Fretting over the idea of your first self-injection? If someone had told me that I would become accustomed to giving myself shots on a regular basis, I would have laughed. Or maybe cried. I definitely would not have believed them. Self-injection has now become such a regular part of my life that my preference is always to inject myself rather than letting someone else do it. Seriously.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. I’ve always been kind of a fraidy cat. As a child, butterflies scared me. The smell of a dentist office made me want to run. (What is that smell, anyway? Wouldn’t it be easier to see the dentist if they could do something about that?) When I require an IV, I have a very strict 1-stick policy. If you don’t get the vein on the first stick, call someone else in to do it. You had one chance and you blew it.
In 2003, when my dermatologist told me about this new medicine called Enbrel, and he told me how it would treat my psoriasis and arthritis symptoms, I was overjoyed. But when he told me that I would be giving myself an injection of Enbrel every week, I told him that this was not the medicine for me. We talked more about it and he finally convinced me to give it a try. It took me more than an hour to give myself the first injection. I was such an emotional wreck by then that though my tears and laughter I exclaimed, “that wasn’t so bad!”
Years later and I’ve given myself injections of multiple types of medicine using different methods. I’ve used auto injectors, pre-filled syringes and the old-fashioned syringe with a medicine bottle. My preference is the latter because it gives me more of a feeling of control.
If you’re worrying about giving yourself an injection, here are some tips that have helped me.
- Relax. I tend to get worked up. Changing medicines sometimes makes me nervous because I don’t completely know what to expect. Is this one going to burn? How will I feel after I take it? Should I prepare for a reaction? I remind myself to take some deep breaths and try to clear my mind.
- Consider the timing. I like to take my injections just before bed. My bedtime routine creates more opportunity to relax. If there’s a chance this medicine might cause stomach upset (like methotrexate) I’m less likely to be affected if I’m lying down. If there is a time of day when you feel the calmest, that’s when I recommend taking your medicine.
- Be consistent. I have little tricks to remember when to take my medicine. I take my methotrexate on Mondays so that I don’t forget it. Think of The Bangles and sing …it’s just a methotrexate Monday. I keep track of my monthly dose of Simponi on my wall calendar. A couple of days before I’m due for a dose, my joints usually remind me that this day is coming soon. Don’t forget to take your medicine on time.
- Cleanliness counts. I like to shower before an injection. It’s not necessary but it makes me feel better. What IS necessary is hand-washing and cleaning your skin with an alcohol wipe. Please don’t skip this step. Wait a moment for the alcohol to dry. Don’t blow on it – then you’re germy again!
- Get comfy! Many refrigerated medications are easier to inject if you let them warm up a bit. 10 minutes on the counter prior to injection is usually perfect. Check with your pharmacist first!
- Try some music. If you’re using an auto-injector, you mind find that you’re troubled by the noise that it makes. Crank up some music to distract yourself from that sound. Or, try headphones and an audio book.
If you’re still having trouble with your injection, check to see if your drug manufacturer or insurance provider have nurses available to provide additional training, either in person or on the phone.
What are your tips and tricks for self-injection? I’d love for you to share them here!
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