The Things We Least Want To Do

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“The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the thing that was so profound to me that summer—and yet also, like most things, so very simple—was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay. As I clung to the chaparral that day, attempting to patch up my bleeding finger, terrified by every sound that the bull was coming back, I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go.” – Cheryl Strayed, Wild


 

When I wake up this morning, the last thing I want to do is prick my finger.

That is also the first thing I do.

A drop of blood blooms from my flesh, is sucked up by the test strip like a hummingbird’s nectar. Several heartbeats pass, pulsing at the tip of my index finger, while the meter numerates me. 212 ml/dl– too high. I swing my arm over the side of the bed and dig through my purse to find my insulin pen. A few flicks of the vial to unsettle the air bubbles, a 1-unit air spray to make sure the needle is clear. Insulin smells like melted band-aids, and now so do my sheets. I dial 2 units, inject into the tender fat tissue several inches left of my belly button.

New needles glide through the skin so delicately, so precisely. I should be kinder to myself, re-use needles less often. Maybe I would bleed less; maybe my stomach wouldn’t be speckled with jewel-toned bruises.

Already two needles today, and my feet have yet to touch the ground.

I grab my laptop and flip it open, still cocooned in blankets. The sky is too dark, the air too cold and still. It’s a morning for lingering.

My Facebook feed is a winding river of people I haven’t seen in 7 years, posting about their babies and nursing school and what a wild time they had last night at Big Woody’s. When I stumble upon an article by NPR: Tight Control of Type 1 Diabetes Saves Lives, But It’s Tough, I almost don’t read it.

I’ve read a million articles about the importance of tight blood sugar control in correlation to long-term health effects. They make me feel like shit. They stress me out. If you just maintain a steady stream of blood glucose levels between 80 and 130, they coo, then you will be more likely to avoid complications. Click here for a list of 974 complications that diabetics are 8 times more likely to have. But if you just keep your blood sugar in control, they say -quietly wrapping me in a heavy blanket of accountability, guilt, and pressure- you can prevent- or slow the progress- of some of these.

It is the title of this particular article that intrigues me to click on it. But it’s tough. This is the first paragraph:

 Here’s more evidence that for people with Type 1 diabetes, strict blood sugar control matters – in this case, it actually reduces the risk of early death. But another study reveals the grim reality: Those with the condition still die about a decade sooner than those without.

 But.

Grim reality.

Still.

Decade sooner.

It’s tough.

I’m dizzy with words I don’t like.

What I find tough is hearing that regardless of how often I try to fill the bowl of my autoimmune disease, 10 years ‘will’ be pulled out from under me like a rug. Perhaps another title for this article would be Tight Control of Type 1 Diabetes Saves Lives, But It’s Not Enough.

But. Still.

What can I do?

God damnit, what can any of us do? What choices do we have?

It is so profound and yet so very simple.

No escape or denial; we have to go forward in the direction we intended to go.

In the face of fear, of complications, of years hanging in the balance, I have to keep going. I have to keep doing the things I least want to do, because the things I most want to do depend on it. Like living, for instance. That’s something I like to do, and something I wish to continue to do.

Good health is so essential, which seems so obvious, and yet sometimes I still forget. Sometimes I just try to glide by, not bolusing for my meal before I eat, or even right after, or rationally knowing my blood sugar is too high to eat the doughnut, and eating it anyways. It feels damn good to put the middle finger to diabetes sometimes. It feels damn good to not do the things you hate doing.

But then, my blood sugar is so low that my bones quiver, or so high that my chest feels full of hot lava, and guilt and fear are seeping through my pores and I am once again confronted with the ways I least want to feel.

The ways I least want to feel are worse than the things I least want to do.

After I finish reading that article, I close my laptop and pick up the recycled glass jam jar that sits on my dresser. It holds my daily routine items: makeup brushes, mascara, strawberry lip balm, and Lantus, the long-lasting insulin I take once daily, at roughly the same time every morning. I dial 24 units, pull the right side of my pajama pants down, and inject into the pinched flesh of my right hip. Countdown from 10 and release.

3 needles before breakfast. A decade of my life threatened before I’ve had my coffee.

But. Yet. Still. What can I do?

It seems there is only one option, really.

To do the things I least want to do, to choose to thrive anyway.

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14 Comments

  1. Avatar
    MT
    January 10, 2015 / 9:57 pm

    As a fellow T1D, I can only agree with everything written. It’s a bullshit disease which pounds us both mentally and physically with no reprieve regardless of good behaviour. Then there’s that constant confusion between types and the ever present societal judgement we receive when medicating in public, requesting to see food labels, tearing through our backpacks for “fast sugar”, or stuttering and stammering during a low episode. Befuddle your friends and family with anxiety over small schedule changes in mealtimes, sleep, exercise and the fear you have about running out of test strips. Don’t even get me started on the unexplained crashes and Everest-like climbs.

    Did I mention how much I enjoy the, “I know all about diabetes, we had a diabetic cat when I was growing up” and “If you just eat right, you’ll get it back under control…My uncle takes a pill and he lost some weight, I’ll ask him what he uses to fix it.” conversations? Splendid dialog. You’re cat has a tail and shits in sandbox, I do neither, please don’t compare us and your Uncle Carl eats like a pig and can’t put his feet in front of one another quickly enough to consider it exercise.

