Me at 22, celebrating college graduation with an absolutely shameless pizza-sized strawberry doughnut. I wish I had another one to celebrate Coffee & Insulin’s 4th birthday. Or just, because.

 

Four years? FOUR YEARS?!

It feels like a lifetime ago that I started writing this blog. I mean, really. I can’t wrap my head around it beginning only four years ago, during  my last semester of undergrad. (College also feels lightyears away.)

I just could never have imagined what writing my story, writing this blog, would bring to my life. How it would restore, inspire, and invigorate my entire experience with both writing and living with chronic illness. Every comment, every email, message, connection that has been born from it, astounds me. And it never stops astounding me. Just today, I was sitting in my car when my cellphone buzzed. My blood sugar was in the upper 300s a lot today, and a lot the past few days, and it was really getting me down. I’d thought maybe my Humalog was bad, so I opened a new one. No change. I thought maybe my Lantus was bad, then, so I opened a new one. Nope. So I began to think, maybe it is just that my body is bad. Really bad. Bad body, broken body. You know, how the mind goes sometimes.

The buzz was an email on my Coffee & Insulin account, from someone who follows this blog. Just writing to say thank you, and that they could relate.

Those emails never cease to amaze me. They lighten every heavy thing. So, no really, thank you.

My life four years ago, at 22,  is not like my life now, at 26.

Hard things happen. Movement happens. Growth happens.

At 22, I was living in Richmond, Virginia, wrapping up a 5 year undergrad degree in Communications. I was prepping go live in Amsterdam for a year, and anything and everything felt possible. I’d been living with diabetes for 8 years, and attended my first diabetes conference after receiving a scholarship I’d applied for on a whim. I drank a lot of red wine and wrote a lot of poetry. I was heart-burstingly giddy about post-grad life at 22, and all the things I could be and do and see.

At 26, I am living in Asheville, North Carolina. I’m halfway through a post-graduate certificate in Narrative Medicine, and beginning a 6-month herbal medicine program in just a few weeks. I’ve got my eye on Master’s programs, but am having a hard time nailing down the details, because I want to learn All of the Things.  Luckily, I have time. I’ve had diabetes for 12 years, and have confronted a lot a lot a lot of  frustration and fear in the past few years. A lot of it has to do with the American healthcare system. I’ve had to do a lot of growing up, and a lot of taking responsibility for my life. I had to learn to stay in the same city for a while, and build a belonging inside myself that I could carry with me if I chose again to leave. Which I did, both. A year and a half ago, I stopped drinking alcohol. I still write a lot, all the time, and the piles of books I’m reading and waiting to read are covering every inch of my bedroom. A few months ago, I adopted a very mischievous and adorable cat who I adore. Her name is Prairie.

Most importantly, anything and everything still feels possible. More so, actually, than it did at 22, because for a while in the past few years, nothing felt possible at all, and it was only by walking (trudging, crawling, occasionally storming) through that, that the wild and beckoning doors swung open. Anything could happen, and will. I look forward to it. Life feels electric, and it is the contrast of darkness that makes it glow. My list of things I want to do and be and see is only growing, but so is the list of things I am doing and being and seeing.

This space holds four years of life and truth and so, so, so much gratitude.

I’ve taken a pretty extended break here in the past year or so (see above: life has been really life-y) but my brain has been buzzing with stories to tell, or collaborations to invite, as of late.

More soon, and one more time: thank you.

<3 SG

I know about needles. 

That is the first line of Andie Dominick’s 1998 memoir, also titled Needles, on growing up with type one diabetes. I read it when I was sixteen, after Googling “diabetes memoirs,” because I was the only person I knew with this disease, and I was lonely.

I, too, know about needles.

//

Read the rest of this post at ASweetLife Diabetes Magazine (here), where I am now a contributing writer! I have a bit of catch-up to do, as I’ve written a few posts for them so far, but this was the first one and I’ll roll the others out soon.

Happy 2018, by the way!

xoxo, Sarah Grace

A few months ago, I lay on my back on an exam table, wearing a blue cotton hospital gown. The doctor held my right arm in her hands. There was a medical student, a man about my age, sitting next to her, watching as she dotted my arm up and down with black marker, marking various nerve spots. I was having an EMG (electromyography) done, to test the muscles and nerves in my right hand, because of a very subtle tremor I have only in my right hand and only when writing. (This is no small problem when you are a writer.) An MRI last December showed inflammation in the middle of the back of my hand, but it is a mystery as to how it happened, and why. Seemingly out of the blue at 23 years old, I stopped being able to hold a pen properly, or write anything down.

The doctor picked up a tool and sent electric shock zaps (not the medical term) into a nerve near my elbow five times. It twitched, each time a bit stronger. Each time a bit more painful, but bearable… though I no longer know what my pain tolerance is compared to someone who doesn’t give themselves 6-8 daily injections.

The doctor explained to the medical student what they were looking for on the computer screen beside them, after the zaps. Something about timing. Something about nerve response. She did this all over my arm for about 30 minutes, then told me everything looked good. But we weren’t done— next, to test muscles, she had to insert thin needles up and down my arm and wrist and hand, into the muscles. Then I had to flex the muscles with the needles in them. This was not fun. This was painful. I’m sorry, she said over and over again as my limbs constricted in pain, eyes tightening. Afterward, again, she told me everything seemed fine.

