D versus D

I’ve been toying with addressing this for a while, but tonight I feel like I simply cannot keep silent.

I’ve seen many, many tweets, Tumblr graphics, and forum posts from frustrated Type 1s. They are angry, they are embarrassed, they are frustrated. Some even want to change the name of Type 1 diabetes to denote an entirely different disease.

The general public, so quick to comment with little knowledge to back up what they say, fails to acknowledge that there are different types of diabetes. Everyone gets lumped into the “Fatabetic” category of losers who let themselves go and now have to pay the price. The problem?

There is no Type Fatabetic. There is no diabetic who asked for this. No diabetic who brought this upon him or herself simply through an unhealthy lifestyle. And I feel that is a point that both the general public and some Type 1s need to grasp.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying most Type 1s feel this animosity towards their Type 2 counterparts. In fact, the majority of Type 1s I’ve met (including my wonderful boyfriend) believe that this is a battle we all must fight. But the resentment is out there, and I can’t deny it or ignore it. It is not fair to those of us who, in addition to trying to manage medically, have been trained to feel shame with regard to our disease.

This isn’t your fault.

This is no one’s fault.

As a person who has lived as a Type 2 diabetic for 3 years, I understand all the baggage that comes along with this diagnosis. Doctors who automatically write you off as non-compliant, people who think you spent your entire childhood eating donuts and candy, that somehow you deserve this. I can’t say this enough, nobody deserves this! I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

I am sympathetic though. I recently found out that I may not be a Type 2 after my last batch of blood tests. And I am ashamed to admit this, but I felt a tiny twinge of relief. Relief at the idea that maybe, just maybe, I’ll be a type of diabetic where people didn’t think I did something to myself. A relief from the stigma. A relief from people thinking my disease isn’t that hard to deal with. I would be taken seriously.

But here’s the thing, we are a community of individuals who need, and deserve each other’s love and support. We all know the daily war we wage against our own bodies. The frustration of the unexpected high or low, the ball and chain attached to every moment of the day.

I’m sorry, truly, that many of you feel that you are being unfairly judged for your diabetes because you are categorized incorrectly. I understand what it feels like to be wrongly judged and blamed for a disease that people assume should only strike the “fat” and “lazy” and “unhealthy”. You’re put into a box that nobody ever wants.

Except, in my case that box was my reality. I bought into it. And it ruined me for a long time.

The next time you have to deal with that frustrating outsider who has no idea what you’re going through, please remember that we are in this together.

You are not alone.

And, I can’t say this enough:

This is not your fault.

The End, Part 2

Read Part 1 here!

After a rocky first year of college I returned home a little lighter, a little more single, and a little disturbed at how sad my GPA was. I was always an honors student in high school, graduating with a 3.75, which I realized after year 1 at college means absolutely nothing.

That summer I attributed my poor performance to immaturely handling a break-up and generally being lazy at studying.

I’ve always been a terrible procrastinator.

Or extremely skilled procrastinator?

My mind somehow glossed over all the bathroom breaks and empty Evian bottles that littered my dorm room floor.

At this time it was mid May and I was excitedly planning my sister’s 17th birthday party. It was sweet themed with a candy “bar”, chocolate waterfall and all.

The irony of the situation is not lost on me.

I think she and her friends had a great time.

After the fun of my sister’s birthday had died down,  I went in to see the doctor.

I got a call a few days later. No infectious diseases, no other issues. No problem.

It’s just….

“Your fasting blood sugar was 230 mg/dL. I think we’re looking at some kind of diabetes here.”

It couldn’t be. I had just had a party where the theme was CANDY, freaking CANDY, lady, don’t you see? It’s just the candy. Never mind that it was several days after the party. Never mind that I had been showing symptoms for months and months. Never mind that I had always been prone to hypos years before.

It was the candy, I swear.

Damn you gummi centipedes dipped in the chocolate fountain. I knew you would get me back somehow for biting your tasty heads off.

Well it wasn’t the candy. My A1c was 8.4, my fastings were in the 200s, I weighed around 172 pounds, and I was swiftly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

I was ashamed. I was already ashamed of my body, now I have an actual disease to go with it? You see, being overweight for some is a public shame. I was one of those people who felt that way.

