I’ve never heard anyone describe injecting insulin as graceful or gentle.
The needle bears down onto unblemished skin that begs to not be pierced. Nerves scream in anticipation as the metal bores underneath, invading the sacred temple of the body and pushes the very cells that give me corporal nourishment. It sears and brands the skin around it, leaving a physical scar behind as a permanent reminder of what I must do to stay alive.
If I told a stranger that I hurt myself on purpose daily, they would recommend psychological counseling immediately.
Not every needle insertion is a hot branding, but when you must, without fail, do this tortured dance for the rest of your life, knowing that you have endured over three decades of this, it begins to ache deeply. Even with smaller needle gauges and shorter lengths, no one has ever gleefully clapped hands and asked to be mutilated for their health.
Over and over, a lancet finds its target somewhere on a finger, slicing into the same tender skin that strokes my daughter’s hair as she drifts off to sleep. It’s become rote at this point, a slight turn of the head at the same nanosecond that the button is pushed to draw blood. A sting, temporary, to decide on the dosage of the drug that will keep me alive but could also render me unconscious or dead. That sting, several times a day, over time, is a weight that drags me to the bottom of the ocean, gasping desperately in my dreams.
Too much insulin and diabetes hurts. It starves brain cells and prevents me from making rational choices. The throbbing between my eyes competes with the violent contractions of my limbs to squeeze out the last vestiges of glucose within my muscles. My throat constricts, choking on the words needed for help.
Too little insulin and diabetes hurts. Toxic sludge sloshes through my veins, spewing poison into every organ and damaging the beautiful body my soul holds, shutting down the potential of a long life and health. The complications build an ugly monument where the delicate framework of what I am once stood.
The guilt crushes you, despite your best efforts of controlling what is uncontrollable. The questions of why build to a deafening roar. Labs slam your body into a corner, even when the results are expected. It infiltrates and infects those around you who love you and can’t live in your body or take the burden from you.
You may accept this disease. You learn to live with it, try to tame it, keep it in check and at bay. You talk about it, claim it, share your thoughts with those who understand. But it bites and scratches and never relents. It will sink its viper fangs into you and not.let.go.
No one said it would be easy. I knew it would be hard.
But no one told me when I was diagnosed that diabetes hurts.
One step, two steps. Stop.
Look at the weathered signpost and decide where you need to go. Don’t ignore the signpost or think you know what it says so you don’t even look at it. It may surprise you. It may point you in a completely different direction.
This journey is not comfortable or easy and it is long. Oh, so very long. I wish I could tell you different. And your journey is not my journey. We will share the road for a little while, but you have places to go far beyond me. But before you head off…
Let the anger go. It drags on the ground behind you, bumping against your heels, slowing you down. The missteps of all our pasts lead us to where we are now, which is not a deep hole that swallows you to the bottom of the earth, but at the starting point of a new day.
It’s not like riding a bicycle. You can’t just hop on and start pedaling off into the distance. The tires are flat and the gears are rusty. Take the time to build up your strength and fix the bike you’ve been given. Paint it a beautiful color that sings to you.
One step. Two steps. Stop.
I’ll tell you a secret. We all have secrets that we keep. When you share a secret with a kindred spirit, it becomes a bond that strengthens you both and helps you move forward.
There is no respite on this journey. There is no soft cushion for a weary soul. No place to rest a weary brow or cramped feet. I’m not pointing this out to be harsh, but to tell you that you are never alone in your travels.
Lean on me. Lean on others. Remember, however, that you will one day have someone who needs to lean on you for support, so learn how to take care of yourself. I know that’s hard right now.
One step. Two steps. Stop.
A new signpost. You swear you’ve seen it before, but look more closely. Run your fingers across the wood. It is different. A different place that seems so familiar. You want to turn back to where you believe you are comfortable. I’ve been there. It’s not safe for any of us. Keep walking.
There is no final destination. No end. Just a horizon in the distance that if you raise your eyes, you will see.
It’s beautiful, that horizon. We may never reach it, but for now…
One step. Two steps. Stop.
Keep breathing. Please. Keep breathing.
I wanted to do something different this year to help raise awareness of a chronic illness that directly impacts 26 million people in the United States alone. (The indirect impact is staggering. Think of family members, friends, coworkers, employers, and health care professionals and you get dizzy and a little nauseous.)
Every day this month, I will share information about diabetes in an easy-to-read, easy-to-share post. I promise to be honest and not sugar-coat (Oh, the puns will happen. Just roll with it.) anything I share. I’ll give you facts. I’ll give you resources. I’ll give you experiences. I’ll give you the real deal. Some information will be common knowledge, but other posts will be ones that will make you stop and think.
For November, I’ll be your Diabetes Awareness Month guide. Your DAM guide, like Arnie.
Can I ask you to do one thing for me?
(You can do one thing - or many. Your choice. I’m happy with one, but go crazy if you feel like it. You’ll be in good company.)
- If you haven’t subscribed to my blog, please do so. (Upper right hand corner. See? Over there? Where it says: “Get It In Your Inbox?”) Sign up and get posts about diabetes awareness and as a bonus, you’ll get other posts about diabetes and me. I don’t sell your email address, will never send you spam (not even the one in the can, because I hoard those), and you’ll never miss a post about the coolest toddler on the block.
