Five years

Sunday was my 5th anniversary of being diagnosed with diabetes.

What did I do?

I ran errands, I did homework, I washed dishes. I did what I needed to do. No fanfare, barely a second thought as I glanced at the calendar. Because that’s what this is now. It’s just my life. I went low at the mall, so I got a smoothie. I went home to my little family and made dinner. I tested, bolused, treated, and stayed alive.

While this isn’t the ideal situation and not how I pictured I’d be living my 20s, I stayed alive. For five years. And I’m okay. I hate this disease but at the same time I love what it’s taught me. For five years I’ve been learning, and I hope for many more years of learning to come.

Blame

At some point a person with diabetes will *probably* experience that one person without diabetes who insists that they must have either done something wrong to get diabetes, or is failing to do something at the moment to “reverse” it.

This is especially common amongst us Type 2s, considering how much negative press we get about our disease.

You don’t think I’d want to “reverse” this if it were possible? Well, no shit Sherlock, I’d obviously do that if it were an option. For now I’m just trying to get as tight control as possible without going bananas in grad school. Which is way harder than you’d think.

If you’ve ever experienced this, likely you’ve wanted toss a brick or something their way. Maybe one of those hard bricks of brown sugar, just to drive your point home.

But, obviously we can’t wander around throwing things at people who are insensitive and all around so, SO aggravating about what they say to us, so we have to mentally figure out how to process these kinds of encounters.

So here are my thoughts.

Those who are public about their diabetes risk blame and shame as people typically associate the word “diabetes” with “fat”, “lazy”, and “candy bars”.

Now, I can’t speak for Type 1s so my experiences will be more Type 2 specific. Also, Type 2 development can be influenced by lifestyle, so in general I feel like people who say these things to Type 1s are still targeting us, but are just so uninformed that they don’t know that there are different types of diabetes.

Anyway, as a person who is open about having Type 2, I have had several experiences where I’ve had to explain and defend myself: my eating habits, my weight struggles, my exercise regimen. You know, because that is TOTALLY their business.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that at the base of blame is fear.

Yes, that’s right, fear.

People want, no, NEED to believe that you caused this in some way. They need to believe (whether they admit it or not) that there must have been something you did, and that’s why your life is so much more complicated and sharp, pokey thing-filled than theirs. Why? Because they want to think they’re doing everything right. And if you do everything right, you don’t get type 2 diabetes.

“Well, I eat fruits and vegetables,” they say. “Well, I don’t GO to fast food places, and I exercise.” And they don’t want to entertain the possibility that sometimes your body just craps out, and you’re left with a disease that is at best tolerable, at worst a huge PITA and a heavy weight tied to every moment of the day. Forever.

And you know what, fine. If they need to think that, that’s their business and I could squawk at them all day long about not blaming the patient or the actual science, and deep down they’re still going to be like, “Yeah, wellll…you’re fat and diabetic so I don’t really believe what you’re saying, okay?”

And at some point, you need to know when to shut it down, because in the end it doesn’t matter what these people think. These people are not in control of your spirit or your happiness. So don’t let them be.

At least, I’m going to try not to.

Rc

30 Things

I learned that this week is Invisible Illness awareness week! Thank you to my fave badassmatic for bringing this to my attention! 🙂

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1. The illness I live with is: I’ve lived with diabetes for over 4 years and a lifelong chronic form of depression called dysthymia.

 
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2009, dysthymia in 2011.

 
3. But I had symptoms since: I’d have to say I had symptoms of diabetes for about a year before I was diagnosed that gradually got worse right before I was diagnosed. I’ve had issues with depression since I was a child though.

 
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: My routine. My days were very open ended in the past but now I must adhere to a schedule to make sure I can best manage my blood sugars.

 
5. Most people assume: That I did something to give myself diabetes. I have Type 2 diabetes with atypical symptoms, particularly a very low “Type 1” level C-peptide. This means I’m insulin dependent, and people think that because I take insulin means I’ve been unsuccessful or unwilling to change my lifestyle to manage without it. They’re dead wrong.

