Fears and phobias can be quite disturbing, and even debilitating, for its victims. I can especially relate to fears that have been carried since childhood. I myself have a couple, and although only a couple, I cannot diminish the impact that they have had on my life.
One such fear, is the fear of knives and other objects with blades, such as box cutters and razors. The fear is real. So real, in fact, that I have refused to bring sharp knives into my house, until recently.
I felt bad when recently noticing my son-in-law has resorted to bringing his own knives, when cooking at my house. Jacob, my son, and I have talked about the fear. He thinks, ” I should just try and get over it”. And if I can’t do that, I should buy a few sharp knives and just be extra careful when using them. Maybe he is right. My fear comes from childhood memories and with this much time passed, I realize that I should at least try and face those fears.
I started by buying two sharp knives, and although they were not overly sharp, I was pleased with my efforts. Sadly, with any type of cut from a knife, small or large, I am haunted. My brain continues to replay thoughts and vivid images of the knife slashing through my skin, sometimes for hours or days later.
A month ago I decided to further challenge myself by investing in a mandoline – a sharp bladed device for quickly slicing fruits and vegetables. I work many hours and welcome any tool that can help save time in the kitchen.
On Monday of this week, I was rushing for an appointment while preparing a pot of chili in the slow cooker. Jake watched as I sliced the first few pieces of a large onion on the mandoline, without using the protective handle. When Jake asked me about it, I explained, the onion was round and I wanted to flatten one side before continuing with the food holder (hand protector). The onion was firm and I was being very careful, there was really no need for concern.
I added ingredients to the slow cooker while preparing to slice peppers. Once again I continued to cut the first few slices from the rounded bottom of a pepper. As I progressed, I noticed the peppers were not firm enough to be held in place by the holder. Being short for time, I proceeded while being mindful of the blade as my hand and the pepper, glided over it.
Suddenly I felt the slicing of my thumb as my hand pushed over the blade. I rushed to the sink and immediately ran cold water over my hand. Once the blood cleared I could see that I had lost the entire side of my thumb, and was quickly losing blood. Seeing the seriousness of my injury and knowing my reduced clotting factor (I am a bleeder), I began to worry.
I enveloped my thumb with a large bundle of paper towels. Jake did not hear the calls for help until my voice elevated into an almost panic stricken scream. He then came running and immediately knew what had happened. By now the paper towel was drenched with blood and I directed him to the first-aid kit.
We decided to call Tom and within minutes he was in the house and emphasized the importance of applying direct pressure. Wanting to avoid a long wait at the emergency he decided to call the Provincial Emergency Health Line. While cradling my wrapped hand into my chest, I began pacing and anxiously cleaning the kitchen. Tom, clearly frustrated, demanded I sit and apply more pressure to the wound. Unbeknownst to them, I was looking for distractions as images of my hand being sliced continued to replay over and over in my mind, while immobilizing me with fear.
The help-line nurse advised that I should be immediately taken to the emergency department. Not that they could sew it up, but because of the size of the gash and the continued blood loss. Jake grabbed my keys and insisted on driving.
The triage nurse inspected the wound while telling me, “You really did the job on yourself”. I held my bleeding hand over a large open bucket as she poured a full bottle of solution to stop the bleeding. She then bandaged my hand and sent me to the waiting room.
Three hours later my name was called. The attending doctor told me that I had lost a lot of tissue and affirmed there was nothing they could do. The open wound could not be sewn and would take a considerable amount of time to heal. As for the severe pain, the doctor said that the pain would be no greater had I lost the entire thumb. This was a result of the severed tissue and nerves. Additionally, the doctor advised what to watch for, once the bandages were removed.
A nurse gently cleaned the injured thumb as I squirmed in pain. She then cut out and applied a brown gauze-like fabric while telling me this would stop the bleeding. The nurse continued by wrapping the thumb and painfully pushing a tight finger wrapping, similar to a balloon, down over my finger.
The finger was no sooner wrapped when she noticed a piece of the gauze had twisted inside and blood was seeping through. The pain was excruciating. I stood up and insisted on remaining standing as she continued with the dressing. Extra pieces of the blood clotting agent were applied before reapplying new bandages. I was then given pain medication before being sent home.
Hours later the medication finally reduced pain and even helped me sleep. Three hours later I awakened for a bathroom break and had difficulty getting back to sleep. Once again I was tormented with graphic, painful memories of my thumb being sliced as my body flinched and cringed with every visual. The visuals were painful and I realized that I had to somehow mindfully take control of my brain. I had an idea.
With every visual of the blade cutting me, I decided to “override” with another image of my thumb miraculously healing. I imagined the wound itself instantly closing and healing. I remembered seeing this scene in movies and thought it was worth a try. I envisioned the scene over and over, and over. After many attempts and some time later, It worked!
Where did the fear originate from? As a teenager my mother often held a sharp knife next to my throat and/or face while threatening to, “Just get it over with.” As time went on, I developed coping mechanisms for my mother’s abuse by stiffening my body and blocking the fear, while mentally challenged her to “go for it”.
Maybe I realized it was only a threat, a scare tactic, and she would not follow through, or maybe I just wanted the misery to end. Either way, I was traumatized by the knife and have lived a lifetime coping with unwanted, disturbing visuals of a knife slicing through my skin.
As a teenager I was probably unconsciously “overriding” as a coping mechanism. And It quite possibly took a traumatic experience, such as this one, to help me better understand my fear. For anyone else experiencing this type of trauma, I recommend you seek help or learn similar coping mechanisms.
In the end, I did learn a valuable lesson. No matter how careful we think we are being, it only takes a split second, and with that split second, your life can change forever. I thought I was being very careful when using the mandoline and the accident still happened. Distracted drivers, for example, who only “glance” at their cell phones, should realize what can happen in 2 seconds. For me, I lost the side of my thumb.