So Many Needles…



This evening as I was going through my nightly ritual, I thought about a blog that I wanted to write about relapses. My mind was busy writing and rewriting the introduction as I automatically washed my face, brushed my teeth and prepared my syringe to give myself my nightly injection. The shot went relatively smoothly, with the sharp pain registering intensely, then quickly receding to become a dull throb when the needle was removed.
 
I then dropped the used syringe into my large red sharps container. Except it didn't fall in when I released it, but protruded from the top of the opening about a quarter of an inch. My container had become filled to the top with used syringes.
 
I wanted to shake the container to see if I could make the syringes inside settle, giving me a little more room. When I pulled it out from under the sink, I was shocked at how heavy it was. Once I got it on the counter, it also seemed much bigger than I had expected. And it was full – a couple of shakes did nothing to make more room.
 
I contemplated the sharps container in the bright lights of the bathroom and unexpected emotion surged in me. This big red box was heavy and full of little bits of daily pain that had accumulated over the past year and a half, injection by injection. I started going down the "why me" road, but decided to be proud of myself instead. This container full of syringes represented many moments of overcoming the self-doubt that had told me I couldn't stick myself one more time. It represented staying with the treatment path that I have chosen, even when I had strange reactions and lipoatrophy that disfigures my body. It was concrete proof that even though I might "look so good" to the outside world, I have a disease that compels me to stick a needle in myself every day.
 
I also thought about how strange it is that no one besides my husband would see the container full of syringes. I wanted to show people, to put it in the middle of the table during a dinner party and say, "Let's talk about this now." But I wouldn't ever do that. Besides the fact that it has a biohazard sticker on it, making it an inappropriate centerpiece, I think it would also be profoundly disturbing to people who know me, although I can't put my finger on why that would be. It is just too tangible, too real, and maybe too intimate to be whipped out and passed around.
 
In the end, I stuck the container back under the sink, figuring that I could force a couple more syringes in there before needing a new one. Instead of writing my intended blog on relapses, I decided to write this blog about my experience with my full sharps container.
 
What about you? Go look at your sharps container. Pick it up and give it a shake. Peek inside. What is your reaction? Would love to hear from you.
 

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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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