 
6. The hardest part about mornings are: Having to test/log/carb count/bolus/take pills/log my food/shower/walk dog/do makeup/etc. when I’m in a time crunch!
7. My favorite medical TV show is: This is so obvious, but I love House!
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: Obviously my glucose meter, but my iPod Touch has been a huge help with actually getting myself to log my blood sugars (thanks mySugr!) and my moods!

 
9. The hardest part about nights are: The discomfort if my blood sugar is high or the fear of going hypo. I’ve had really severe nocturnal hypos that almost left my unconscious. Sometimes I can’t shut my brain off, so actually calming down enough to fall asleep sometimes is a struggle.

 
10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. (No comments, please): 10 & +/-5 injections
11. Regarding alternative treatments I: I think taking care of your mind is just as important as your body. If you do well with meditation or acupuncture mentally then it will have a positive impact on your body. But I don’t think these things will treat your condition specifically.

 
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: I would choose invisible. As frustrating as it is to be passed over because I might not “look” like anything is wrong, we live in a society where you are judged by your appearance and apparent ability. Which is a sad thing.

 
13. Regarding working and career: I am working toward a career in medicine, but I fear that there might be some specialties (read surgery) where I’m limited because of my diabetes.

 
14. People would be surprised to know: I didn’t get it by eating Snickers bars all day! LOL, okay but really, they’d be surprised to know how much work really goes into this every day, all day. It’s not just “avoid sugar and bread and you’re good.”

 
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: I will never be able to approach food or exercise the same way. Every meal is a math problem and every workout is an exercise (tee hee!) in emergency preparedness.

 
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: I don’t have a really good answer for this. I haven’t done anything scary yet, but I do worry about traveling on an airplane with an insulin pump (if I get approved for it eventually).

 
17. The commercials about my illness: “Accu-chek Nano, you’re the one I chooooose!” Now it’s in your head, FOREVER.

 
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: This is going to sound so petty, but I really miss Halloween. I miss having a big bowl of candy on the dining table and swiping a couple every now and again without the constant thoughts of how high my blood sugar is going to go. OH and I miss just being able to go in and take an exam without having to worry if my blood sugar is too high so I fall asleep or too low and I can’t focus.

 
19. It was really hard to have to give up: Honestly, having diabetes doesn’t mean that you have to cut stuff out of your life but there are certain things that just aren’t worth the roller coaster. I am a LOVER of fruit juices, but alas, it’s hard to justify bolusing for 30g of carb in a beverage (that isn’t a pumpkin spice latte 😉 )

 
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: Cooking. I’ve always enjoyed cooking but needing to rework some recipes has lead me to experimenting and really loving it!

 
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: One of two things, I would go on the longest most exciting hike of my life without being scared of going low. Or the exact opposite, I’d sleep in and watch movies with B without worrying about going too high.

 
22. My illness has taught me: Life isn’t supposed to be fair. Not in a bad way either! Some of us are dealt different challenges, and it’s up to us how we handle them. It’s normal to feel great sometimes and not-so-great other times, but it’s important to realize the struggle makes us strong. Our bodies and health are at the forefront of our minds all the time, and we do that while being students, parents, spouses, professionals, etc. That’s amazing!

 
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “Oh you do know you don’t need to take insulin for Type 2, right? You just need to change your diet.”

 
24. But I love it when people: Ask questions because they really want to learn. I don’t mind the opportunity to educate and dispel some myths, even if it’s just one person!

 
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: I have a feeling this is a common one but the Serenity Prayer is one that I keep at the back of my mind at all times. I am not religious, but the message is one I need.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

 
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: It gets better. It doesn’t get that much easier, but you get used to it. But, don’t live in denial, you MUST adapt to stay healthy. And staying healthy is WORTH IT.

 
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: How others are offended or frightened by the sight of illness. People are genuinely uncomfortable with the fact that others need to inject insulin or prick their fingers to maintain their health. Or even if you battle depression, people don’t want to hear about it.

 
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Once when I was having a bad low in class a friend of mine SPRINTED to the vending machine and brought me some lemonade as soon as she saw I wasn’t all-the-way there.