It is one thing to have an embarrassing habit or trait that you can hide from others. It’s entirely another to carry the evidence with you wherever you go. Now I had diabetes, and suddenly I became very sensitive to all of the thinly veiled insinuations that I had done this to myself. This was my fault.

You liked to eat too much. You used food to comfort yourself. You let yourself get too fat. Now bear your cross.

With these thoughts bubbling over in my brain I went through my own stages of grief for the life I once had.

1) Determination: I was going to tackle this disease, I was going to take care of myself, I was going to reverse it! Just like the magazines and  t.v. doctors said I could.

2) Cynicism: It’s hard to control diabetes. Even harder for an 18 year old who lacks the foresight to understand the serious complications of this disease.

3) Denial: I managed for a while, then my resolve fizzled. For a large part of the summer I ignored it. I ate what I wanted. I went weeks without testing my sugars. I gave up on life a little that summer. 

I was in so much denial about it that I kept it secret from everyone. Telling people I had a simple glucose intolerance. Is that even a thing?

I didn’t tell my own extended family until Thanksgiving after the diagnosis, because c’mon, how can you survive Thanksgiving (in a family FULL of diabetics) with secret diabetes? Secre-beetus

It took a long time for me to come to terms with the diagnosis. One year, to the day, after my ex boyfriend left me, I met B. at a Starbucks. He happened to be Type 1 diabetic.

I don’t know how to explain the thrill of finding another PWD at this age. Never mind that it was over scones (ahem…50g carb each) in a Starbucks at 2AM. This was amazing.

I remember sitting at the table chatting with him and he randomly says, “Oh man, I wish I brought my insulin. I really want a scone right now.”

We bonded. He showed me that it was okay to be diabetic. It wasn’t shameful. His mom was Type 2, and in his mind we were all in this together. I was no longer ashamed. With his help, I realized that I could finally say goodbye and the end to my previous life. The life where I didn’t have to lance myself several times a day, take injections, become a human guinea pig for my doctors and all their new pharmaceuticals.

All of which failed by the way.

This was the end of one chapter. But the beginning of a new one.

B. and I will be celebrating our 3rd anniversary in October. I will always be grateful for the support he has given me and joy he brings to me every day.

Also, in case you were wondering, in Part 1 I was daydreaming about having Eggo waffles smothered in blueberry syrup for breakfast. Just saying.

-Rose

The End, Part 1

Last night’s #canDOC tweetchat has me waxing nostalgic. In case you missed it, the topic was diagnosis and the events that surrounded yours.
I woke up this morning thinking about what I would be having for breakfast in the days before my diagnosis, and I realized that I have never actually told my story in any kind of detail.

Mostly because no one ever asked…

I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at age 18. The experience has left me feeling a mix of things, good and bad. I am a stronger person and I pay far more attention to my health than I thought was humanly possible, but I am also left with a body that at times feels as though it has aged 30 years in only 3.

I look back upon those days before diabetes with a mixture of longing and bewilderment. I had many of the classic symptoms yet remained in the dark until May of 2009, where entirely by accident I discovered what I had always feared would happen had finally come to pass. I had inherited the “family disease”.

I started freshman year of college full of hope and fresh excitement about the life I would soon lead. I had escaped a high school experience that rendered me emotionally and physically unrecognizable from when I started four years prior (I had reached my highest weight during my senior year of high school). I finally left a home which had been a breeding ground of chaos and tension for as long as I could remember.

I was free.

I remember that feeling of pure anticipation while unpacking my suitcase and rearranging the generic, dorm-issue furniture. I had so many expectations. I didn’t realize that this year would meet so few of them.

About a month into my college experience I was thriving. I had good grades in chemistry, I had made friends, I was settling in and finding my way.

It was October.

My high school boyfriend of 3 years was coming to visit me. I was excited. I had planned an entire day full of D.C. fun. At that time the Sant Ocean Hall exhibit of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History had just recently been unveiled, opening only a few weeks prior to our date. Being a huge marine biology enthusiast I just had to see it and I couldn’t imagine seeing it with anyone other than him. Unfortunately the day took an unexpected turn once we returned to my dorm and he told me, quite simply, that I no longer was the object of his affection. In his words, I had become more like a sister than a girlfriend. I was devastated.

