“D” is for “denial”

Whoa. Took a bit of a hiatus there, didn’t I? It was [mostly] unintentional, actually. Lately I have been hard-pressed to find the time to write as I’m in the midst of a job transition, family birthday season (yes, I consider it a season like the winter holidays), and other spring happenings. I have a lot of catching up to do. Since I find myself trapped in a run-down motel in Middle-of-Nowhere, PA for a wedding all weekend, this seems as good a time as any to do hunker down and write without distraction. I’m also in the process of dredging up lots of material for a future post on eating out and traveling with diabetes. Throw wedding cake in the mix and you’ve got the recipe for a blood sugar roller coaster. So I’m sorry for being absent, but life is what it is. That’s what I’d like to talk about today.

I have to be honest. I created this blog to hold myself accountable to my own health goals and to force myself to “make friends” with this disease I have been begrudgingly living with for three years. My mission felt a lot less complicated when I started out: I wanted to write a few posts about my day-to-day management, research, fun recipes. Ya know, light-hearted stuff to take my mind off how much it really sucks to be a diabetic. I’d hoped this would be project centered around a “diabetes happy” theme. Debbie Downer, no more. Only sunshine and rainbows and unicorns for this lady.

C’mon, now. Let’s not sugar-coat reality (pun intended). I’m slowly discovering that the most difficult parts of managing diabetes are almost always psychological. Sometimes having a blood sugar of 291 post-meal (normal should be no more than 140) makes you feel angry and incredibly frustrated. And the bruises all over my torso from repeated needle stabbings are just plain unattractive. Simply looking at them sometimes is enough to make me queasy thinking of the intense sting when you poke yourself in exactly the wrong place. Diabetes hurts. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. As much as I’d like to suck it up and make the best of it, sometimes I just can’t.

It goes a lot deeper than that, but being a private person, I won’t share all my struggles on the internet. Blogging is a great way to vent, but it’s also creepy and voyeuristic. I think that’s the other reason I’ve been on a hiatus. As an introvert, I have a hard time sharing my thoughts with an audience – especially one as vast and anonymous as the internet. I have no idea who reads this (with the exception of a few friends), and the idea of sharing anything more than the facts about disease makes me more than a little anxious. But, at the same time, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge that perhaps the greatest challenge of dealing with any chronic illness is all in your head. The hardest part of dealing with diabetes – for me, anyway – is dealing with depression and anxiety.

Again, I don’t know who reads this. I fear how much people will judge me for pouring out my heart on a silly blog, but frankly, I think you’re an asshole if you took the time to read this and judge me for writing personal stuff. Diabetes is personal. Hell, I can’t think of many other conditions that hinge quite so much on personal responsibility in day-to-day management. Every choice you make – whether it’s eating, exercising, or even managing stress – affects your health and wellbeing on a very tangible level. People who have never dealt with a disease like diabetes or Crohn’s or something similar which requires constant attention have no idea how hard it is. You can never have a break from being diabetic. There is no cure, no remission. Ever.

It doesn’t help that there is so much misinformation out there. From media portrayals and my own encounters with non-diabetics, it would appear most people think (incorrectly) that it’s a fat people disease and it’s your own damn fault if you get it and you’re a plague on the medical system and all the rest of that bullshit. I don’t mean to generalize. There are a lot of empathetic people out there who do their research and really care. But misconceptions still prevail. My work with the American Diabetes Association has reaffirmed this opinion. Day-in and day-out I am constantly reminded of how appallingly uninformed people are. Even some people with diabetes don’t understand the basics! It can be very depressing and it has made sitting down to write in this blog just once a week even more of a challenge. When I am confronted with ignorance every day, it gets so overwhelming that it makes me want to go bury my own head in the sand and try to forget that diabetes exists.

Although I love having a job that allows me to raise awareness about diabetes, sometimes having to face the hard truths about it are exhausting. It almost makes me feel more frustrated and guilty when I fail and have to accept that I should know better. Ignorant people might be misinformed. I have no excuses. Checking my blood sugar regularly is the litmus test of my dedication in my diabetes management; I dread doing it from the moment I wake up in the morning. I’ve even slacked off for weeks at a time, checking my sugars once a day at most, because I was so afraid of confronting my lack of real control. I know that I take my relative health for granted every day. And I angst because I know one day the little natural insulin production I still have will go away. It’s only a matter of time before I have to be completely dependent on man-made insulin. Why is it so hard to snap out of it and start doing something about it? Why is it embarrassing to acknowledge that diabetes carries with it serious emotional repercussions? Why is there so much stigma? Why is it wrong for people to use a variety of mediums (blogging is like cheap therapy) to deal with it?

I didn’t want this to be a depressing return to my blog, but alas. Life is what it is. Sometimes I get the blues, and that’s just part of the ride. Pile on family drama, career changes and all the rest of it and some days it’s hard to just get out of bed. This is reality, folks. This is life as a diabetic. It’s waking up feeling horrible because you ate the wrong thing the night before and now your blood sugar is 160 and it’s not even 8 am yet. It’s having to pull your car off to the side of the road because you took too much insulin and now your blood sugar is plummeting and you’re scrambling desperately to find something, anything with sugar in it to keep from passing out at the wheel and killing someone. It’s feeling like crying for no reason. It’s worrying constantly about the future and feeling tethered by an invisible line called diabetes which keeps you from being daring and taking good risks. It’s holing yourself up and not letting anyone in because the world expects you be a stoic and “roll with the punches.” Well, sometimes those punches hurt like shit and it takes you a long ass time to get back up. That’s where I’m at.

This is “DHappy” though. I believe “DHappy” really does exist. But how do I get there? How do I face challenges head on without succumbing? I may be down, but I’m not out. Every day is a new day. All hope is not lost. I have an amazing husband and wonderful support network of family and friends. I’m only 24 with plenty of life ahead of me. That is what keeps me going, keeps me from sinking into an abyssal depression. Sorry for the long-winded spiel, people, but it’s been a long two months of ups and downs. Hell, a long three years of ups and downs. After a breakfast of blueberry pancakes my blood sugar is 241. Bad? Yes. But also an opportunity to learn, to correct, to resolve to do better next time. There’s always next time. Diabetes sucks, but living in denial sucks more.