Writing a blog post on “Overcoming Fears of Starting Insulin” turned out to be harder than I thought. I mean, who knew writing something like this would be that much more difficult than composing an e-mail at work or posting a snarky comment on Facebook? And to be completely honest, after extending (read: missing) my deadline a few times I was starting to feel a bit hopeless that I could actually pull it off.
But then I saw Steve Martin, the actor, comedian, author, and banjo virtuoso (don’t believe me? Check this out, I think you’ll like it) on Late Show with David Letterman and inspiration struck. Martin’s appearance on Letterman reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from his 1986 comedy ¡Three Amigos!
To set the scene, at this point in the film The Amigos (played by Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short) have decided that although they are merely Hollywood actors who play hero gunfighters in the movies, they will help the inhabitants of a small Mexican village confront and defeat the very real bandits and their ruthless leader, El Guapo (played by Alfonso Alau), who have terrorized the town for years. Lucky Day (Martin’s character) attempts to inspire the villagers with this speech.
What on Earth does this have anything to do with “Overcoming Fears of Starting Insulin”? Well, I think for most people with Type 2 diabetes, like yours truly, our “El Guapo” is starting insulin. It’s something we will have to face eventually and something that once we do, we will be better and healthier for it. For me, when my endocrinologist suggested insulin five years ago, there were two very different fears I had to overcome.
The first was the fear of admitting failure. The suggestion that it was time to start insulin was, for me, like admitting that I had failed myself, my wife, my family – everyone who cared about me. If I had eaten better, I wouldn’t need insulin. If I had exercised more, I wouldn’t need insulin. And now if I needed insulin, then clearly I failed at managing my diabetes.
When I met with my diabetes educator, however, she reminded me that Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease, moving on to insulin was merely the next step in my treatment, and that it was my previous treatments that were failing to adequately treat the disease. In short, it wasn’t me it was my treatment that was failing. Once I heard this I was much more accepting of insulin as an option. I wanted to feel better than I was feeling at the time, and insulin was just the next phase of my diabetes management.
The second fear was about the administration of insulin. I had visions of not being able to do anything spontaneously with friends or family anymore (“Sorry I can’t make it, I forgot my insulin so I need to head home.”). I was pretty nervous (and admittedly still am) about hypoglycemia after a previous episode with another class of drug. And while not generally afraid of needles, I had never self-administered an injection. How long is the needle we’re talking about here? I thought it was going to be about six inches long. Would it hurt? I was sure it would be agonizing.
Again, a little education went a long way to allaying these fears. Injecting insulin turned out to be pretty anti-climactic, really. It’s had no negative impact on my life whatsoever. Being on insulin has not limited me socially. With help from my health care practitioners I have had no issues with hypoglycemia. The mini-pen needle is about as long as my pinky fingernail and causes no pain at all.
And most importantly, I’m healthier and happier ever since I faced the Type 2 diabetic’s “El Guapo” – and won.