Say what you will about teenage love. Yes, it is immature, ill-advised at times, and often lacking practicality and common sense. But it is passionate and it is real.

Two weeks after this happened, I turned on my computer. What I saw made my heart sink and the room swim as my eyes welled with tears. He was in a relationship? Damn you Facebook, bearer of bad news. I couldn’t believe it. I knew then that I was not the only one he had been seeing during that first month at school.

For the next several months I floundered. Emotionally, I was wrecked over this break up. I was 17 when I started college, everything seems so earth shattering at that age. On the bright side, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was taking the radio by storm right around that time.

With my self esteem hitting a new low (my ex’s new flame was considerably smaller than my hulking 180-something pound frame) I decided that the only thing to do was take charge of my body. I began religiously going to the gym.

One of many late-night visits to the campus diner for fried foods and gossip my freshman year. I’m hiding behind a scarf. I wasn’t much for pictures back then.

I remember my feet furiously pounding the treadmill belt as “Single Ladies” blared in my ears. At the gym I could let my rage at the situation manifest itself into something productive.

I was so consumed with counting calories and perfecting my exercise routine and trying desperately to claw my way out of an emotional hole that I failed to notice the protest my body was launching. It was ill, it was dying, and I didn’t know.

I remember crushing lows after each workout. I have been hypoglycemic my entire life, so I always kept a Luna Bar or a banana in my gym bag to combat the blood sugar drops. But I was unaware of the highs.

I remember not being physically able to stay awake for Cell Biology. It was a class right after lunch. If you have ever lived on a college campus you know what type of food is available. Diabetic-friendly? You might as well ask for a gourmet 3-Michelin star restaurant in the food court while you’re at it.

A typical lunch included a 24 oz. lemonade, white rice, and Szechuan string beans. In retrospect I’m surprised I didn’t just slip into a coma at the table.

I remember stocking up on 1 liter bottles of Evian water from the school convenience stores. I went through a lot of Evian that year. I remember having to pee all the time, especially in the middle of the night. I slept a lot. When I say a lot, I mean a LOT. On the weekend I would wake up around 1PM, eat lunch and have a nap that lasted until 6PM or later. I’d hazily try to study with my friends but could never concentrate. Those delicious strawberry smoothies we thought were fueling our brains were actually just poison to my already overspent system.

During the week wasn’t much better. I’d sleep through classes after dozing off in my dorm, or just couldn’t muster the strength to leave my bed to trek out to the lecture hall.

You’re probably wondering, how the hell did you fail to notice something was wrong?

I still ask myself that question.

Fat

I think the name of this blog can be startling. I started this blog a while ago and I still have second thoughts about the name. Is it too much? Too inflammatory? Will I regret this choice? Probably sometimes.

But here’s the thing, fat is only offensive if you allow it to be.
I have been overweight my whole life, and only relatively recently in my 22 years have I made it closer to a “normal” weight. I know what it’s like to be the fat girl. I know what it’s like to have your self-esteem teetering over the edge, ready to collapse and become buried under every pound. No matter how much weight I lose, I will always be the fat girl.

And that’s okay.

I’ve struggled, I’ve cried, I’ve endured snide remarks, comments, teasing. I’ve felt the despair of being in the dressing room and nothing works, the crippling anxiety of going out for a night with friends (significantly thinner friends I might add) because I didn’t feel I was worthy to be seen in public. I’ve been through it all.

I survived.

I was fat, I was diagnosed with a disease that is stigmatized as a “fat” disease. But you know what, from this I became strong. I am in tune with my feelings and I understand the feelings of those who have been ignored or criticized by our society.

Yes, I was and still am, a fat girl. A fat girl with a heart big enough for all the other fat girls and guys and everyone with similar experiences. I feel deeply, I love with all I have, and I have the courage to stand up for our spiritual and physical well-being.

I am a fat girl.

And it suits me just fine.