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Is An Old Story Holding You Back?

by jenny sansouci on June 6, 2013

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been terrified of needles. Like, severe, freak out, anxiety inducing, full blown needle-phobia.

Up until this past month, I honestly can’t tell you when the last time I had a needle was. It was when I was a kid. People never believe me when I tell them that. “What about getting bloodwork done?” Nope. “HIV test?” Never. No needles have come anywhere near my body. Call it irresponsible, call it whatever you want, but it’s been a serious fear of mine. The only exception was when I had a broken tooth repaired at the dentist last year and I had to get a needle to numb my gums —  but I insisted on being fully sedated (yes, as in, completely asleep) before that needle even came close to my face. Yeah, it’s like that. I couldn’t even SEE a needle or I’d go into panic mode. I had a couple of traumatizing experiences with needles as a kid, and ever since then I’ve just had a firm boundary with it. I swore and insisted I’d find my way around ever, ever, EVER having to get one. And I was really stubborn about it, too. I actually kind of loved seeing people get all weird and question-y, like I was an alien, when I said I hadn’t gotten a needle since childhood and never planned on getting one. “Whatever, nobody can force me to do anything, and I’m not getting a needle under any circumstances, I don’t care what the circumstances are. Sorry, end of story, bye!”

You get it. I identified myself as a needle-phobic as if it were a lifetime diagnosis and there was no chance of me ever getting past it.

Fast forward to this year. I started working for Dr. Frank Lipman, and he does acupuncture at his office. Naturally, when he said “oh you’ll have to try it sometime,” I laughed defensively and said “nope, not happening – deathly scared of needles.” Ok. He didn’t push it.

The more I sat in with Dr. Lipman and watched him work with patients, the more interested I got in my own health. But not just in a “eat kale, cut out gluten” kind of way. I saw him looking at people’s bloodwork and seeing deficiencies and giving them supplement recommendations and helping them heal. Wow. Suddenly, I wished I could get my bloodwork done. I wanted to know what my vitamin D levels were. I wanted to know about my thyroid numbers. I wanted to know about my B12. Suddenly, I wanted to get tested for everything. Maybe that’s not such a weird thing, because it seems like it’s “normal” for people to get their blood tested, but for me it was like this UTTERLY INSANE idea that would entail me actually facing one of my greatest fears of all time, and I really didn’t actually plan on ever pulling it off. I began to realize that this fear, this story about needles – was now actually holding me back from something I wanted.

Around the same time, I began to hear Dr. Lipman mentioning a certain gynecologist to female patients. Every time he mentioned her, he talked about how wonderful she was, and I had this feeling I should see her. I really had no desire to go to any doctor and get any procedure done at all (I’ve had traumatizing experiences with gynecologists too – not a fan). But for whatever reason, I found myself making an appointment with her. I decided, of course, that I’d tell her to just test me for everything that was testable without needles, that I can’t get any needles for anything, no way, no how. I told the receptionist, firmly, when I was making the appointment. ABSOLUTELY NO NEEDLES. OK? Cool, great, we’re on the same page.

When I got to the gynecologist’s office I started off telling her my whole thing about needles. I told her I wanted to have a fresh start, a clean slate, and make sure everything was all good, but — being deathly scared of needles, unfortunately there were certain things I just wouldn’t be able to get tested for. So oh well, I’ll just stay in the dark about that stuff, I don’t care. Whatever, I’m sure I don’t have anything anyway. I kept talking and she heard me out without judgement. It kinda felt like a therapy session.

Then, after awhile of me going on and on explaining my “limitation,” she said this:

“Jenny, you know, I think you’re attaching yourself to an old story. I really think you’re stuck in the past. This needle thing? It’s an old story. It’s not you anymore. I think it’s time to write a new story. You can get over this, and I want to be the one to help you do that. And I think today is the day.”

WTF? I was trying so hard to make it clear that needles. are. not. an. option.

I don’t know why, but sitting there in her office I felt that somehow she was right. I had been carrying around this freaking needle story for so long and now I knew it was holding me back. She mentioned that I could get ALL of my bloodwork done that I’d been wanting, with one needle. I was terrified, but I just intuitively knew it was time to let it go and really take care of myself.

