Being inside of my body terrifies me. It is not an overwhelming or all-consuming emotion, and it doesn’t occupy a lot of time or space in the forefront of my brain, but, the thoughts are there. They exist and they scare me.
The fear is more than just dreading the potential terrors of daily life with diabetes. Having concerns regarding both hypo and hyperglycemic episodes is certainly acceptable and should always be expected. Yet, those are not the thoughts that keep me awake at night. The fear I’m talking about is of all the unknowns and uncertainties. Every twinge, every ache makes me question the things I could never know; the things that only time will tell. The things I no longer have control over.
Growing up, I always had a good relationship with food. Never a picky eater, I happily consumed anything placed in front of me. Whether it was a plate full of vegetables, or a piece of chocolate cake, there were few things I didn’t love and almost nothing I wouldn’t try. I am grateful that my parents exposed both myself, and my brothers, to all sorts of cuisine and adamantly enforced the policy that, “you get what you get, and you don’t get upset”. There was no such thing as a separate dinner menu for the kids. We ate what they ate, because my parents refused to have children who survived on merely chicken fingers and french fries. We grew to appreciate the nutritious and hearty, home cooked meals that graced our dinner table each evening. The experience of living in a home with a family who made mealtime a priority, is something that I do not take for granted and will surely try to emulate if I ever have a family of my own.
It can happen more quickly than you’d think. One minute everything seems fine, then suddenly an instinctual twinge deep within your gut suggests otherwise. Maybe it’s hunger or perhaps just fatigue. Maybe it’s nothing at all.
Feeling slightly shaky and light-headed, cognitive confusion begins to set in as beads of sweat form on the back of your neck. They slide down your spine as you fumble through your bag for your glucometer and test strips. With hands that suddenly can’t keep still, you prick your finger and watch the drop of blood get sucked away to be tested. How many milligrams per deciliter will it be?
Your lips are tingling, the feeling of pins and needles explodes like electricity across your body, and your heart feels as if it’s beating abnormally. The unexplainable anxiety and tightness in your chest say what the meter will prove. The numbers on the screen count down until the answer is revealed. You are LOW. The sensations you are feeling are the result of your body’s fight for survival. Each and every cell within your flesh and bones is screaming for more sugar and you need to act fast.
I never went to diabetes camp. Being diagnosed in high school, I was a little too old to attend as a camper and, therefore, didn’t have the opportunity to experience this classic diabetes rite of passages others may remember fondly. Though I am grateful to have had a solid fifteen years without T1D, never having my Halloween or birthday party fun negatively impacted by blood sugar checks and insulin injections, it does slightly disappoint me that I missed out on the opportunity to connect with other diabetic children at a younger age. The feeling of camaraderie and understanding described by others who participated in diabetes camps is something that I’ve always hoped to find despite being an adult. For so long, I yearned to be in the same physical vicinity of a big group people who also had diabetes.