Insulin, Skin, and Needles: Oh My!

Injecting an Insulin Shot

| Jun 10, 2011

Whenever I tell someone that I have type 1 diabetes, the first words that I typically hear are "I'm terrified of needles! I could NEVER give myself a shot!" But needles are the least of my fears when it comes to my disease. I have bigger fish to fry. Concerns about daily management, combined with fears of heart problems, blindness, and kidney failure, equal one very stressful disease.

For the first three months after my diagnosis, I injected insulin using syringes. I would squeeze my eyes tightly shut and then plunge the needle into my stomach. Sometimes I would bruise quickly, sometimes it would sting, and other times I felt nothing.

It's funny how the sting or the lack thereof paralleled my feelings regarding diabetes. As I was learning, diabetes is one tricky beast. I was perpetually terrified of forgetting my diabetes supplies, so I stored insulin vials and syringes in multiple places. I remember watching footage of New Orleans residents stranded without their insulin after Hurricane Katrina. It made me realize just how fragile life with diabetes is.

Fear of bolusing too much or too little insulin was concerning as well. Syringes allow users to inject only whole units of insulin. I was constantly having to choose between my blood sugar running slightly too high or too low.

Without writing down every meal and injection, I couldn't keep track of how much insulin was in my body at any given time. So I was constantly "insulin stacking," which means that I had active insulin in my body and injected more insulin on top of that, sometimes resulting in hypoglycemia.

Additionally, injecting insulin in public could be embarrassing. Some people stared, some shuddered, and others turned away. I wondered if anyone thought I was a drug addict. Once when I needed an emergency supply of syringes while on vacation, the pharmacist would sell me only ten, while giving me several up-and-down looks.

When my endocrinologist and diabetes nurse educator decided to put me on insulin pump therapy, the thought of yet another change in my newly diagnosed life had me cowering. The idea of pump tubing, snaking from my body to a pager-like device that was always attached to me, seemed foreign and frightening. But four months into my diagnosis, I succumbed to my doctor's wishes. After filling out some paperwork and talking to my insurance company, my pump order was placed. Now all I had to do was worry and wait.


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Categories: Diabetes, Diabetes, Insulin Injection, Insulin Pumps, Syringes, Type 1 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 11 June 2011

Rachel, thank you for a full and honest account of life as it is, for those with Type 1 diabetes. I had exactly the same thought when watching the New Orleans situation... You are doing great.

Posted by Anonymous on 14 June 2011

My life changed for the better when I started pump therapy, not that the pump was without challenges as well (the uncertainty of whether the cannula would really start "pumping" right away or whether it would have to have a few hours to really get started. But I don't miss the searching for a restroom clean enough to inject insulin, etc. Good luck and thanks for sharing!

Posted by Anonymous on 14 June 2011

Rachel At first it is difficult but I assure you that with time and acceptance life with type one is not so fragile. Beleive me, at 84 and injecting since I was 23 I traveled all over the world desert jungle safaries 15 times to Japan on business dinners every night. I have had all sorts of exotic foods ,slept in tents and on tree houses etc etc. I can say that from the begining I have felt sort of proud of my diabetes and maybe a show-off to test myself and inject out in the open. Often through my clean shirt in my arm and belly. Under the table in restaurants in the subway under a newspaper alongside a mail box in the street you name it. Think as if you were a seamstress, how often you would prick your finger suck on it and resume sowing. I wish i could show you how friendly you can become with diabetes. It is almost like a partner to me telling me what to eat how to get enough exercise how to better monitor all my functions see a Dr regularly etc etc. I know that had I not developed diabetes I would have long long ago be dead. I wish I could tell you more, Diabetes is in my opinion the best chronic desease to have ( if you have to have one) as.....if you take charge, accept it, control it ,you will have a "protective partner" for a full full full life,

Posted by riva on 15 June 2011

Insulin syringes are available in half unit markings and it's not very difficult to eye a quarter or third loosely of a init on your syringe, just so people know you can inject smaller than one unit increments.

Posted by Anonymous on 15 June 2011

For me this is such a familiar story. And sadly one I only know too well. I am still on pens (17 years after diagnosis) but am finally considering getting a pump. Mainly because of people's reactions when they walk in on me as I inject in my office. Hope all goes well with you

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