So, I still don’t know how this happened, but somehow, somehow…I let her hold my hand…she tried to distract me by asking me about music…I tried to breathe as deeply as possible…I had tears streaming down my cheeks…and I let her put a needle in my arm.

It really wasn’t that bad. GO FIGURE.

It took one minute out of my life and I got to get all the bloodwork done that I’d been secretly fantasizing about. Now, not only is my mind at ease, but I also get to geek out on supplements based on actual data!!! #nerdalert

And once the story began to be re-written, I kept going with it.

The next week, I had a back injury from overdoing it in yoga and Dr. Lipman suggested acupuncture could help. Again, I said yes to the needles. Needles, multiple needles, inserted into my back.  I received them without hesitation, which was kind of exhilarating. Bring it on, I can take it. And it helped. It actually felt great. I couldn’t believe I had waited so long to try acupuncture.

Last week, another doctor I work with wanted to show me some acupuncture technique that involves putting needles into pressure points on the hand. I watched him stick a needle into the crease between his thumb and forefinger. I slightly cringed but was able to be cool about it, when previously I would have probably shielded my eyes and screamed.

I walked by my yoga studio the other day and saw a listing for acupuncture — I got excited rather than repelled.

I was like yo, what is the deal? I LOVE NEEDLES NOW.

Ok I’m kidding, I’m not going to pretend that I actually LOVE needles (I tend to be extreme but let’s not get carried away), but I feel SO different than I did before. I feel so much more free. The story that was holding me back is being re-written.

All it took was:

1) Realizing that I wanted something, but a deep fear and a story (which I thought was etched in stone) was holding me back from getting what I wanted. 

2) Someone suggesting that I was living in an old story from the past, and that I could write a new one. I really hadn’t considered that before. I needed help getting to that realization. 

I am a new woman now. It may seem insignificant to you, but it was a huge day in my life, where I let go of something I’d been holding onto so tightly and so stubbornly for literally the last 20 years or so.

This whole thing made me question –

What else can I do that I didn’t think I was capable of?

What other limitations do I put on my life that are based on old stories?

Where can stories be re-written to create something new, more open, and more expansive? 

By the way, I just asked my roommate – “do you think it’s OK to write about going to the gynecologist on my blog?” She answered, “hey, I say, the more inappropriate, the better.” Great, who doesn’t love a little validation sometimes…and if you’ve read this far, wow, you’re awesome, because this was a really long blog.

Now I want to hear from you.  What stories are you telling yourself that are holding you back? What might your life look like if you stopped identifying yourself with the past and opened up to new possibilities?

Trust me, the stories we identify ourselves with can be changed. I’ve got the needle marks to prove it.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Robyn June 6, 2013 at 11:36 am

I LOVE YOU JENNY SANSOUCI! Okay now that I’m done yelling I can say that this article was awesome and I’m inspired by your story. It’s rad that you were able to (when you were ready) breathe and re-write your story. Go girl.

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jenny sansouci June 6, 2013 at 11:37 am

Aw, thanks! Love YOU, Robyn Youkilis :) Yeah it was pretttttty radical.

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Angie June 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Love this! Glad you are loving needles! I’m afraid of jumping out of airplanes and I think I’m going to hold on to that one. Grandma Sansouci was afraid to go up in the St. Louis Arch but she did it (with me) on the first day it opened 50 years ago.
P.S. on another subject … Love song number 6.

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jenny sansouci June 6, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Hahaha! Oh boy…
Jumping out of airplanes actually isn’t as bad as getting a needle. Bungee jumping is WAY scarier. In my humble opinion. :)

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victoria June 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm

I totally get this! I completed my yoga teacher training earlier this year. At one point during a particularly emotional part of the training, a girl began telling a story, essentially making excuses for why something went badly for her that day. Our amazing instructor stopped her and asked, “How long have you been telling yourself that story.”

I had the same moment of clarity that you just described. How often do we tell ourselves stories just to make excuses for ourselves, for our limitations (that we often set upon ourselves), or so others don’t judge us? And yes, how easy is it to tell ourselves something for so long that we begin to identify with it beyond it’s expiration date? That little moment stays with me as a reminder to get real with myself.

Good stuff Jenny!

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