A person with axial spondyloarthritis stands at a doorway in distress as sharp objects come flying towards them.

I Developed Injection Anxiety

For almost three years, I have been on Humira, a biologic injection that improves my symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a form of axial spondyloarthritis. Every 10 days, I swipe rubbing alcohol on my thigh and press the auto-injector pen. It stings, but after 10 seconds, it’s over. It’s a small price to pay for what Humira gives me — the ability to live a relatively normal life again.

At first, it was a minor inconvenience

When I first started Humira, it was nerve-wracking. I didn’t know what it would be like to self-inject. But a nurse taught me how, and after the first few times, it was a breeze. Over time, I got into a routine — I positioned the needle, set a countdown timer on my phone, and pressed the trigger. Easy-peasy. For the first two years, my Humira shots were only a small inconvenience I had to work into my schedule — no big deal. Then, something changed.

Brains are funny. Sometimes, they produce anxiety responses to protect us from reasonable threats. Other times, they make absolutely no sense. A few months ago, I got ready to do my injection. Nothing had changed since my last injection 10 days before, but this time, I was shaking. I didn’t feel nervous, so I didn’t understand why I was having physical symptoms of anxiety. The shakiness made it harder to press the trigger, so it took a few extra tries before I successfully injected.

Then my injection anxiety got more intense

I went into my next injection thinking that the anxiety was probably a one-time thing. It was not. This time, the shaking was more intense, and every time I attempted to press the trigger, something stopped me. No matter what I did, I could not get my thumb to press down — a total mental block. The more tries it took, the more anxious I became. I tried breathing exercises and positive self-talk, but nothing worked. A subconscious part of me had developed injection anxiety, even though I knew there was no logical reason to be anxious. What happened? Why was I perfectly fine injecting for two years? Why now?

As weeks went by, my anxiety became progressively more distressing. By the time I would actually inject — sometimes after 20 minutes of trying — I would be crying from the anxiety and frustration. There was a lot at stake — Humira is so important to my quality of life, and I began to worry that I would mess up my injections and lose its effects.

I asked my doctor for help

For months, I tried dealing with this on my own and by talking to my counselor, but it got to the point that didn’t think I could continue self-injecting any longer. I decided to talk to my doctor. She prescribed me Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication, to take before my injections. Unfortunately, Ativan only slowed the escalation of my anxiety. The mental block was still there. Next, I resorted to a pre-injection vodka soda. It made me slightly more relaxed, but I still struggled. I wished to go back to the days when I injected with ease.

I kept putting off finishing this article. I thought to myself, “I’ll finish the article when I find a solution to my anxiety, so I can end it with a satisfying resolution!”. But… I haven’t found one yet. It’s been over 6 months of unexplained injection anxiety, and I still have no idea what caused it after two years or how to overcome it. It’s confusing to have anxiety surrounding a medication that has helped me so much and annoying to have anxiety scheduled every 10 days. I hope that something will click soon and I’ll regain my confidence. Until then, I’ll settle for the vodka soda.

Have you ever experienced injection anxiety or a similar mental block? If so, please share in the comments.

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