I want to remind everyone that I am not a doctor. I can’t even say that I am all that experienced with anxiety and panic attacks as I have only experienced them for 8 months. I only want to share my experience regarding the COVID vaccine, so others know they are not alone.
I have various medical conditions, including some that are immune-related and I have had several surgeries over the years. I have high blood pressure and I am diabetic (although my levels place me at pre-diabetic now.) I also have PCOS, Hashimoto and Celiac disease. For the past 8 months, certain levels in my blood have been dropping, including my IgA’s which help a body fight infections, and I have 0 eosinophils and 0 basophils which help the body deal with allergic reactions and inflammation. I am sure their responsibilities are much more complicated than that, but for my non-medical mind, that was my understanding of their function. And by the way, how could something be at Zero? My cardiologist and primary doctors both told me they have never seen it before. You can only imagine what that does to my anxiety levels. And as the icing on the cake, I have also been suffering from chronic hives and swelling of my lips and eyes which they are controlling for medication but once again no answer as to why it is happening. After taking prednisone for a severe allergic reaction this past July, I was hospitalized overnight for an elevated heart rate that would not go down even after 2 IV bags of heart medication. I think back now and could it have been my first panic attack or was it a reaction to the prednisone. I am not sure other than to say that all the tests on my heart came back normal. I am also starting menopause so the evil hormones don’t always allow me to think logically.
I have been in therapy since August. I had panic attacks almost weekly at the beginning. I have even had a few panic attacks right outside of a doctor’s office. More often than not, I can how recognize when one is creeping up and stopping it before it gets bad. I do have them occasionally, but I am coping with them much better than before.
All of my doctors agreed that I would be at high risk if I contracted COVID and that I should be on the top of a wait list to receive the vaccine. In theory, that sounded like a great idea. I know COVID has caused a tremendous amount of anxiety so with the vaccine, maybe the panic attacks would stop or be less frequent? But how would I get through the appointment? If I had to walk out of my primary doctors office who I have been seeing for 20 years how could I get the vaccine? And with all the unexplained swelling and rashes what kind of allergic reaction would I have? I decided not to think about it until I had an appointment.
About 2 weeks after being placed on a waitlist, I got the call. I was excited for maybe 20 seconds and then panic set in. Could I go through with it?
As I sit here working on this post, it’s been over 5 hours since I got the vaccine. I had a nervous stomach and I was flushed, but thank goodness no severe allergic reactions, which was my main concern. I did do a few things that I know helped me get through the appointment that I want to share with you…
Anxiety Before Getting the COVID Vaccine
Anxiety and nervousness is normal. Be kind to yourself and try to prepare in a way that will take some of the pressure off the day of the injection. I planned a morning appointment on a Friday for 2 reasons. First it was early in the day so if I needed a doctor they would be open. Secondly I wanted to be able to have the weekend to relax and recuperate just in case I had any side affects from the vaccine.
The day before my appointment I stayed busy with work and at home. I didn’t have time to think about it at all which is a key for me so that I didn’t have too much time to obsess about it. Around 8 pm I sat with a journal and an Ipad and did research. I reminded myself that I had a choice and I was in control. A lot of my anxiety stems from the lack of control I have these days. I made a list of the pros and cons of the vaccine. One of the questions I asked myself was which one put me more at risk – the vaccine or the virus itself. Obviously, COVID would be much worse and difficult for my body to fight. I did plenty of research on the CDC and other medical sites about possible side affects. I reminded myself that I know many older people who have now had the vaccine and had no reaction at all. I picked a mantra – Faith and love are stronger than fear. I decided I would not let my fear of COVID or an allergic reaction, although logical with my current condition, stop me from taking the vaccine. I reminded myself that I wasn’t just doing this for myself, but for my loved ones as well. I could also share my experience with other immune compromised people to maybe help ease their minds.
I then took the time to prepare a bag to take with me. Since the nurse told me I would have to stay at least 30 minutes to be monitored, I packed things that would help me feel comfortable. I used the same thought process as if I was packing a carry on bag for a flight. I made sure I had a journal and pen. My face masks ( I grabbed two of them.) I also put my kindle, my Ipad, earphones, hand sanitzer and my Epi Pen just in case. I wore super comfortable clothes and shoes (just in case I had to make a run for it!) I even have this little mini fan that plugs into my phone which helps when I get flushed or have hot flashes.
If you can, have someone drive you. They wont be able to go in with you, but if gave me relief to know someone would be out there when I was done.
Have people on stand by that you can call or text if you need support. Let them know when you appointment is so that you can reach out. Again it’s a sense of comfort to know you can share your feelings with someone who cares.
Remember all the tools or things you use during a panic attack. Have an online medication program ready on your phone, use breathing techniques or a favorite play list that helps calm you.
Talk to the nurse about any concerns. They were very understanding and assured me they were ready to handle any allergic reactions if I had any.
I felt a small pinch and got a timer and was sent to the treatment room with other nurses. I texted my husband and a few friends and family that the shot was done. I turned on my favorite play list with inspirational music and took out my journal to start writing how I felt. I was proud of myself but I was anxious about the coming days. What if I had contestant panic attacks? What if I got hives (which happens to me daily,) but I blame the shot? Those of us with anxiety know that we don’t always have logical or rational thoughts. I started to feel flushed after 10 minutes so my mini fan came in handy. Before I knew it I was lost in the music and my journal and my timer went off. Now the real challenge begins.
Anxiety After Getting the COVID Vaccine
I got to the car where my husband and dog were waiting and just started to cry. It was a mixture of pent up anxiety, happy I got through it, and fear of the unknown. I called my sister on my way home. I made an appointment with my therapist because I have a feeling I am going to need it. The pattern is the same. I am surrounding myself with people and tools that can help me feel safe and secure.
I read that stress could actually impact your immune system from responding to the vaccine. I did not put myself through this process to have it not work to its potential, so I am going to put in the effort. I am going to make sure I eat healthy, get rest, fluids combined with daily meditation and yoga that have always helped me feel less anxious. My therapist said to try and keep my mind busy by doing things I enjoy.
I know its not going to be easy. The 2nd vaccine is when even more people experience side affects and reactions. It’s going to be a long couple of months, but it’s been difficult since the onset of COVID. This is just an added challenge. Somehow I am hopeful at the end of this process that the confidence that I have some immunity to and ability to fight COVID will help lower my anxiety levels. I had to face my fears today both physical and mental. I am hopeful that this is a big step in finding a “new normal” where panic attacks are a thing of the past or at least something that no longer defines me or holds me back from doing things I love.
We are not giving any medical advice. This is the experience of one person and their feelings. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should always consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Always seek Professional medical advice with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.