The Diabetes Excuse

Hello everyone.

I’ve been meaning to post another review for something or other. Currently, I have nothing but time to waste, as I am on 8 weeks of stress-free (at least I can aspire to it) medical EI. But, regardless of my intentions, or my aspirations, there is a particular silence that I need to break. This may be a particularly long entry- I have a lot to say.

I’ve been in and out of therapy all of my life. Childhood was not a fun experience for me. I grew up out of that mess rather intact, through years of aggressive self-sought help. In the years approaching adulthood, when I should have been seeking support and guidance more than ever, I determined to conquer the real world on my own, convinced that then was the time to prove to myself and those around me, that I had entered adulthood well-adjusted and therapist-free. I made a grave mistake. I allowed myself to buy into the stigma that having a therapist or being in therapy means you’re messed up. I think that even the best of people have to see someone at their worst of times.

I was the first high-school graduate in my family. I may still (if things go as hoped) be the first person in my family to attend college.  I had dreams. I had aspirations. I definitely had expectations of my life. I can’t say that I’ve achieved any of them. I blamed circumstance a lot. But sometimes I realize that it was timing and lack of experience, and that was my fault- I refused the guidance and help when it would have been useful. I realize that much.

I moved out at 18. My Dad was facing a nasty divorce from my alcoholic former step-mother, and he wasn’t going to right his life with me in the way of the gunfire. So I got out of dodge. I moved in with a friend, as I was moving out of town in a few months anyway. It got me closer to work. It was a situation that worked for me. That summer, one of my kidneys unexpectedly failed. I was working at A&W, trying to scrounge and save as much as possible for the move, and emergencies. I was living off of throwouts, and gained a lot of weight. It never dawned on me that there could be a connection. My kidney failed because of an undiagnosed UTI, and I blamed my doctor. I’d seen him about it and he called it stress and gave me anti-anxiety pills. But I have an anxiety disorder, so it was easy to dismiss.

When my kidney failed I got a second opinion, and was told that I was going to have a chronic condition called Proteinuria. Sadly, the doctor that properly diagnosed and treated me was not my GP. All I was told was that the pills I would have to take would keep my kidney functioning, but that eventually, the condition would degrade my kidney so badly that I would need a transplant. I was told to expect a kidney transplant by 40. To me that was a lifetime, and I was too naive to ask for more answers. This event should have been the point that I asked more questions. I didn’t. I took my proverbial bandaid and went back to my life, same as it ever was.

For years, I had experienced poor circulation in my hands and feet. Even in room temperature buildings, my hands and feet were frozen cold. Standing in one spot too long, I would experience nonexistent circulation in my legs, which would begin to turn purple from my toes to my thighs. When I was 14, my Uncle asked me if I was diabetic. I had no idea what that even was, so of course I said no, and never thought about it again. Stupid, but at that age, somehow you’re sure if something like that were wrong with you, your parents would know. You don’t listen to your body.

Well, the following year after my big move, when I had turned 19, I was working at a Quizno’s, serving sandwiches to people for 8 hours a day, on my feet. As I had experienced since the beginning of Junior High, occasionally I would get intense, debilitating stomach aches during work. It would feel like someone was twirling my insides together like pasta around a fork. I had learned in Junior High that eating was a quick fix. I often forgot to eat, or didn’t get breaks at work. At Quizno’s, since we didn’t take breaks, I was encouraged to eat bread ends out of a bucket. Sometimes we’d put sauce on them, or cheese, and I would eat them until the pain went away. Some days it was too busy to try, so I’d try to work through the pain. For awhile that worked.

Eventually, the pain worsened, and I started experiencing overwhelming dizziness, and muscle weakness in my hands. I would shake, and lose my dexterity. I would need to vomit, or sit down. Still I ignored it, sure I had just gone too long without eating.

