When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 11, I would brace myself before every finger stick when checking my blood sugar. Sometimes I hesitated for only a moment and other times it took me about 3 minutes to hit the trigger. I was told by many well-meaning people that I would soon adjust and the fear and hesitation would subside.
Several years later I remember taking a long while to muster the nerve to intentionally cause myself pain and a school friend remarked, “You’d think you would be used to it by now.” She was right, I mean, I certainly did ask myself that. After all these pricks, why do I still feel the way I did when I was diagnosed? I would countdown in my head, lose my courage, and start all over again. When I finally did it, it was usually painful. My heart would race, I would sweat, and I’d find myself gasping for breath since I had just held it for too long. I wonder if this made it harder for me to test as often as needed. Maybe.
Then after more years of diabetes I one day stopped before pricking and thought, “Wow, I’m still scared of this little needle.” Then I thought about how since I was 11 I had always uncovered my meter screen from right to left, anxious about the first number on the screen. Would it be a 1, 2, 3, or please-not a 4? I was anxious about the pain and the number result.
Soon after I read that anxiety can make us more sensitive to pain and I also read somewhere that we can help reduce the pain of our finger sticks if we calm ourselves before doing it. I found that taking a few really deep couple of breathes and doing the finger stick in the middle of an exhale helped. It was also helpful to accept that this was my reality and I could, in a way, embrace it by thinking “just do it” and not overthinking it. I even tried humming a theme song in my head during the blood sugar checking process. Aside from these techniques I worked on viewing my blood sugar results as merely helpful data and not a personal attack on my abilities to live with diabetes.
I’ve now had diabetes almost 22 years. A few days ago I checked my blood sugar and as I zipped up my meter case I realized that I didn’t hesitate before using the lancing device anymore. I thought, “Wait, when did this happen?” I can’t say exactly. It kind of snuck up on me–probably due to being distracted by two children. I am thrilled, though. Finally, after all these years I can comfortably check my blood sugar? It may sound like a small thing but it’s a big deal to me.
If you experience this hesitation and feeling of dread before inflicting necessary pain on yourself, I recommend three things:
- Don’t be hard on yourself. Not when it comes to finger sticks and not when it comes on your blood sugar levels.
- Try deep breathes and focus on the info you are about to get–versus focusing on the finger stick itself.
- Practice acceptance. Acceptance of whatever you are about to see on your meter before you see it. Remember that you need this information to keep yourself feeling good and well-informed. Accept that these finger sticks are painful. You aren’t weak or crazy for thinking so.
Be patient with yourself as you figure out what works. And if you have any tips that help you please share in the comments.