 
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: It applies to me, it applies to my family, it applies to my friends. It’s time we support each other in their struggles, no matter what they are.

 
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Grateful and delighted, thank you! 🙂

Rc

Sinigang for Dinner

My favorite food growing up was a Filipino dish called sinigang. It’s a dish that is very close to my heart.

Okay, so what is it? It’s a soup that consists of meat, vegetables, light broth and, specifically the one I grew up with, a sour component. In this case it’s tamarind.

There is something so tribal and comforting about gathering around together to share a meal. For me this was the one meal that we all gathered around and shared. Except for my dad, it was a bit too exotic for his Midwestern palette.

Whenever I make sinigang it always reminds me of my mother, who brought this dish with her from the Philippines. She taught me how to make it when I was very young, and to this day it remains one of my go-to comfort meals. I hope to one day  pass it on to my children.

Obviously so they can involuntarily think of me whenever they have it.

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The great thing about sinigang is its versatility. You can make it with any number of vegetables and different types of meat. My favorite is a variety called sinigang na baka, meaning it’s made with beef. It’s also great because it’s a relatively healthy dish, packing plenty of veggies into your meal.

Ingredients

I should warn you, I don’t really measure things out, so just add as much as you think will fit in your slow cooker or soup pot or serve the number of people actually willing to try this out.

Meat

I like to use beef short ribs, but I’ve used stew beef as well or even both! But I find ribs give the broth the most flavor. For one regular size crock pot (meaning not tiny, but not one of those huge ones) I got about 1.5 lbs of short ribs.

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Veggies

My favorite part of sinigang. For this batch I used what I had in my fridge, but there are so many possibilities for the vegetables you can use. Here I used one long thin pepper (to give it some kick!), pechay (baby bok choy), one large fresh tomato, 1/2 a large white onion, 3 garlic cloves, and I decided to throw some broccoli in last minute as well.

Also, in traditional Filipino recipes it is customary to include small taro roots, called “gabi” in Tagalog, also called eddo roots in the grocery store. In the interest of keeping this as low carb as possible I omitted the gabi, but if you don’t plan on eating it with rice it is delicious and little different.

Some of the vegetables you might want to include. I also like to include spinach, broccoli, and string beans.

Some of the vegetables you might want to include. I also like to include spinach, Chinese eggplant, broccoli and string beans.

Soup base and flavorings

Most Filipinos that I know (my mom included) really like to use beef bouillon cubes to flavor the dish. I have to admit it is reallllly good that way, but I’m watching my sodium intake so I used reduced sodium beef stock because I’m already using a packaged soup base. The soup base can be found in the Asian store, my favorite is Knorr brand but Mama Sita brand has a tamarind seasoning mix that’s also pretty good. I’ll update this when I figure out how to make the tamarind soup base from scratch. It’s my next project!

You can usually find Knorr Tamarind base in any Asian or international grocery store.

You can usually find Knorr Tamarind base in any Asian or international grocery store.

Also, since the pepper I chose wasn’t spicy enough for me I added some red pepper flakes. Really spicy and really sour are my favorite ways to serve this dish!

Note: By using more veggies, substituting vegetable broth for the beef broth, and substituting lemon juice for the tamarind base you can also make it vegetarian-friendly. FYI the tamarind base by Knorr contains shrimp powder, so it’s not vegetarian. It’ll taste a little different but I’ve tried it myself and it’s pretty good!

Directions

Dice your half-onion, don’t be too worried about making everything pretty, this isn’t a pretty dish.

Also dice up your garlic cloves nice and tiny.

Brown your ribs on the stove in a little olive oil. I didn’t do it this particular time, but you can throw your onions and garlic in with your ribs while they brown to give the meat a bit more flavor.

Put them in your crock pot, cover with as much of the tamarind base packet as you like. I used 1/3 of the packet at this point because it’s easier to add more than try to take it out!

