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Online newspaper of Altoona Area High School in Altoona, Pennsylvania
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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

Changing with Cider: Overcoming phobias

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Cider Ayala
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For the longest time, I was horrified by needles. My first Christmas memory was me getting sick and needing to go to the hospital. Multiple people had to stop me from moving around, so I could get a shot. According to my mother, I was scared of needles before that day too. 

To say I dreaded visiting the doctor would be an understatement. I would freak out at any mention of needles or shots. It became a joke for my family at first, jokes about needing shots would pop up whenever a doctor appointment got closer. However, after continuously witnessing the panic attacks I had, they started to understand it was more than a simple fear. 

I grew more aware of the phobia as time went on. When I started panicking over my COVID-19 vaccine, I realized most 13-year-olds outgrow hyperventilating at the sight of a needle. It clicked in my head that my fear wasn’t just a fear, it was a phobia. 

Fears and phobias get mixed up often. It’s a simple mistake that can be fixed by learning the differences. Fear is a common emotion that can be stimulated by anything perceived as dangerous. People can experience anxiety, nervousness and discomfort when they feel fearful of something. However, phobias cause a much more extreme reaction. Whenever I saw or even thought of getting a shot, I would feel sick, my heart raced and it felt like my whole mind was spinning. Phobias also stem from less rational objects or ideas in comparison to fear. 

Although I did end avoiding needles for the next three to four years, they still found a way to integrate themselves into my life. Over this summer, I talked with my mom about the possibility of getting a piercing or tattoo. I’ve always thought they looked nice, and piercings were starting to grab my attention. My mom did bring up the elephant in the room: my aversion to the slender instruments of pain that are used to pierce. We decided it would be best to let it simmer for a few more months to give me more time to think about it. 

During the final days of October, my mom brought the topic back up. She knew that one shop, Piercings By Pez, offered a discounted price for septum piercings the following weekend. I was hesitant at first because I didn’t want to end up freaking out in the middle of the shop, but I wanted them and knew how long it would take for another chance. Plus, I could rely on the sheer excitement I was feeling to override the fear throughout the week.

So, despite my debilitating fear, I walked into the piercing shop already preparing myself for the pain that was about to come. My mom reassured me it wouldn’t be too bad, but I was skeptical. We filled out the paperwork, picked out jewelry, sat down and waited. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears when I looked at the girl who was getting her belly button pierced. My mom continued to soothe me throughout the wait, and by the time I was in the chair I felt better. 

After a quick comment about my deviated septum, she asked if I was ready. Then, I felt a pinch and it was over. I didn’t even realize she was done until a paper towel was bunched up against my nose. 

I realized later that day that it was the first time I ever came in contact with a needle and didn’t have a breakdown. Although it might not seem like a big deal to others, I know how much of an accomplishment it was for me.

I now have snakebites to add onto my collection of facial piercings. It hurt way worse, but I kept my composure throughout the whole process. I’m able to look back on both moments with fondness instead of dread. Getting pierced might not have fixed everything, but it helped minimize the fear I felt around needles. It allowed me to connect a thing I love to a phobia I was terrified of. Because of this, I overlooked the irrationality I usually thought of and focused on the good. Of course, my mom’s joking and Pez’s calming personality also helped create a comfortable environment. 

Overall, exposure therapy can be an efficient way to combat fears. My main advice is to not allow your fears to hinder who you are or what you want. I’m not saying everyone needs to go get a tattoo or piercing to get rid of anxiety, but I am encouraging that you try new things. Do the thing you’ve been scared of. It can lead to the most unexpected changes, and benefit you for the better. 

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About the Contributor
Cider Ayala
Cider Ayala, Associate Editor
I am in my third year of working on the Mountain Echo publication staff. I am a junior and an associate editor this year. I focus on opinion based writing and work on a blog all about dealing with change. I am hoping to also make a podcast this year with a friend on staff. Outside of journalism, writing is a big part of my life. I love reading and writing poetry, and I want to be a technical writer someday. I also enjoy listening to music, playing with my two bulldogs, and spending time with my friends.

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    Remi DempsieMar 11, 2024 at 2:05 pm

    I was so scared of needles. I still kind of am. The thought of getting any type of shot when going to the doctors or getting blood drawn would make me feel nauseous. It is mostly the thought of how bad it would hurt that would affect me. After the shot I was fine though and it barely hurts but I still panic each time.