• Dr. Matt Zakreski

Complicated Feelings After Getting the Vaccine

Originally posted on

I'm getting my second dose of the #moderna vaccine today.

Getting this vaccine done has brought up a bunch of feelings: excitement, nervousness, frustration, guilt (I'm in category 1A here in Pennsylvania and I'm so aware of those who need the vaccine and haven't got it yet), and impatience. You'd think that I would be happy, and I suppose I am, but this is a complicated experience. So the first lesson of this post is to try not to assume a certain emotional response from someone else; reactions are personal and complex (because the person has access to more information about their own history).

I'll likely be happy about this later, but thank you for validating my emotional experience as it is right now. There is no "right way" to feel about something.

The second point of this post is about dealing with the issues you have when (and only when) they arrive. I've spent the last few days swinging back and forth between two competing thoughts: 1) I'm scared that I'll have bad side effects and be unable to help my family or clients and 2) traditionally I've had a strong immune system so I'll probably be ok with minimal symptoms.

Both of these scenarios are possible, which is exactly the problem.

Anxiety always pulls us to the future. When we are pulled to the future, we spend time and energy trying to manage situations that haven't happened yet and likely won't happen the way that we fear. Maybe I'll be totally fine tomorrow; maybe I'll be sick in bed. I don't know, and that's ok. All I can do is to set myself up to be as responsive as possible and trust myself (and my systems of support) to manage what comes.

The other piece of getting pulled to the future is that we start to live in our expectations. Let's say that I convince myself that I'll be ok because I have a good immune system. That's a reasonable hypothesis.

The problem is that I have no control over the actual outcome. So if I have normal side effects, they'll feel worse because I set my expectations high and they dragged me away from my present experience into a world that I "want to be.". So my expectations are going to make me feel sicker, because I thought that I wouldn't be.

Trusting the process is a powerful way to live but it is really challenging. I struggle with it almost every day. But I have learned to acknowledge (and share! Lucky you, readers) these feelings. When I recognize what's happening, I make space for it and lessen its power over me.

Fight the battles you're given, but only when they actually appear.

So when you get the chance to get the vaccine, anticipate that you may have a complex emotional response and trust yourself to navigate it. You can do it. I know you can.

Wish me luck!

#covid19 #vaccine #mentalhealth #drmatt

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