Add your onions, garlic, and long skinny pepper. If you like things really spicy you can go ahead and add your red pepper flakes now since the longer they’re in there the more spicy your soup gets. If you decide you want to use the taro root, add it now. It needs to be cooked a long time so it gets soft enough to be edible.

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Add 2 cups of the beef broth, then add enough water to cover the meat.

Cover your crock pot and set on low for ~4 hours. I tried doing it for 6 hours once but the meat ended up so tough I had cut the time down. My pot might just run hotter than some of the others.

When you have about 30 minutes left go ahead and cut your tomato into big chunks and add to the pot. At this point make sure to taste your broth and add additional salt, tamarind seasoning, or beef broth if it’s a little bland. You could even sneak a little beef bouillon in if you like, I won’t tell anyone.

When you have about 20 minutes left add your baby bok choy, string beans, broccoli or other veggies. If you are using spinach I suggest adding it last around the 10 minute mark so it doesn’t disintegrate.

Voila! You’ve made yourself a Filipino dinner. For our Paleo and grain-free friends if you add enough veggies you don’t need to eat this with rice. Since being diagnosed with diabetes I limit my rice intake so I frequently enjoy this dish without the rice.

For those of you who want to try this the traditional way serve with -my favorite- Jasmine white rice. You could even try this with brown rice, which happens to be my boyfriend’s favorite rice.

What’s your favorite dish from your childhood?

Obesity as a disease?

Here’s a link to NPR!

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My grandparents’ cat is huge.

I don’t have medical training or  any concrete scientific knowledge to have an opinion on this one way or another. I just know what it’s like to be overweight and to have to struggle every single day to stop being that way. Some reasons are mental and emotional, some physical (insulin resistance sucks). All in all it ends the same thing.

Being overweight is a very public battle, whether we admit it or not.

I’m mostly just writing this because I’m really saddened by what people have had to say on the issue. I’m not commenting on whether or not it should be labeled a disease, just on the reactions to the news that I’ve seen.

Yes, it makes me feel bad when people say that fat people are just lazy and don’t care about what they do with their bodies. Unless you have personally been overweight and teased and harassed – even by your own family – then I don’t think you should be so quick to judge. Sometimes getting up in the morning is enough of a challenge. Maybe, if you’re like my father, you have a family to feed and two jobs to work on top of mounting debts and stresses. Having a rock hard bod isn’t exactly on the top of that list. Should it be? Good health should always be a goal, I’m not arguing with anyone on that. But is it a crime that life sometimes gets in the way?

One popular fitness blogger I followed said that she thinks it’s “ridiculous” that obesity is a disease and she doesn’t want people feeling like they are the victim and they can blame being obese on being a disease.

But on the flip-side, does that mean they can be shamed and blamed because they “allowed” themselves to get in such a condition? Is it so ridiculous? (Or ridic! as she puts it)

Maybe, maybe not, I don’t know. I do know that she has as much education as I do, a bachelor’s in a science field, but has probably never been overweight a day in her life. She is not a doctor, nurse, dietician, exercise physiologist, therapist, etc. Do I think labeling obesity as a disease is going to let obese people off the hook? Of course not. I don’t personally know any obese person who hasn’t felt shame at some point about it, or doesn’t realize their health is at risk. Do I think people are going to cry victim? Again, I don’t know, but I do know there will be people who will forever be victims in their own mind, whether they’re obese or not, it’s a mindset.

To say obese people are so lazy and just lack the willpower to change so they’ll find any way to shift blame is ridiculous and incredibly hurtful. Being obese is not healthy, but many thin people also make poor decisions about their diet or exercise. And it is not as though it is extremely easy to overhaul your lifestyle, and the current culture of shame and harassment does nothing to help, but rather make overweight people retreat further. It’s very emotional to be fat, it’s not as easy as “get off your ass and stop eating burgers”.

Do you know what it’s like to not feel like you deserve to enjoy your life, go out and do things because people will judge your weight? To fear that your weight will negatively impact a job or school interview, or that if you go shopping you won’t be able to find clothes that fit and you actually like. If you’ve never struggled with your weight, then no, probably not.

