This time of year is like New Year's for me. A time of reflection on my past, on where I come from and how diabetes has shaped who I am, and a time of anticipation for my future, on where I am going and how diabetes will change me.
Most of the time I don't really think about how diabetes has shaped my personality. My daily existence with diabetes is tied up with finger pricks, infusion sets, carbohydrate counting and figuring out where to put my pump when I get dressed. I don't think about my anger, resentments and frustrations with diabetes, unless I'm struck by a blog post, or a presentation or a memory. I don't try to deny what it's done, it's just not something I typically talk about. My role, as I see it, is to talk about realistically adapting to the challenges of diabetes in order to grow up and be as healthy and happy as possible.
Of course, realistically adapting to diabetes is probably the hardest thing we have to do.
This makes it all the more troubling when I have to talk about it from a personal perspective.
I have control issues. I've known about it for a long time, but I didn't realize until my sophomore year in college what had actually happened.
During my sophomore year, I was depressed. I'm not sure if it was clinical depression or just a "I'm-a-teen-and-everything-sucks" phase. Whatever it was, my life was changing rapidly. Within six months, I had moved twice. My roommate moved out. I was trying to figure out which education path I wanted to take - stay with journalism or move into P.R. I had fallen in love and then had my heart broken by a boy who didn't even want to be friends. I spent weeks trying to integrate myself into a Christian youth group, which ended up threatening to shatter my faith. At the end of this six month period, I had my highest A1C ever, ringing in at 9.2.
On April 17, 2005, for the fourth time in just five months, I cut myself. With my lancet.
When I signed up for therapy the following day, I began the process of figuring out what had happened. In my mind, I wasn't really a cutter. Cutters, I thought, did it all the time. I had only done it six times since my junior year in high school. But I had started smoking as a way to also hurt myself, so I had some masochistic tendancies I needed to stop.
As I talked to my therapist, it became apparent that I had a habit of believing a lot of things were my fault. My roommate moving out was my fault. Not being able to make strong friendships was my fault. The boy breaking my heart was my fault.
I believed, mistakenly, that if I had said something, done something, tried something differently, that things would have worked out and I could have changed the situation.
But most of the time, I didn't even understand what the problem was. And that was the most frustrating fact of all.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8, and all through childhood and now as an adult, I was instructed to examine my diabetes to find out what happened when things went wrong.
I'm high - did I forget to bolus?
I'm low - did I miscount the carbohydrates?
I'm normal - what did I do differently and how can I repeat it?
It was a constant stream "What did you do?" And I had to figure out what the answer was. Diabetes, in a perfect world, is completely controlled by the patient. I mean, blood sugar is essentially controlled by four things: food, insulin, exercise and stress (well, five if you count the weather). Who controls what you eat, how much insulin you take, and when you exercise? You do. Even if you don't really believe that we are in control of our diabetes, because of all the underlying factors that fuck things up, we've all been taught this.
It's either a horrible truth or an outrageous lie, and I have a feeling it's somewhere in the middle.
When I looked at my life, at age 19, and could see all these ups and downs my life was taking, I couldn't identify what the problem was. Nor could I do anything to bring it back to normal.
There are always ups and downs with life, and then there are times when things are fairly stable and normal. But the problem is, we usually don't have as much say in it as we would like. A normal, stable life happens about as often as a normal, stable blood sugar. People come and go, they say stupid and hurtful things, they are born one day and die another, and they can accomplish the most amazing, heroic and beautiful acts that anyone has even seen.
But the only thing that you can control is you. Everything else is fair game.
I think diabetes gave me a false expectation on my ability to control my life. When something bad happens, when my life goes "out of range," I immediately want to identify the problem and fix it. Now. Give me that syringe, I need to bring this back to normal.
But I can't do that. And on the eve of my thirteenth anniversary, I am still learning how much of my life really, truly is out of my control and how I need to learn to appreciate the spontaneity of it, instead of trying to control it like I try to control my diabetes.
Because, you know, Rock Stars
are pretty spontaneous.