Giving it a shot – one needle at a time

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had the most confusing, ridiculous, anxiety-inducing fear of needles. I mean crying, having to be held down kind of fear.

I’d like to say I’ve grown out of it…but I would be lying. To my credit, not every needle induces this fear; getting poked once a week for almost four years has helped.

I’m a trans man (female-to-male), and I began my transition almost four years ago. My doctor gave me my first injection of testosterone on June 18, 2015 then, I got my shots from nurses at the health clinic until recently.

I start placement soon and won’t have time to go to the clinic each week so I learned how to give myself an injection.

First, I went to my doctor for a prescription for needles and syringes.

I gave the prescription to my pharmacist, and a couple of days later went in to pick up my stuff. As I watched the pharmacist put the boxes of needles and syringes in a bag, I felt excitement coupled with anxiety. When she handed me a sharps container, I thought, “I’m ready for this next step.”

Now for me to be excited is crazy because, as I mentioned, I have a fear of needles. Up until I was 19 years-old I would cry, freak out, and at times even had to be held down.

I haven’t completely grown out of this. Blood tests and IVs still illicit tears and anxiety but I can handle getting a shot. I have three tattoos, so why I get so nervous about these kinds of needles is a mystery to all.

A few days after picking up my needles and syringes, I went to the health centre for my appointment with the nurse. I had been given a document about intramuscular injections, which is any injection that goes into the muscle.

The nurse asked if I had read it then walked me through the whole process step-by-step:

1. Get all your needles (you’ll usually have a big one and a little one), your syringe, your testosterone, and some rubbing alcohol and cotton balls.

2. Take a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol on it and wipe the top of the testosterone bottle, let it dry.

3. Open your syringe and remove the needle it comes with, then place the big needle on the syringe to fill it with testosterone, which is a thick serum so a big needle fills the syringe faster.

4. Once the syringe is filled to the right amount, switch the big needle out for the little needle.

5. Wipe the spot on your thigh you’ll be injecting into with rubbing alcohol, let it dry.

6. Stick the needle in. Once it’s in, draw back a little to see if any blood comes out. If this happens, take the needle out as you’re in a vein. If there is’nt any blood, go ahead and inject.

This is pretty straight forward, and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to do — unless you’re Jasper Myers.

Even though I had gone through the steps with the nurse, when I was doing it alone, I sat there for 15 minutes, with the needle in my hand, ready to inject it into my leg.

I couldn’t put the testosterone back into the bottle, and I wasn’t just going to discard the full needle because testosterone’s expensive. Whether I sat there for two minutes or two hours, that needle was going in my leg.

It only took me 15 minutes, and when I was done, I felt really proud of myself. I texted all of my friends and told my mom.

A week later, when I did my second shot by myself it only took me two minutes, partly because I had to catch a bus and didn’t have time to freak out.

If someone told me four years ago I would one day do my injection myself, I would’ve had an anxiety attack right then and there. But that was then and this is now.