How to no longer be afraid of needles

My finger hovered over the button. My hand was shaking. In one hand, I pinched a chunk of fat off my thigh; in the other, I held the plunger. Deep breath after deep breath, I counted down the seconds as I tried to steel my nerves.

Sometime prior to this, my doctors and parents began to get concerned because I wasn’t growing. I was fourteen years old, but I was 4”10 and I hadn’t really grown for years. Several tests later and here I sat, artificial growth hormones being covered by insurance. Which was all fine and dandy, except for the fact that I was trying to figure out how I’d inject myself every night for years when I couldn’t even get through this one time.

My sister, sitting next to me and showing me how to do it, casually explained the steps and injected herself. I watched, startled by how relaxed she seemed. She was injecting herself!

Well, if she could do it, so could I. I forced myself to calm down and, hand still shaking, sank the needle into my skin.

My first thought was surprise, because it didn’t hurt. The needle was extremely thin and small, and I was inserting it into my fat, not a vein — so there was no reason for it to hurt. But I’d been so used to needles hurting that just looking at one gave me a dose of fear (pun intended).

In the years to come, I’d inject myself every night. I settled into a routine, and not only was it no longer scary, but I didn’t dread it and even grew to find it relaxing. The clicking of the pen echoing in the silence of our kitchen late at night as I pressed down on the plunger; the pungent smell of rubbing alcohol as I took a deep breath and slowly slipped the needle into my leg; the completion of the last thing I needed to do before bedtime, finally letting my exhaustion catch up to me.

I was on growth hormones for a year and a half, and I’m no longer afraid of needles. The reasons for this are twofold:

  1. The smell of rubbing alcohol calms me down. It sounds strange, but it’s true. It reminds me of those sleepy, quiet nights, and when I’m at the doctor and they rub it onto my arm, I always catch a whiff and relax. I’d suggest buying a bottle of it and sniffing it before you go to bed, or otherwise associating it with a calming feeling. Soon, you’ll program yourself to calm down at its scent.
  2. I was never afraid of the pain, but the needle. This sounds silly, but are you afraid of bumping your arm or stubbing your toe? The anticipation is what gets to people, the certainty of the impending pain, even if it’s just a pinch. Because I learned that not all needles can cause pain, my fear of needles in general disappeared. I had a positive association with one needle and it helped me put things in perspective. Now, since most people don’t inject themselves on a daily basis, my advice would be to pinch yourself before getting a shot. You knew it was coming, and when you did it, it hurt. Now, would you let someone else do it? Your mother, or a friend, or a trusted doctor? I doubt you’re as scared of being pinched as you are of an impending shot — but they’re basically the same thing. The doctor is just using a device to pinch you. Pinch yourself in one arm, feel the pinch in the other. It lasts for a moment; then it’s over. Congrats. You’re done!

I hope this helped.

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