I have this photo of all my meds that I kept meaning to post to Instagram.
In the past year and half, I was diagnosed with both asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. I shared vulnerably on my own blog about the scary symptoms and frustrating process that led to each of those diagnoses, but I still had a lot of people asking questions, and I wanted to help them understand how my life had changed.
One of the biggest changes was all the prescription medication and supplements I was suddenly taking. Before asthma and RA, I was the type of person who didn’t always take something for a headache and only occasionally remembered my vitamins. Taking a fistful of pills every morning was a real challenge for me.
One Saturday morning, I was refilling my pill sorter, dropping tablets into each compartment–plink, plink, plink—like some twisted game of Mancala. I had prescription bottles spread out all over the table, and was matching that day’s pills to the bottles, the only sure-fire way I’d come up with to make sure I didn’t miss any.
“This is my life now,” I thought to myself as I surveyed the scene before me. I snapped a picture with my phone and hung onto it for weeks, trying to figure out the best way to caption it to help people in my life understand what I was going through.
The meds were helping me, and I was thankful for them, but managing all of them was one of the biggest challenges of my new life with chronic illness. I struggled to find the words to explain it, though, so I just kept looking at the picture and thinking about it, and then all of a sudden, the pills weren’t the worst part of my medication routine.
“I think we need to try injections,” my rheumatologist told me at my most recent appointment. I wouldn’t have to come into the office, though, he reassured me. They were injections I could give myself at home, with the same type of needles diabetics use for insulin.
I think I asked a couple of questions, but I don’t really remember. I was focused on keeping my composure long enough to get out of the office and into my car, where I totally lost it. If I’d felt a little weird and intimated when I had to use an inhaler for the first time, those feelings paled in comparison to this.
I cried the whole way home. I thought about all the scary ways these diseases have pushed me, all the hard things I’ve had to go through over the last 18 months, and this just seemed like the last straw. I was terrified. There was no way I could give myself shots. I just couldn’t do it.
I got home and talked to my husband, which helped, and then I called my sister, who is a pediatric nurse. “It’s going to be OK,” she told me. “We teach 8-year-olds how to do this at the hospital. You can do this.”
I still wasn’t so sure, though, so I went over to her house the next day and had her show me how to draw the medicine into the syringe. Then I let her give me the shot.
A week later, it was just me and the needles in my bathroom. I measured out the medicine just like my sister had shown me and then winced and pushed the needle into my skin. It didn’t feel great, but it wasn’t the worst pain I’d ever been in, either.
And more importantly, I did it.
Afterward, I sent my husband to the store for ice cream. I had earned it.
The next week, I gave myself a shot again. I did it again the week after that. And the week after that. I just kept doing this hard thing I had never expected would be a part of my life. It still kind of hurts. It still kind of freaks me out. But it has been, surprisingly, such an empowering gift.
Last night, after my weekly injection, I told my husband, “I just gave myself a shot. I’m not afraid of anything.”
It’s not entirely true, of course. There is plenty that still scares me. But immediately after I give myself a shot, I feel invincible. Like I can do anything.
There will probably be another scary chapter of these diseases right around the corner. So I’m thankful for these shots, no matter how much I didn’t want them at first because they’ve made me brave.
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Thinkstock photo by mabe123