Get Control of Needle Fatigue

Certainly, I bet most of us who are on one of the injectable drugs (Copaxone, Rebif, Avonex, Betaseron, Extavia) started out with intense trepidation about injecting ourselves when we started treatment. If I told each of you to think back to that first moment where you (or a loved one) were holding a syringe, knowing that the medication that it contained had to enter your body through that sharp silver needle, I am pretty sure that this is one of those emotionally-charged moments that is permanently seared into your memory.
 
But, one way or another, most of us have managed to ratchet down our terror of the needle to strong dislike for the whole process. And so, week after week (or day after day, depending on your medication), we stick ourselves. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it is annoying. Yes, it takes time and sometimes leaves marks. Yet, we keep on injecting.
 
Then comes what I think of as the moment of enlightenment. It's that day when you miss an injection for one reason or another. After a moment of shock, it registers with you that nothing is really different after a missed injection, except you didn't experience that moment of pain or the lingering ache at the injection site. You got to see what it was like to be a "normal" person, someone who never injects medication into his or her body. You realize it is kind of awesome to be that kind of person.
 
This, at least for me, started me down a path of fighting temptation, the temptation to just give myself a break from my daily injection every so often. It also opened up a window to feelings of being tired of it, just sick of the whole thing. When I first started on treatment, I was listening to the people who told me that I was "lucky" to have MS at a time that there were so many treatment options available to me. I convinced myself that it was a privilege to inject myself every day, as the medication was not available in the past or even currently, to some people. I didn't like the injection, but I did it because I was supposed to.
 
However, once I realized I was tired of it, I was suddenly really, really tired of it. I would be surprised by unexpected tears when I was unwrapping my syringe. Hitting a nerve now brought on rage, whereas before I would have just whimpered a little and carried on. For the first time, I used the words, "It's just not fair!" This was a low moment in my life with MS, but it was how I felt and I poured my negativity into my feelings about that syringe.
 
Since I didn't want to quit treatment altogether, I knew I had to reign in these feelings a little before they spiraled out of control. Here are two of the things that I do to help me fight "needle fatigue":
 
Have a ritual: I try to do the same thing every day and just insert the injection into the middle of more pleasant things that I do. I inject myself after a hot shower and before I have a cup of hot tea and snuggle my dogs and my husband on the couch at the end of the day. Having something nice afterwards reduces my feelings of resentment at the whole thing and turns it more into an annoying chore that is rewarded when it's done.
 
Play music that you like: This may be just enough to distract you or lift your mood while you inject. It may be that you love to hear Pachelbel Canon in D lilting through the air. Others may love to blast some heavy metal that makes them feel invincible or a specific song that reminds them of a happy moment. Choose what works for you.
 
Talk to a friend: I have a friend that I can call if my shot hurts more than usual or if I just want a little sympathy. She always knows what to say and before I know it, we are discussing things that completely take my mind off of the whole thing. There are times when a phone call with her is my "reward" for getting through my injection. Reach out to loved ones who will support you and tell you that you are great. Avoid people who might tell you to "stop being a baby" or "that things could be worse" – injection time is not the occasion for "tough love."
 
Congratulate myself occasionally: As many of you have probably noticed, the mention of self-injection to people without MS often brings gasps of horror and cries of "I could never do that!" We all probably felt that way before we started injecting ourselves, but we worked through these feelings and now we do the unimaginable, every week or every day. That is an accomplishment.
 
There are other tips and ways that I trick myself into getting the medicine into my body, but I think we all have to find our own way here. It is important to realize that needle fatigue is normal, but needs to be dealt with, rather than just noticing that you don't seem to be injecting your meds very much anymore or allowing yourself to begin really dreading the injection process. Recognize these feelings, do what you need to in order to work through them and get on with the rest of your life. Remember, the actual injection only takes a moment. Allowing it to become bigger than that is a waste of time and emotion that could be spent doing something much, much more pleasant.
 
What about you? What little tricks do you have to get through the moments when you just don't want to stick yourself? Share your story with others.
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Julie

Julie Stachowiak, PhD

Julie is the author of the Multiple Sclerosis Manifesto, the winner of the 2009 ForeWord Book of the Year Award in the Health Category. She is an epidemiologist who is also a person living with MS, Julie has an in-depth understanding about current research and scientific developments around MS. She also has first-hand knowledge of the frustrations and anxiety surrounding the disease, as she had MS for at least 15 years before receiving a diagnosis in 2003 and has had several relapses since her diagnosis.

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