Yes, many of these things are not realistic. No, I don’t think anyone really cares what I eat or where I go, but to deny that sense of being self-conscious just because it isn’t logical isn’t fair. It’s my experience, and it’s the truth. Then there’s the “well if you’re so unhappy go lose weight!” argument. Yes, of course! We must all strive for the best health we can have, any way we can. I will never disagree with you on that. You should take responsibility for your health, whatever that means to you. Weight isn’t always going to be the best indicator of health.

But weight loss is a highly personal and multifaceted issue you can’t just tell someone to go lose weight. Some people genuinely do not know where to begin. Some people live in food-deserts or cannot afford fresh meats, fresh produce. Maybe they can’t get away from their jobs, maybe childcare or transportation is an issue. What seems like an easy, maybe even mundane task to you could be an immense challenge to someone else.

Yes, where there is a will there is a way. But have you ever been in a situation where you’ve come up against so many roadblocks that you lose the will to continue?

Instead of continuously blaming the individual why not try to address the reasons why so many are currently overweight? Write to congresspeople, go out and get involved with the ADA or other organizations who provide free education workshops to the public. Get involved in causes that demand better access to mental healthcare, or affordable produce and healthy food for our children.

There are things you can do to be more productive than type nasty comments on the internet about how all the obese people just lack the willpower to do something about it. Would it be so wrong to try to make doing something about it easier?

I don’t know if obesity is a disease in its own right or a symptom of other things such as thyroid conditions, depression, insulin resistance, or a myriad of other issues. But to be honest, I don’t really care. If the AMA says obesity is a disease now, then let’s treat it accordingly. I think it could have some positive impacts. Maybe the food industry will finally be forced to make the changes to their process and products to help our overweight population. Perhaps we’ll see less patient-blame and a new generation of doctors will learn to treat obesity as the grave health concern it is, not just a lack of motivation or a flaw in character. Maybe an obese patient who is looking for assistance will have better access to proper nutrition education from a registered dietician, help from a personal trainer, or at least something better than what they have now.

Some say that it’ll just lead to a rise in medications being pushed instead of weight loss “the natural way”. Another way to cop out of taking care of yourself. Here’s the thing, if you’ve been overweight your entire life maybe some assistance isn’t necessarily evil. It’s been shown that children who are overweight are likely remain that way through adulthood.

And I’m sure many will tell you themselves that the longer they were overweight the more difficult it is to maintain any amount of weight loss. So sure, if they can come up with something that (with proper nutrition and activity, like my Metformin) will help you achieve or maintain your optimal health, who the hell am I to demonize that?

My hope for the future is that this results in a net positive effect for our national health. Also, that people would just be a little nicer to one another. Get to know someone, encourage them, inspire them, be the support that they may desperately need. It doesn’t need to be us vs. them, fit vs. fat. It can be good health for everyone, with a let’s work together attitude.

Rc

Sometimes It Sucks, But That’s Okay

I draw my own starfish so I don't have to credit anyone. I'm lazy. And very nervous about respecting copyrights.

I draw my own starfish so I don’t have to credit anyone. I’m lazy and very nervous about respecting copyrights.

Sometimes diabetes makes me feel like shit. Not just physically, but emotionally, because the full weight of having this disease can add to an already teetering and very heavy pile of stress you have to cart around in your everyday life.

Bills? Let’s add several hundred more dollars to that.

Errands? Job? Chores? Other things in your day? Let’s add 6-10 BG checks, diligent meal planning, insulin dosing, pill organizing, and general fussing with insurance and doctors to that.

Let’s add guilt, stress, fear, anger, and sadness specifically about your health, to an already overtaxed camel lugging around your other emotional baggage.

I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life, but let’s go ahead and pile on more.

Tonight, let’s add a side of guilt to the main dish of stress. The issue: money. I have this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach because I feel like an immense burden to my family and my S.O. This disease is so expensive to cover, I’m averaging about $150/month on just diabetes supplies. Not including copays, lab fees and miscellaneous other fees that seem to sneak up on you. And I want to start pump therapy so this is going to increase. I rely on my father’s health insurance and financial assistance to fund keeping me alive. In addition to this I need money for school. Lots of it…like tens of thousands of dollars. (Hello Sallie Mae….)

