Thursday, 6 September 2012

A little of what you know can do you good

Apologies for the two days absence. I've been unwell. It seems that my body has reacted quite badly to being pumped with sedative drugs and prescription pain killers, so I've been suffering from what can only be described as the worst three day hangover I've ever had without having a single drink. I still don't feel 100 per cent but let's give this blog a go.

It all started with my visit on Monday to the dental hospital, and it's been quite a drama. You see I have to confess that since I can remember I've always been squeamish, and will quite readily faint at the sight of blood, or the thought of a doctor's needle.  Earlier this year my dentist told me that I needed to have two teeth taken out and arranged for an appointment at Guys's Hospital who have an excellent dental surgery department. From the word go I opted for sedation as the only way I could get through this, unfortunately this was to be injected intravenously. The first attempt was aborted as I fainted when the catheter was placed in my arm. An appointment was made for a couple of months after and this time I was in such a state of anxiety I decided not to go through with it at all. With great patience the dentist re booked again.

And so last Monday, six months after the initial appointment I was one my way to Guy's for the third time determined to go through with this come what may. This time, however, my anxiety was a lot less. I was being accompanied by my fiance Grisel and this was really helping and it was something that had happened a few days earlier that had really made the difference. I had been researching phobias for my one man show, and there it was in black and white, 'trypanophobia, a fear of needles'. I read on, apparently trypanophobia can lead to a fear of medical procedures in general. "Could I really have this?" I wondered, and what I read next convinced me that I did. This phobia causes a raising of the blood pressure due to anxiety (this is common with most phobias), but when the procedure is started there is a sudden lowering of the blood pressure, which causes fainting. "So that's what's been going on all these years" I thought, "just a sudden lowering of my blood pressure, that's all." Now I never ever thought that I had a phobia so this was a revelation to me, and I started to look at my squeamishness in a differnent way. I wasn't just some wimpy bloke who faints at the sight of blood, no, I had I phobia, and irrational fear of something. How cool is that? It's ironic, but knowing this really helped. I realized that I'd had needles poked into me and had all sorts of long and uncomfortable dental procedures in the past so what made this one so different? I came to the conclusion that the only difference was that this latest procedure was being called an operation, and it was taking place in a hospital. Perhaps it was this that was this that was causing me so much anxiety? With the problem identified I could now reason with myself that the procedure (I still like to call it that) was routine and no big deal, and that the wonderful dentists at Guys Hospital were not Victorian barber surgeons (as my fear addled mind had told me), but were in fact a fantastic and caring team of healthcare professionals. I even told myself that it was OK to faint, because after all, I had a phobia.

As Grisel and I entered the ward we were both surprised at what we saw. There was literally about forty odd dentist chairs in one huge room. Each one in it's own little cubical. And there was a palpable air of hustle and bustle and patients were brought in and discharged at a rapid rate. My immediate thought is that this was some grim Stalinist conveyor belt of torture, but this time the thought was a joke. I even mused that this was maybe the way that The Moonies usually got their teeth fixed and I inwardly chuckled to myself. In fact, now that reason and not blind panic seemed to be taking over, the mass nature of all of these operations (there, I've used the dreaded 'O' word) only helped me to see that it was all just routine. I felt that I had finally taken control. I sat in the chair and proudly stated to the dentist that I had a phobia, and she, her nurse and Grisel immediately went into overdrive to make sure I was OK. I have to say though, that although I had faced my fear I was still very grateful for the sedatives, and this time as the needle went in it was just like any other time at the dentists. The drugs kicked in and I was starting to enter the land of Ga Ga, but  I still managed to ask the dentist, "How is my blood pressure doing?" "Normal", she replied. It seems that knowledge is power.

Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancĂ© Grisel Tarifa. They hope to open a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools in Peckham in the winter.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. Mike is also busy writing his one man show, Clowns, Coulrophobia and Me for the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe. Go to for more info.

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