A relative perspective on cognitive behavior therapy

I took Jesse in for her annual today.  At eleven, she was due for a couple immunizations — tetanus booster and such — plus it’s the beginning of flu season. Also at eleven some docs now check cholesterol levels. Jesse’s not at high risk, given our healthier lifestyle and diet, but she takes some intense levels of anti-anxiety meds and I do worry what they’re doing to her. I figure more information is always better, so I said sure, it’s just a finger prick.

Jesse is always stoic about shots. I nattered at her about it as we waited for the nurse to arrive with the needles. How come you can wait here without even being worried, and watch the nurse hit you with needles, and watch her stick your finger and squeeze out blood, and not even twitch? You pretend it doesn’t hurt and then you smile at her and act all nice to her? But if your shirt gets 2 droplets of lemonade on it, you’re all ‘OH MY GOD MY SHIRT IS STICKY AND DIRTY I HAVE TO GO CHANGE NOOOOOOOW!’ Have you ever wondered in that moment if it’s Ricket [her OCD alter ego] speaking and not a real issue?”

Jesse gave me the stink-eye from the examining table, but she said nothing.

And indeed, she sat peacefully for the finger prick and shots. Two shots went in her left arm. She likes to watch. The third went in her right, which was awkward to reach in this particular exam room without a lot of adjustment; so I just sat her on my lap and we pretended she was a wee one again.

I saw a quick wince of pain pass across her face before she could hide it, when the third ridiculously long needle went in.  She’s good at tolerating pain of this sort, and I asked her why as she sat on my lap. “Because I hurt myself all the time, Mom, this is not a big deal.”

Huh.

When it was all done, Jesse was fine, of course. I asked her a final facetious question. “If you compare a blood prick plus three shots to going to exposure therapy for your OCD, which is more painful?”

Jesse  didn’t need even a half second to answer.  She snorted and replied, “the exposure therapy.” There was an implicit “DUH” in her tone.

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