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On Thursday, the day before my wisdom teeth surgery, I typed out a list of diabetes-related information that I thought my roommate, Owens, should know. He was the one driving me to and from my surgery, thus was entrusted with managing my entire life as a whole, in case anesthesia and/or painkillers made me unable to do so. This list began innocently enough, with things like “This is the range my blood sugar should be in” and “Here is what to do if it’s below 80,” but it quickly grew to be an entire page long, and even then, there were so many things I’d left out. Like circumstances of activity and pain and the last time I’d eaten and the next time I’d eat and the protein/fat/carbs in that food and how much of it I’d even be able to swallow because of the state of my mouth. There is so much that goes into this

I’d never before tried to explain in any real depth how my management of diabetes worked, and to see it on paper was stunning. I sat there for a minute looking at all the information that had just flown out of my head and onto the page, and thought, Thank god I know myself. Thank god I have myself. The idea of temporarily not having myself to take care of me was freaking me out, despite how attentive and well equipped the doctors were, despite how intelligent and caring my friend was.

All I could think was: But they are not me.

Finally, while writing up this list, I thought, I cannot give Owens more than one page of instructions on How To Keep Me Alive; it’s going to scare the shit out of him. So I stopped at the end of the page and wrote, “If you have any questions, please call my friend, Amy. Here’s her number. She also has Type 1 diabetes.”

(After I printed it out, I was feeling smug about how “prepared” I was. How Responsible Adult of me. 5 minutes later, I pulled the paper out of my purse and saw that I’d spilled water all over it. Whatever, it dried. It’s fine…)

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When I gave the piece of paper to Owens, he studied it for 15 minutes and asked me questions. It was strange for me, and probably for him, because we’ve been best friends for 8 years now. We’ve backpacked through Europe together, and gone on camping trips and road trips to Tennessee and Boston and Alabama. We’ve lived together for a few months now, but even before then, for nearly a decade we’d grown up together and hung out so often we basically lived together. He knows me better than most people, and yet, here we were– me, after all this time, only now explaining all of this to him.

Me: I have to have a juice box, then wait 15 minutes.

Him: What happens after 15 minutes?

Me: If it isn’t raised enough, I need more sugar. Also a snack so it stabilizes.

 —

Me: I take 2 different types of insulin every day.

Him: Wait, why?

Me: One is only in the morning, as a kind of baseline. Extended release. 22 units.

Him: How do you measure the units? 

 —

Me: 2 beeps means high and 3 beeps means low.

Him: I feel like 3 beeps should mean high.

Me: ……..Why?

Him: Because its, like, an extra beep, ya know. Like, it’s higher.

Me: Wha–no, don’t confuse yourself. 3 beeps means low. That’s just how it is. 

 

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I have no satisfactory explanation as to why I’ve never broken all of this down to someone before. No explanation other than… I didn’t feel the need to. Emotionally, that is.

I’ve carried myself by writing, and by having a handful of Type 1 friends to go to with questions, concerns, camaraderie. This blog has opened a portal of connectivity I never saw coming, and now I can’t imagine not having it. I feel rich in community, and I’m grateful for that.

I’ve also not explained myself before because I didn’t want to have to justify things, or I didn’t want people to worry, or any number of other reasons. But, for a long time, there had been a physical need. A just-in-case need. Honestly, for months, I’d been meaning to show Owens how to use glucagon– just in case he ever found me unconscious, or things were going rapidly downhill. But I never did. I don’t know why, exactly. I’m not the most precautionary person, I’ll tell you that. Maybe a naive part of me just hoped it would never come to that– the same way, until this year, I never carried an umbrella with me. I just hoped it wouldn’t rain. Forecast be damned.

But so, I introduced Owens to the world of my illness.

I explained to him how things work here and why they work this way and how fragile and resilient we can simultaneously be.

In the end, he didn’t even have to refer to my paper. I was loopy, but still able to take care of myself. It blows my mind sometimes, how capable we  are of managing the complexity of this disease in the wildest of circumstances. We just know.

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Last night, at 1:30am, Owens opened my door. “Sarah,” he whispered. “Your blood sugar monitor is beeping.”

“Oh, shit, thanks,” I whispered back, reaching for my Dexcom on the bedside table. I’m a very light sleeper, but even still, somewhere along the line my brain got used to these beeps and they take a long time to wake me now.

“It’s 3 beeps,” he added. “So, it’s low.”

 

Part of his concern made my heart swell, and part of it made my heart shatter.

The portal is open now; he’s more aware of what is continuously going on with me.

Though he’d heard my Dexcom beep a thousand nights before, he now got out of bed to make sure I was okay.

Knowing that he knows how it works is a comforting thing. It is, too, a weighted thing.

 

 

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For the past two weeks, I have been living in a small house in my mind built of these 2 questions:

Should I try to eat low-carb?

and

Should I stop drinking?

I think my body would thank me heartily if I YES and YES’d both of these things.

My blood sugar, in particular (which is the only reason I’m considering the low carb thing) would maybe look less like the inconceivable Rocky Mountains, and more like, I don’t know, some mild, rolling hills. Or even better, a straight line, a still morning lake.

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I was doing a tarot reading recently and pulled the Ten of Disks, Wealth. A passage in the book that accompanies these cards stated, Clinging and grasping arise out of fear (conscious or unconscious) of deficiency.

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A strange thing happens when you open yourself up to a wider range of possibility:

things and people find you or you find them or you find each other, and they are your guides.

This week, I’ve been stumbling upon story after story which answers questions and reinforces ideas that I hadn’t yet spoken out loud.

+ It’s Carbs.

This woman writes about sobriety better than anyone I’ve ever read. I cried, laughing at the truth.

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I mean, if cheese were a carb, the game would be over before it began.

So there is my gratitude list.

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There is this haunting little idea, Moderation. I decided a few days ago–I actually deliberated this for quite some time–that the word Moderation is my least favorite word in the English language.

I’d rather commit to something altogether than expend the mental energy on half-hearted things. Grey areas are okay, or even essential, in some scenarios, but in others it just makes every decision more complicated. It makes a choice feel heavier, which is ironic because generally the idea of 80/20, 99%, etc., is to give you some breathing room, some flexibility. I require a high level of accountability because when I don’t have it, I start making up my own counter-intuitive rules to get out and around and between things. I’m brilliant at it! So I require a bit (ok, a lot) of structure.

For better or worse, the way my brain works is akin to those black & white cookies they sell at Starbucks, which Carrie Bradshaw ate on Sex and The City that one time. You know the ones. They’re delicious. I wonder how many carbs are in them.

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But I’m only 25!!!! I think to myself, breathless with grief for black & white cookies potentially uneaten, wine potentially undrunk.

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It all comes down to the question of What is truly worth it? 

The summer I turned 23, right after I graduated from college, everything I ate or drank made me feel sick. Everything. For months. And no doctor could tell me why. I had an endoscopy, to see if I had Celiac. I didn’t. I ate a radioactive egg sandwich and laid under a machine that tracked my digestion for two hours, to see if I had gastroparesis. I didn’t. I had bloodwork, x-rays, physical exams. Nothing, nothing, nothing. I laid in my bed on warm summer days and cried and wrote this in my journal:

If you don’t have a foundation of health, you don’t have anything.

Thinking of this simplifies certain decisions. But I’m young. And none of this is easy.