan dye is injected…

The disorienting feeling of awakening from anesthesia…

The lack of sleep…

The pain

It all comes rushing back whenever I go near that place and when it hits me all at once, I just want to run (or realistically, drive) away as fast as I can. I can feel my heart start to pound. I just hate that place so much. I almost don’t feel safe when I’m there.

I mean, the hospital experiences I had there weren’t bad, all things considered. It’s just…everything that happened to me was so overwhelming. It’s just now starting to hit me, as we approach the end of the year, what an awful and terrifying year this was for me. It’s almost like I was running on adrenaline just to get through it all and now that it’s all over, I’ve crashed. But my fight or flight response still activates whenever I go near that place.

I feel like I don’t have a right to have these feelings. Other people have it so much worse.

And yet I’m scared. Maybe it was just too much all at once? I mean, having three surgeries in four months isn’t really a common occurrence. I had my third endo-related surgery in July (granted, that was in Atlanta and hasn’t contributed at all to my hospital fear). I had my brain tumor removed in September. And I had my aneurysm stented in November. As soon as I healed (or even didn’t quite finish healing) from one, I had pre-op stuff to prep for another one. So maybe I just haven’t had time to digest and process everything with it all being so close together? I hope once I’m further out from all this, it will be easier.

But I still need monitoring. I need labs to check my prolactin every now and then. I’ll need an MRI in March and September and a CTA in November. And of course, we always need to hope that nothing else goes wrong. With me, who knows? Anything can happen, really.

Being on the patient side of things is so much harder. Especially when you know truly what idiots doctors and nurses can be. Luckily, I never encountered that problem; all my caregivers were 100% competent and for that I am grateful. But still, going through things as a patient this many times in such a short time is just downright overwhelming and terrifying, at least for me. Especially since the theme of this year seemed to be, “Oh look, we’ve fixed thisย problem, but we found another serious one that also requires surgery!”

Maybe I’ll always be scared of that place now. I already avoid visiting my hubby while he’s working in the ED because it gives me flashbacks to the five times I’ve been a patient there. And now that I’ve had appointments and/or surgeries or procedures in literally almost every building on campus, there really isn’t anywhere “safe” for me. Of all the buildings, I can only think of five that I haven’t been a patient in.

I don’t know how to get over this fear. It sounds so ridiculous. I know it will sound stupid to other people, so…sorry.

I just feel so alone…



11 thoughts on “Fear of the Familiar”

  1. This doesn’t sound stupid at all. Actually I would likely feel the same way. To be totally honest I think the odd thing would be if it hadn’t affected you. Furthermore, your feelings are valid even if you aren’t the person who’s suffered most or if others think they are silly. I hope you get to feeling a bit better. ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. I can certainly identify with the panic attacks that overwhelm you when you even drive past the hospital. I had 9 admits in one year and those involved ER visits first with 5 trips to the OR. My surgeon ordered 11 pelvic and abdomenal CT’s with the oral contrast. They didn’t do MRI’s in those days as a rule. I missed so much work at this same hospital that they called me on the phone in my hospital room to tell me they were relieving me of my position. Now I switched from panic attacks to grief to anger. In a way that really helped me. I can truly feel for you.
    Question- that has nothing to do with the above topic. How long should you wait between instilling different eye dops medications?


    1. Thanks, Robin! Glad I’m not alone in this. I know you’ve been through a lot too!
      As far as the eye drops go, you can just do one right after the other, but maybe give your eyes a chance to “dry ” inbetween if you know what I mean.


  3. You are entitled to your feelings…no one has the right to criticize…you have been through an inordinate amount of trauma…praying time passing will make this intensity of feelings diminish…wishing you and your family a peaceful, relaxed, blessed Christmas season.


  4. You need a big hug!

    I had mild trauma from just one IV insertion from an unexpected hospitalisation back in 2014 and the memory of it has only recently started to fade. You’ve been through wayyyy more than that – it’s only natural for it to affect you.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a trauma survivor, it’s that everyone’s trauma is valid. It’s so common to compare ourselves to others and dismiss our suffering just because we think others have been through worse. I felt just like you – for the longest time, actually. And for me, that just made it worse. Failing to acknowledge and understand how deeply I had been hurt in my childhood meant that I could never heal. In fact, God had to show me how traumatising my experience was for me to finally own it. That was the first step to true healing for me.

    Of course, this isn’t supposed to be about me – I’m just hoping that in sharing what I’ve learned from my experiences, it will help you feel better and maybe help you validate your own trauma.

    I don’t know what it’s like to be afraid of hospitals specifically, but I know what it’s like to feel unsafe and afraid. Be gentle with yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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