Learning to Give Yourself Injections
On the day I was diagnosed, if you had told me I would soon be giving myself injections once a week to treat my psoriatic arthritis, I would have told you that you were crazy. Yet for the past five years, I’ve been treated with different biologics and doing just that – that’s over a quarter of my life! Many people with psoriatic arthritis benefit from biologic medicines, such as Enbrel or Humira. However, biologics can be intimidating because most of them can only be given through injection. Often, patients are encouraged to learn how to give themselves injections at home. I remember being terrified at this idea, and would rather have gone without treatment than give myself shots!
Fear of giving yourself an injection should never stop you from receiving a medication that might benefit you. In fact, most hospitals and clinics understand this and are happy to schedule times for you to come in so a nurse can give you the dose if you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself. But learning to give yourself your injection can be very convenient since many don’t have the time or ability to visit a clinic on a frequent basis. And in my own experience, it actually made me feel more in control of my healthcare and gave me a lot of confidence.
Many nurses and doctors understand that it can be a tough skill to learn, and will take as much time as needed to teach you. This usually includes allowing you to come back for lessons and supervision until you feel completely confident and can do it properly; the goal is safety! It doesn’t have to be totally unpleasant either – and I’d love to offer some advice from my years of experience to help out anyone who may be starting out or considering using a biologic in the future. However, this article is only my insight and will never replace formal training and advice from a medical professional!
The buddy system
It might be worth considering having a family member, partner, or trusted friend trained to give you injections, especially if you have psoriatic arthritis in the joints of your hands and fingers. There may be days when your hands hurt too much or are shaky, and it wouldn’t be safe to do it yourself.
Nobody likes needles, and I think pain is one of the things that intimidates people from biologics. Personally, I like numbing my skin with a little ice wrapped in a towel for a few minutes before prepping my skin with alcohol – it really does help! Sometimes doctors will even prescribe or recommend a numbing spray, especially for children using biologics.
While washing my hands before giving the injection, I like to run my hands under the warm water for a little bit before getting started. Not only is it hygienic, but it’s more pleasant to prep the skin with warm hands (especially if the injection site is your stomach!).
Try to do the injection in a calm, quiet environment. If you’re nervous, don’t attempt the injection until you’ve calmed down. It might help to have someone you trust nearby or to play some calming music. Neither of these things should distract you, but just keep you focused and relaxed.
Reward yourself for a job well done. It doesn’t have to be big, maybe it’s just getting to watch an episode of your favorite TV show right after or a small piece of chocolate. But whatever it is, it’ll help you associate your routine with something to look forward to. I found this helped me keep a schedule.
When I started having to do injections, I had a lot of strong emotions – fear, anxiety, and sadness. All of your thoughts and emotions are valid. Having someone to confide in can be extremely helpful and relieve stress; even just journaling can help a great deal.
With time, practice, and confidence, it won’t be something to dread; it’ll just be something you do to keep yourself healthy. I hope that anyone who’s doctor recommends a biologic medicine isn’t put off by the idea of having to inject themselves because for all you know it could be something that brings you to remission. After the first couple weeks, I stopped feeling nervous about my injections because I found a small pinch now will save me from a lot of pain later!
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