Getting Over Humira Injection Fear
Picture this: I'm seven years old, and there are several large adults holding me down to a hospital bed so that a nurse could inject me with a needle. At the time, this was absolutely terrifying. Nowadays, I have to laugh.
Most of these needles were for basic health purposes, but sometimes I’d have to get shots if I came down with a particularly terrible case of poison ivy. Hint: I got into poison ivy pretty often, and I’m very allergic to it.
With my mom and my dad holding down my arms and a nurse holding down my legs, they'd administer a shot into my leg or my butt — and I’d scream and kick with gusto. The injection seldom hurts as much as the fear would have me believe it might, but fear is a powerful thing. It can totally override your rationale and, as it turns out, turn a 7 year or old child into a pro wrestler.
"Do I need to get a needle?"
As I got older, I’d ask my doctor during the appointments, do I need to get a needle? If they said yes, I'd break out into a cold sweat and my mind would go blank.
I hated having my blood drawn; it was as though they were stealing the life force from within me. My veins would collapse and I would pass out because they'd be noodling around inside my skin, trying to get a proper vein.
They would then give me orange juice or cookies and wait until I was better. It was embarrassing and pointless. And because this happened once, I got it into my mind that it would happen every time. Again, fear breeds fear, so I adopted the narrative that I "just wasn’t good with needles."
When I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, I kind of had to get with the program. I had to get vaccinations, and I had to give blood — a lot. Sometimes I’d look at the tray and there would be 12 to 20 vials on it, all ready to steal my lifeforce.
There were days when I'd give my blood and it was fine, and there were days when it'd make me pass out. When it comes to injections, I fear those as well. The idea of something being injected into my skin naturally terrifies me. When I got my HPV vaccine, which was vicious and sludgy and hurt like hell, I felt violated. Of course, I passed out, but it was more than that.
It hurt! And that's valid.
When I was told that I’d have to be on Humira, I went into total denial. The idea of injecting myself with a medication every few weeks just didn’t sit right with me. How could I, the girl who is afraid of needles, give myself a needle inside of my own home? The concept was unnatural if not totally surreal. No way.
When the nurse showed me how to do it, I was sick with worry. I thought I would slump over and die the second I got the injection. Newsflash: I did not slump over and die.
Truly, the pain was nothing (literally nothing) compared to the anxiety. When I finally got the injection pen delivered by the special pharmacy, I did some breathing exercises, put on some music, and had my boyfriend Ben inject my thigh (he watched the how-to videos with me and was there at the doctor's office with me as well).
I counted to 10 and waited for the medicine to go all the way in. I did not like it. It was uncomfortable. It sucks to have to take medication! But it wasn’t bad at all. It surprised me how not bad it was, actually.
The thing that I learned over time was that I needed to stop thinking of Humira injection days as these big important rituals. I needed to stop acting as though my entire night would be ruined because of them. I started treating them like they were normal — because they were.
A shifting mindset
I’d simply take the pen out of the fridge, let it warm up for a bit, pop on some music, and do the injection. On nights where I was particularly afraid — and that happened a lot — Ben did it for me. Tricking my brain into thinking it was ordinary helped. I started stopping myself from thinking, "this isn't totally weird," and started thinking, "this is normal and it helps me."
Also, having someone else who knows how to administer the injection is also key. I definitely recommend having a TV show or some music on in the background and resuming your life as normal afterward. It also helps to watch injection videos on YouTube and Instagram, which really normalizes the activity!
There will be some tingling and redness, sure, but that's totally normal. While Humira didn’t work for me in the end, I can promise those of you who are feeling as anxious as I did that it is totally doable!
Will you take the Managing Treatment and Medication Survey?