When I came home, I sat on my balcony in the sun and started listening to an OnBeing podcast interview Krista Tippet did with Naomi Shihab Nye, called Your Life is a Poem. I was particularly struck when she said this:

I mean, just thinking about everything that’s going on, kind of like when you’re a child fascinated by all the stuff that’s going on inside your body, and you didn’t have to tell it to do that. Like, I used to think my stomach is — I’m digesting right now. I didn’t have to tell it to do that. It just did it. That’s incredible. Or the heart beating, or the blood rolling through the veins.

And you think, wow all this stuff goes on. That’s not commonplace to me. That’s miraculous. It’s amazing.

I paused the podcast, and thought about that for a second. I don’t often stop to notice my breath unless I’m being told to in yoga or meditation. I don’t walk around thinking about my heart beating in my chest, unless it palpitates, and then I’m only thinking of the plethora of things that could be wrong. I write a lot about my interior body, but only in its chaos, only in the wake of the things it can no longer do because of diabetes. And as I curse it for all of its brokenness, it continues to carry me. It continues to provide me with breath and blood, vital and wholly unnoticed.

I took out my notebook, and began to write the sentence, I’m in the midst of a bit of a medical mystery. Only, I accidentally wrote “miracle” instead of medical, so the sentence read, I’m in the midst of a bit of a miracle.

And then I stopped writing, looked at it for a long time, and took a deep breath. This sentence told a different kind of story. One within which I can breathe, and live. One that, when I can pause long enough to let it in, rings so very true.

I’m in the midst of a bit of a miracle.

I left it just like that, my one-sentence-story, unstoried and restoried with the matter of one word, and turned my attention to the glowing green leaves of the sugar maple tree bending toward the ledge of my third-floor balcony.

We are living in a poem, and we are the poem itself.

 

“Chloe” by Jaume Plensa

I woke up early this morning, feeling unrested, achy. Today was the first day in many days that I was able to sleep in, and I’ve been so burnt out lately that I really thought I would. But I didn’t. I woke up around 7, unsettled. I’ve been having a rough few days, so while reaching for my Dexcom, I thought to myself, I need a good number. Please.

:::::: 313 ::::::

A heavy stone formed in my chest, because that is what happens. No falling to my knees, no screaming, no crying. I might have said Fuck out loud. But this quiet weight, hard to hold, rolled through me.

It got worse when I zoomed out to get an idea of my entire overnight blood sugar situation. Not only was it 313 right then, but it had been for hours, and for a while before that, it peaked at 400.

Fuck.

I took insulin. I drank water. I made coffee. I sat curled up on the couch in my quiet apartment.

I don’t know if I’m angry, or sad. I don’t feel sick. I don’t want to hear words of sympathy. I don’t want to dissect what went wrong at 11pm last night, what I did and did not do. I don’t want to think about the pile of these hyperglycemic nights that have happened lately. I don’t want to consider this a lesson or a punishment.

I just want it to be what is has been: hyperglycemia that is now coming down.

I just want to do the next right thing, which varies, but is some form of self-care:

a phone call, an appointment, a snack, a deep breath. 

To be kind to myself through this is incredibly important,

because it happens, and it will happen. 

And because the bottom line is: 

I am never not trying.

 

Last night, in my dreams, I was trying to save my own life. Then I woke up, and realized I actually had to.

I’d been dreaming I was eating gummy bears, but there were only a few left, so I began drinking glass after glass of apple juice. The apple juice was thick, and had cinnamon in it, in that weird way dreams distort reality. A mix between an apple’s juice and sauce. I remember, as I drank, worrying that the juice wasn’t working to raise my blood sugar.

By the time I came to consciousness, body and brain lead-like at 3:07am, my Dexcom only read “LOW.” This happens when a person’s blood sugar drops below 40mg/dL. At that point, the machine abandons numerical value and says to you, person with diabetes who is in the throes of a medical emergency, FUCK THE EXACT NUMBER, GOOD GOD YOU NEED TO PUT SUGAR IN YOUR BODY RIGHT NOW.

There is nothing more terrifying to me. Nothing.

It took me a few minutes to realize that I had not, in fact, already treated this low with gummy bears and saucy cinnamon apple juice. That I had dreamt it, and that I was still very much in danger. I must have only halfway woken to the Dexcom’s other Low alarms, thought to myself “I need to treat this low” then gone back to sleep instead and done it in my dreams. This isn’t the first time this has happened—I remember more than once in college, waking to my alarm at 6am for work at 7, hitting snooze, DREAMING I had gotten up, taken a shower, gotten ready and gone to work, only to jolt up several minutes later realizing I had to do it all over again in real life. Never a pleasant way to start the day.

Once I got my bearings, I dragged myself to the kitchen and poured two glasses of apple juice, spilling some on the counter and knocking over some cans in the process. I broke off a cube of my roommate’s cookie dough, shoved it in my mouth, and stumbled dazedly back to my bed.

Usually, when I’m treating a low, I start to feel better very quickly, within minutes. Just the relief of swallowing sugar, knowing it is where it needs to be (in my body) and will do its very important job (keeping me alive) is enough in itself to stop my shaking. Not last night, though. As I watched the number on my Dexcom climb back up over a span of half an hour—62, 83, 95—I couldn’t stop trembling.

Near 4am, I grabbed a granola bar out of my purse and ate half of it, knowing full and well it would send my blood sugar over the threshold of 200 and into High territory. I didn’t care. I just wanted the trembling, the worrying, the waking nightmare to end.