After an 8 hour workday, I would buy myself a 12″ Italian Sub (peppers, olives, onions, salami, dressing, cheese) and I would start my half hour walk home, passing through Starbucks to get myself a Venti Vanilla Frappuccino with a mound of heavenly whipped cream ontop. By the top of the steep hill I lived on, I would be finished consuming the frappuccino. I’d get through my door, sit on the couch, eat my sub, and then wake up hours later, often with the wrapper still in my hand. There were days I forgot how I got home. There were times I woke up not knowing how long I’d been out, or what day it was. Sometimes I woke up at 8 at night, and panicked to get ready to go to work, thinking it was 8am. I even ignored that. It never dawned on me that there was a reason I was so tired, other than that I was working hard.

But then I switched jobs, and had to take a second job, and money was tight. I was working 16 hour days, with no break, aside from the half hour between one job and the next. Myself and my then-boyfriend lived off of leftover pizza from work. I would be up at 5am, our the door by 5:30 and at work by 6:00. I would finish that job at 2:00pm, without having taken a break, change, and be at my next job by 2:30. I would finish that shift at midnight.  I burned my candle at both ends for two months, until I started to forget things. Someone would teach me something at work, and I’d forget it only minutes later. I’d have to start things over and over and over again. I took so long to get things right. I remember one particularly bad night when a woman walked in at 11:30 at night when the floors were finally done and the tables were away, and I was almost finished closing. I had to make her new food, and set her a table, because she was insistent on it. I remember being just livid, that I would have to redo all of that work, stay all that extra time after 15 hours of working, because of this woman. I had an intense mood swing. I lost that job rather quickly.

I ignored my body until my life was falling apart. My boyfriend and I were fighting, I could barely function. When I finally saw a doctor, I was briefly misdiagnosed as a hypoglyciemic, but was asked to get myself a GP. So I got a new doctor, and was retested. It was then that I was told that I was a diabetic. They told me I was too old to be a juvenile diabetic, and purely because of my age, they diagnosed me as a type 2. They tried treating me with pills.

My ex was… completely self-absorbed. People have this preconceived notion that if you’re diabetic, it’s your fault (especially if you’re a type 2). It’s not so. Any time I spoke of my diabetes, I was told I was making excuses. If I was passing out, or vomiting, or having a tantrum, I was making excuses. Any time I had no money, or couldn’t bring tempting food into the house, I was making excuses. I didn’t have a supportive partner to hold my hand and understand what it as like to feel helpless to control a disease that limits and controls you so much. Over the years, the lack of support and constant antagonism surrounding the treatment of my diabetes forced me to ignore it. I paid bills instead of buying pills. I ate crap so that we could afford to do or buy nice things. I ate crap that my ex ate so that caring for myself didn’t instigate fights.

The most ironic thing is that his Dad is a type 2 diabetic. And his whole family is compliant to the diabetic diet. Their sleep schedules, their visitors, their meals, are all timed around his Dad’s life. Maybe that’s what made him so resentful of me. I told myself I didn’t deserve the support. I told myself that if ignoring it killed me then I was just getting what I deserved for having done whatever horrible thing caused my diabetes in the first place. Worse, I turned to food to deal with my depression. I ate bad food, and it made me feel bad and made me sick, and my depression grew, so I ate more food. And I ignored how the pounds of my body were melting away. I was dropping almost 11 pounds a month, rather visibly, for a year. Something in my head saw this as an upside. I went from 300lbs to 173.

And then my ex cheated on me. After 6 years, after what I’d been putting my body through for so long, after all of the mental abuse I took, after everything I did to make it work. But I digress- I got very sick. For two days I threw up everything I tried to eat. I saw a doctor who gave me some gravol and told me to try and eat unsweetened apple sauce. He knew I was diabetic, so I assumed it was ok. I ate some (not all) and passed out on the couch. When I woke up I was pouring sweat. I had jaundice, and the skin around my eyes was purplish. I was so dizzy, and so thirsty. I called 911. They told me I had the stomach flu and to just ride it out. So I went to bed, and woke up 6 hours later. I thought I was having an asthma attack, but my inhaler didn’t work. Then I thought maybe I was choking, only I could breathe in, but it was like there was no oxygen in the air. I begged my ex to take me to the hospital, because the paramedics had already come. He refused and called me a hypochondriac. I tried to calm down, tried to listen to him, but I was suffocating.

