Clearly, most people do not like injecting themselves. However, most of us eventually get to the point where it is not as horribly nerve-wracking as it was when we started. Before I started taking Copaxone, I was a person who hyperventilated at the thought of getting my blood drawn. After about two months of freaking out over my daily injection, I realized that it wasn't so terrifying anymore. Eventually, my injection became just another small unpleasant task in my day, rather than an "event."
I've put together some tips on how to make giving an injection to yourself just a little less awful. The following is adapted from my book, The Multiple Sclerosis Manifesto: Action to Take, Principles to Live By:
I don’t like needles. At all. The fact that people have to inject themselves with most of the disease-modifying drugs doesn’t get mentioned very often in the ads promoting them, or is brushed off with a mention of a fabulous little autoinject device or thin needles. People tend not to like to cause themselves pain. Employing various mind-over-matter techniques, combined with tears and swearing, I have somehow worked through my feelings about self-injecting and brought myself from a hyperventilating needle-phobic to someone who is just bitter about the whole thing.
There are several things you can do to get yourself to the point that you can inject yourself. Not all of these approaches will work for everyone, and you may be someone that continues to have a hard time with injecting – I cannot promise that you will ever reach a point where you do not dread the needle. However, they are worth a try.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at Home
A program has been developed at University of California San Francisco, which is based on cognitive behavioral therapy, has been made available on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Website to help people work through their “reluctance” to self-inject. You can download the workbook for patients, entitled Learning to Self-Inject: A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach to Overcoming Injection Anxiety, by David Mohr and Darcy Cox. It is meant to be used in conjunction with professional counseling from a nurse or psychologist (there is a manual for professionals also available on the NMSS website), but could also be useful as a stand-alone resource by reading it and working through the exercises.
Learn From The Manufacturer
As much as I am skeptical about the cheerleading nature of patient “motivational” materials from the drug manufacturers, I can say that it really does help to use them to learn about proper injection techniques for your meds. For a long time, I was icing the injection site before sticking the needle in. I then found out (by reading a patient “newsletter”) that this inhibits the medication from spreading around and can damage the skin, and that heat is preferred. After I started giving myself shots immediately following my morning shower, the whole process got easier.
Prepare Yourself Mentally and Emotionally
There are all sorts of things you can do to “get in the mood” for an injection, such as: creative visualization, deep breathing exercises or creating a ritual around injecting (mine has included pre-injection music and post-injection M&M rewards). One of the most effective things I do to talk myself into injecting is to look at the clock and say, “It’s 7:58. If I inject right now, no matter how bad it is, the whole ordeal will be over by 8:00 at the latest.”
Succeed a couple of times. I know that this one is easier said than done, but I think it is the most important aspect of successful injecting. Once you do it a couple of times, you will have the confidence to know that you can keep doing it (and the evidence that you won’t die).
You can do this (probably). Try your hardest, but don't beat up on yourself if it is not your favorite thing to do. If you still can't get comfortable with self-injecting, speak with your doctor about alternatives.
- Reader Stories: How I Taught Myself to Self-Inject
- Readers Respond: What do you do to make injecting your MS drugs easier?
- Make Injections More Pleasant with a Ritual
- When to Massage Injection Sites for People with MS
- Make Injections Easier by Breathing
- Ease the Pain of Injections by Finding a Helper
- Use Visualization to Reduce Stress When Injecting