I desperately want to work, but no one wants to hire me seasonally and I can’t work during grad school. Or at least the program director highly discourages it. But I might need to risk it. I feel like in some ways I deserve the struggle.

I know, intellectually, I can’t allow myself to be bitter and angry…with myself. I think, maybe if I did something differently I wouldn’t need insulin, I wouldn’t need to be hemorrhaging money from my family and my own savings account just to live.

It’s the classic Type 2 on insulin guilt trip.

I would never say that to another struggling Type 2, because again, intellectually, I know this is false. Diabetes will progress the way it progresses, and your body needs what it needs. It’s not a character flaw, it says nothing about your intelligence or ability to take care of yourself, it’s just the nature of the beast to evolve your treatment plan as the beast evolves.

Let this beast give you a shot.

Personally, I think it’s okay to feel bad sometimes. I don’t mean I encourage feeling awful, I think you need to keep yourself positive for the most part, so you don’t fall into a long bout of sad. But I think it’s acceptable, and you shouldn’t feel bad about feeling bad. The best thing to do is acknowledge it while keeping in mind, guilt and shame do nothing for you. Except maybe give you a stress ulcer, but I’m assuming that’s counterproductive.

Feeling guilty about being Type 2 won’t make it go away, feeling ashamed that you need to be on insulin doesn’t make your pancreas secrete more.

It’s okay to feel sad sometimes, but for the most part, try to let yourself be happy and live your life. You deserve it.

To be frank…

I’m struggling.

I’ve been flitting in and out of the blogosphere wondering what to write about. I haven’t had any strokes of brilliance or grand epiphanies related to my struggles with weight, diabetes, or even enjoying life. I haven’t felt like I’ve had anything to important to say.

I have, though, gotten lost. I feel as though I’m swimming in a huge river, where the water is too deep and the shore keeps getting further and further away. All those images of rock solid abs and beautiful A1c’s drifting out of my reach.

I gained weight once I started basal/bolus insulin therapy in earnest. About 17 pounds to be exact. I’ve lost motivation. I stopped caring about my calorie and carb totals for the day. I stopped running.

Friends, I think I’ve nosedived right into burn out again.

I’m the type of person who finds it hard to stick with with a project. Whether that project be sticking to a disciplined study schedule, exercising every day, or keeping up with the housework, I just can’t seem to see it all the way through.

This is a problem, but it’s different now that it was before.

Before when I failed a diet plan, I simply remained fat. That was it. Yes, every pound gained was another failure, and drove another nail into my self esteem’s coffin, but I wasn’t at an immediate risk for anything .

Now, I’ve gained weight and I’ve been neglecting any sort of health plan aside from bolusing for carbs and taking my other medications. I’ve strayed back into old binge-eating habits a few times, and even skipped testing my pre/post meal blood sugars several times in the past few weeks.

Unlike before, if I fail to take care of myself not only will I continue to put the weight back on, I am setting the stage for some debilitating complications.

But it’s so hard.

It’s so difficult to grasp what might happen because it’s so far down the line. It’s so hard to say no to that Halloween doughnut B brings home from work. So hard to drag out my logbook and kit and test, test, test. So hard to force myself to go out for a run when I just feel physically and mentally exhausted. When I feel it’s time to just give up, roll over, and let the vultures have me.

(I swear, I don’t actually have vultures milling around my home waiting for me to kick the bucket.)

It’s difficult to accept that you have to do things differently than before. This is true of any change one tries to make. That’s the only thing I envy of B. He was diagnosed with diabetes 11 years ago. To him, this process is simply the reality of his life. Of our lives.

It hasn’t sunk in yet. After 3 years it hasn’t sunk in. This is reality.

Today I can’t say that I’ve accomplished much other than write this, but I hope this is a step in the right direction. I hope someone else who’s burning out sees that it happens to all of us. Perhaps more often for some than others.

I’m working on it.

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.