I passed out in our hallway calling 911 on my cell phone. When I woke up, I woke up with an IV, strapped to a heart monitor, with a catheter in, two days later. They called it Acute Diabetic Ketoacidosis. It kills 1 in every 3 people who experience it. When your body can’t utilize the sugar in your blood stream, the liver attacks your fat instead, and the breaking down of that fat leaves ketones. Ketones build up in your blood stream, and act like an acid, eating your body from the inside out. They break down your muscle tissue. Eventually they are so thick in your blood, that your heart stops.

I died. When I woke up, I was still dead. Everyone kept telling me that I wasn’t going to make it. I was sure it was the end. It wasn’t. I survived. I survived breaking up with my crappy ex, and moving on with my life. But more than ever, I resented my diabetes. Especially since my recovery forced my endocrinologist to acknowledge that not only am I a type 1, but that I have been diabetic since I was a kid. Know thyself, ladies and gents. It will save your life.

I’ve been in a period of resentment for years, of wavering resolve to deal with my diabetes. In the past, I’ve absolutely binged on food I knew would probably kill me, out of some need to prove that it was all some huge lie, that it wasn’t true. Now, I try for awhile and quit, I try for awhile and give in to temptation to wanting to be normal. I try for awhile and money gets so tight that I tell myself I can treat myself just enough to stay alive. But it’s a lie. It’s my ex in my head still telling me that diabetes is just an excuse. It isn’t.

So I take responsibility for my part. I’m in bad shape, again, and facing the risk of Ketoacidosis, AGAIN. I won’t do that again. Now I have something to live for. Now I have a support system, things to aspire to, people who acknowledge how hard it is to live this way. I don’t need to feel like the poor freak, making excuses. I don’t need to feel ashamed, either, for being such a crappy diabetic, because I know THAT WAS THEN, and THIS IS NOW. It is never too late, as long as you’re still alive.

Today there are programs out there to help. There are support groups offered through your local hospital (go to their diabetes clinic, register, check it out!). There is a new social networking site called Chances are, there is a Canadian Diabetes Association office in your town. You can look them up on Facebook. They have a resource library to access. They do advocacies for medication and supplies, if you can’t afford them. They will also advocate to get you medical coverage and assistance, as well as offer you information about applying for disability, or connect you with someone who can offer financial aid.

IMPORTANT! Their website is an amazing resource. They list events for diabetics by province, and then by town. Please check this out, there are so many events to go to, to meet people your own age with the same problems. They usually have prizes, and food, and are almost always free. It’s a great thing to do if you feel like you’ve been living with this alone.

I think I will also start posting some recipes here for diabetics. I am going through Diabetic Living, Canadian Living, Chatelaine, O Magazine and a book about Diabetic Desserts, and converting them to portioned sizes using low-glyciemic foods. Everyone also needs to check out the latest edition of Diabetes for Canadians for Dummies and Diabetes Cookbook for Dummies, as well as Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars, which was suggested to me by Anne Rice, who is a fellow diabetes sufferer.

Next up on my diabetes action plan: I have another support group seminar tomorrow at the hospital. There is also talk of going for a group hike in my area with Olympic Gold Medal Rower Chris Jarvis, who is a type 1 diabetic, using an insulin pump (lucky bum).

Just remember: Some of us felt just as hopeless. Some of us still do on bad days. Some of us hate living with diabetes every day, too. Make the best of it. Ignoring it is harder. Good luck. If anyone needs someone to talk to, shoot me a comment. I’ve only ever had one, so it would be nice to hear from you guys!


(Type 1 – Humalong/Lantus – Pens)


~ by Kд§$ị (ИovΔ) on 04/07/2010.

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