    Started this morning at 212 as well and I took 24 units of Lantus last night – T1D twins?! Awesome slash worst news ever. Keep enjoying Europe, and if you get to Madrid you have to go to San Gines for their chocolate con churros — incredible (go 2 hours after dinner and use it as a “snack”). Life changing and it’s the first place I’ll go if I ever get Uncle Carl’s “pills” and they magically regenerate my panc.

    I love your blog, I love Europe and fuck Type-1.

    • Sarah V. January 12, 2015 / 12:05 pm

      I had a friend in high school who would always ask me for advice/insight on his diabetic cat and I would always say the same thing back– I’M NOT A CAT SO IT’S NOT THE SAME THING hahaha. Thanks for the tip of chocolate con churros, they sound heavenly. Also thanks for reading 🙂 Keep fighting the good fight!

  2. Avatar
    Robin Bergman
    January 11, 2015 / 4:52 am

    I hope that science will find a way Sarah. I just recently learned, from your mom, that you had been diagnosed with this. What a shitty hand to be dealt. Perhaps having this is what gets you to take the leaps you do. To try things you might be afraid to do, but now do anyway. Love reading your writings.

    • Sarah V. January 12, 2015 / 12:09 pm

      Thanks, Robin! I definitely think diabetes has influenced how I’m choosing to live, the adventures I go on and all. Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Avatar January 12, 2015 / 3:33 pm

    One of the first things I read after being diagnosed almost 24 years ago was: The average life expectancy of a male in the USA living with Type 1 diabetes was 59 1/2 years. I think that’s changed for the better since, and that’s what I hope will continue to happen if we can just stay healthy enough, despite the unfair nature of this disease. Great post.

    Also, as a side note: I hope to be traveling near your part of the world soon.

    • Sarah V. January 20, 2015 / 9:35 pm

      59 1/2 is so specific! How strange. I hate being given numbers like that, because I can never fully get them out of my head afterwards. But anyways, I think (I hope) that the life expectancy has changed since then. That’s just not enough time.

      And this is a wonderful part of the world to travel to! I hope you have a great time 🙂
      Thank you, as always, for reading and commenting, Stephen!

  4. Avatar January 14, 2015 / 3:51 am

    I wouldn’t have even read the article. I’ve seen hundreds like it, and they all say the same thing – and they never do anything to make me feel better or to teach me anything useful. That sympathetic “But it’s tough” could make it mighty alluring though,,,

    • Sarah V. January 20, 2015 / 9:37 pm

      I KNOW! I never usually read them either. I think it’s because NPR published it that made me intrigued.

  5. Avatar February 5, 2015 / 7:41 pm

    I feel your pain! Our doctors really don’t get the hard part of diabetes (and it isn’t needles and fingersticks – although try the heel of your hand – much less pain) it is coping with a roller coaster illness you can never get off. Doctors judge us in our efforts and make us feel we should be 100% “on”all the time and our lives are nothing more than a series of glucose readings and A1Cs. I believe the real key to diabetes control is not having doctors scare the bejesus out of you )fear as motivator doesn’t work), but acceptance and ownership, where you are in control, calling the shots, and managing your day to day life (part of which included diabetes – some days its your highest priority and some days it just isn’t. I went through therapy with a licensed therapist several years after I was diagnosed. Turns out my propblem wasn’t diabetes, but how I handled problems in general. When I quit trying to run away, quit being a victim and started feeling more worthy as a person, the things I needed to do to manage my blood sugar became less cumbersome. It changed something in how I percieved things and gave me new life skills. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, so I try to live each day to the fullest. Check out my blog if you get a sec.

  6. Avatar
    Beth N.
    February 27, 2015 / 2:15 pm

    Thank you for your post and for each and everyone’s replies. Being the mother of a T1D I really appreciate reading about your experiences and feelings. Please keep sharing and I promise to keep listening. I will continue to correct and educate the misinformed one at a time in the hopes that you’ll have just a little less pressure from those who just don’t have a clue.

    • Sarah V. March 2, 2015 / 8:43 pm

      Thank you, Beth, for reading and listening and working to educate the misinformed. My mom also regularly read a T1D blog (Six Until Me) when I was a teenager and just knowing that she was reading it, knowing that she was trying to understand what I was going through, was a huge comfort to me.

  7. Avatar February 27, 2015 / 4:20 pm

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    You’re a fantastic writer, this was so beautifully articulated. You brought me to tears in the ways I could relate. I needed this. I’ve had the worst month with control and the threat of long-term effects have been looming over my head and haunting me every day. I paint my blood sugars, if you’re interested in seeing my work, check out my Behance page. My website is currently in the works! Keep writing, you’re inspiring.
    Merci. Merci. Merci.

    • Sarah V. March 2, 2015 / 8:39 pm

      Thanks so much, Lauren! I visited your website and your art is amazing! I love it so much! xo

  8. Avatar
    Amy
    March 23, 2015 / 10:06 am

    This so accurate! 26years old, 24 years of T1D, and still trying to convince numptys that NO ITS NOT TYPE 2 I have this disease because my white blood cells attacked my pancreas by mistake! Give me a break! Great article I have shared it!

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