The Power of Normalizing Self-injection
I go into the bathroom, shut and lock the door. I put a towel on the toilet seat so it’s not cold when I sit. I’m wearing shorts since I self-inject in my thighs, so I slip on my favorite hoodie that's fleece lining is still fluffy and soft, and my knee high fuzzy socks. I’ve lined up my band-aid, cotton balls, alcohol pad, and injector so I can easily grab them in the order of necessity. I poke around my leg to find a spot that’s not sore from the last shot. “Okay.. It’s okay, it’ll be quick. We’re good. It’s temporary. Just do it, don’t think, just do it.” I push the injector into my thigh and press down on the blue button. I hear the click of the pen and it immediately starts to sting. It lasts the entire 15 seconds as per the instructions, and I feel the medicine flowing beneath my skin. I start to tear up. Last week was so easy, why is this one so hard? All of a sudden I can’t stop crying and I’m wondering why the hell I have to do this. I hate it. The irony of inflicting pain on myself in order to manage my pain pisses me off. The best way to describe how I feel is... absolutely alone.
This is how self-injecting used to feel. While most of my friend’s weekly routine involved some sort of self care, mine involved self-injecting. Most of them had no idea that this part of my life even existed.
My name is Liv Loo and I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 4 and uveitis at age 8. I started injectable medications in 2005 and finally learned to self-inject in 2008. Fast forward to 2016, I had a fire lit under me for some reason. I popped into the bathroom and decided it was finally time to share this part of myself. The reality was that if I felt alone, other people did too. I wanted to normalize injections for myself and for others. I went Live on Instagram and boom! Comments of gratitude and of shared feelings resonating across the globe. I had no idea I’d reach so many warriors just like me.
My first realization - I guess I’m really good at self-injections! Before sharing my experience, I only knew the feeling of being alone in my bathroom. There was nothing glorious about it. And while I wouldn’t wish chronic illness on anyone ever, sharing my injections helped me realize that being a warrior is kind of badass. I have a lot of knowledge to share with other spoonies, especially those newly diagnosed. I began sharing tips, tricks and the realities of chronic illness life. I was candid. To this day I don’t sugarcoat anything. When we talk about our struggles unapologetically, there’s this moment where whatever is causing pain suddenly has its power taken away. While acknowledging the fight, we open doors to celebrate our wins. We are capable!
Normalizing my self-injection process completely changed my life. I soon learned that my ability to empathize was my actual superpower, and I had my RA to thank. I can now laugh during injections or at least sing when I get a painful stick. I no longer close or lock the bathroom door. I’ve self-injected outside in the sunshine and even when I’ve had friends over. Just recently my friends asked to watch me do it, and they danced and celebrated when I finished! It’s a normal part of my life just like brushing my teeth or going to Costco (which I love!). Now rather than fear and loneliness, I experience more camaraderie and strength.
Do self-injections hurt? It depends. Our pain receptors gauge the experience and atmosphere around us when the pain hits. So creating a more enjoyable atmosphere can really help! Easing the pain of self-injections can look like:
- Watching stand-up comedy
- FaceTiming a friend
- Sharing on social media
- Indulging in a special treat (I prefer donuts!)
I still share my injections from time to time, and you can find a lot of my live injection videos posted on my Instagram. Self-injecting can be tough, and the number one thing to remember is that you’re never alone. Whether it’s friends in your immediate community or new spoonie friends you meet online, we got your back! Always.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by HealthBeacon plc and the author was compensated and was given a Smart Sharps Bin free of charge. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of HealthBeacon or Hamilton Beach Brands.