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Debunking Your Fear continued...

You may also mistakenly think that having to take insulin injections is a sign that you've failed at controlling your diabetes. "In the past when a type 2 [diabetes patient] went on insulin, it usually was when things got really bad. So people associate going on insulin with being in really bad shape," Henry says.

Some people even think that insulin itself causes complications, an idea they've learned from watching friends and relatives with poorly controlled diabetes. That's just not true. Insulin injections help you control your diabetes so your blood sugar doesn't get high enough to cause these complications.

Making Injections Easier

Sisson and other diabetes educators guide people through the process of giving an injection step by step to make it easier and less frightening. "We do a demonstration. I do a step, and then the patient repeats that step with their own insulin syringe," he says. "What patients find is that this isn't as overwhelming as they thought it was."

To make the process easier and less painful, Sisson recommends injecting into your belly, where a layer of fat under your skin acts as a cushion. Your body absorbs insulin more quickly from the belly than from the arms or legs. Injecting there every time ensures that the insulin gets to the bloodstream at a consistent speed.

Don't use the exact same spot over and over again, so you don't get a scar from all the shots or fatty lump under your skin, since insulin can promote the growth of fat cells.

To minimize discomfort, Sisson advises people to inject themselves at least two finger lengths away from their belly button and pinch the skin on their stomach. "Just the process of pinching the skin up actually desensitizes the skin so you don't feel it," he says.

Sherri Buffington, a senior legal secretary in Sicklerville, NJ, was afraid of needles as a kid. She has diabetes now and takes an injectable prescription medication along with insulin.

Buffington has learned which areas on her belly cause her the least pain, and she's gotten used to the idea of injecting herself. "Once I did it a few times, I realized this isn't so bad after all," she says. "Most of the time I don't even feel it."

Wanting to avoid diabetes complications was motivating. "I knew I had to do it," Buffington says. "I knew how important it was."