- Like this blog on FaceBook. Or you can follow this blog on Twitter. These don’t just have posts from this blog on them. I fish throughout the Internet for nifty snippets of diabetes goodness and throw them out as chum. Or delicacies. You pick.
- But at least once this month, if you do nothing else, share a post about something you think is important for people in your life to hear about diabetes. (Each post has a share section at the bottom of it. You can even share a post via email!) Share with other people with diabetes. Share with a friend or a coworker. Anyone who will listen (and even those who may not want to listen, but need to hear it.), but share.
I am one woman, but I am aware that a single person can make a difference in the world. I am aware of what a few of us can do. I am aware of what many of us can accomplish. The Diabetes Online Community has shown me that.
Now, before we start the DAM tour, does anyone have any DAM questions?
This morning, The Kid donned her furry Halloween costume and, with the promise of candy, traipsed behind a kind lady to a room filled with older ladies and gentlemen. We were part of a toddler parade at the local Memory Care & Alzheimer’s facility and I watched as the faces of these individuals lit up when small fairies, Spidermen, Supermen, ladybugs, Dorothy clutching a stuffed Toto, and my daughter, cavorted around.
They were all in varying stages of the disease that robs them of the thing I hold most dearly: their memories.
Some clapped and joyfully engaged with the children, asking them about their costumes. Others sat quietly, staring without emotion at the hullabaloo. One man didn’t speak at all, but when The Kid batted an orange balloon at him, he smiled and tossed it back to her. She fell down, giggling, in front of him and he reached down to grab her foot and shake it playfully. She grinned at him, he grinned back, and then she took off to look at the fish tank.
When I glanced back thirty seconds later, he was gone; physically still there, but lost in himself. I saw his spark ignite and extinguish in the space of a few minutes. My heart didn’t so much as break as melted.
One of my great uncles (my grandfather was one of thirteen, so there were a lot of great aunts and uncles growing up), Bill, drifted off into the horizon with Alzheimer’s when I was young, but I was shielded to the devastation that it wreaks on a family. It’s one of my greatest fears to be diagnosed with it (along with having a fatal myocardial infarction at a young age) and here I was, face-to-face with those who live with it - and in it.
Scientists are linking diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease these days. You can read about the link here , or here, or get your scholarly info here.
In a nutshell, the people who are a lot smarter than most of the world say that blood vessels in the brain are damaged by high blood sugars and that inflammation also plays a part in the aging of brain cells. The damage can be done years before the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease show up, so all anyone can say is the same as we always hear: keep your glucose levels within range, eat healthy, and get regular exercise.
I can’t forget the happy look on that man’s face - and then the absence of any emotion - and I sit here now, wondering if diabetes will take away yet something else from me in the years ahead.
If you wonder why I advocate and raise my voice for diabetes awareness and healthy living, this is one reason. One reason of many.
I gave up.
“Jump high,” I smiled, holding onto her chubby arms and watching the curls bounce as she descended to the floor. The Kid stopped and cocked her head towards the machine. “What’s that?”
“It’s going to tell me what my A1C is. Mommy thinks it’s going to be higher than last time.” She’s already off, trying to open the cabinets underneath the sink.
And like I said, it was higher.
I texted John. “7.0% - Boo”, I type. And then Mr. Wisdom texts me back and with one sentence, puts it all in perspective.
“You used to be happy to see that number.”
He’s right. When the pendulum swung and I started to care about my diabetes and my body and my future, I had a long way to go before I saw 7.0% - and when I did, I was on cloud 9 (or cloud 7.0%).
You see, there were years that I would have been happy to just have a single digit A1C lab result. Truth be told? I think I hit above 14.0% in my teens. Yes. I know how high my blood sugars must have been. It was an overwhelmingly dark time in my life. I shudder even now, but have learned to accept the damage that I may have caused my body. It’s tough to swallow.
Nowadays, I shake my head at the old me, but I should also be shaking a finger at the current me. When I sat down with my CDE and talked about my cortisone injection and the crappy blood sugars that went on for weeks, she told me to stop berating myself for the A1C result. And I had been beating myself up in the exam room while attempting to prevent The Kid from stealing a box of alcohol swabs, thinking I should have been trying harder and doing more.
So, I am going to try harder and do more.
Try harder to not be so hard on myself.
Do more celebrating of the A1C I have.
Try harder to remember that I’m doing more now that I did in past years.
Like I said, it was higher.
It’s a good starting point.
A little reminder to all - I’m not comparing myself to anyone else when it comes to A1Cs.
Everyone has a different A1C and if it’s 14.0% or 10.4% (Another quite popular A1C for me…) or 8.0% or 5.5%, it’s O.K. - it’s one point in our life, but it’s not the end. It’s a point and it’s always a starting point. You can choose to share it out loud like me or keep it to yourself, like my esteemed colleague, Scott of Rolling In The D, who gives his own great reason. I choose to share because somewhere out there is someone who thinks that they’ll never go from 14.0% to a “normal” A1C… and I want that person to know that it is possible.
And I’m rooting for you. And me. And all of us.