I'm filling out an application and one of the questions they ask is:
Describe a non-academic challenge that you have overcome in the past 2-3 years. What did you do? What did you learn?
This was my answer:
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder like Hashimoto’s is always a strange and scary process, but for me the most difficult part was the frequent blood draws.
I have an intense fear of needles. My yearly immunizations have always been an object of dread, involving nauseating anxiety, tears, hyperventilation, dizziness, white knuckles and concerned looks from the nurse. Even my younger sister would call me a scaredy-cat.
Unfortunately, in the first year after my diagnosis, I had to get my blood drawn frequently to check how effectively my medication was regulating my hormone levels. To stay calm in the face of the waves of fear, I had to develop coping mechanisms. Staring intently at the wall, thinking distracting thoughts, and clutching tightly to the armrest were all helpful in anchoring me. If my anxiety was really running wild, I would take deep breaths and count to ten. Above all, I never let myself look at my arm while the needle was inside of it.
I had always had the tendency to imagine awful possibilities. I would imagine bleeding out and dying, or the needle getting stuck, or leaving me with a jagged scar. But now, I was so familiar with the routine that I immediately dismissed those fears as unreasonable. They no longer held any power over me.
While I didn’t enjoy the experience of getting my blood drawn so regularly, it did teach me an important lesson: the dangers of the imagination are much worse than the dangers of reality. Now, whenever I feel afraid, instead of spiraling into a panic, I rely on my coping mechanisms, and remind myself that whatever is going to happen, it’s probably won’t be as bad as I imagine it will be.