Diabetes - What it's Like on the Inside
It's always the same and yet it's always different.
Sometimes it starts with a dry throat and a gentle headache right between my eyes. The kind that makes me squint a bit and brings out those frown lines that I get when I'm thinking hard about something.
Sometimes it starts with a yawn. And then another one. And then another one. I usually start slouching in my chair a bit or get up to make some tea in an effort to wake up.
Sometimes my elbows start to feel a little less bendy. Like the fluid in my joints is starting to solidify.
Sometimes I get a funny taste in my mouth.
Sometimes the symptoms stop there. Sometimes they get worse and my dry throat becomes a crushing thirst, my gentle headache starts to pound, my yawns flow into each other and my joints all begin to join the stiffening chorus. Sometimes my hands start to ache.
Sometimes I clue in quickly. Other times I don't.
I always clue in eventually and grab my glucometer - knowing I'm going to see 16+ on the screen.
Sometimes my lips and tongue start to tingle just a bit. The way they feel when the freezing is coming out after a trip to the dentist.
Sometimes my heart starts beating a little faster and feels like a fluttering bird in my chest.
Sometimes I start to yawn. And yawn. And yawn. I go make a cup of green tea in an effort to wake up a bit.
Sometimes my limbs start to feel light, like gravity was turned down a notch. I become a little more awkward and clumsy than usual.
Sometimes little things annoy me. Things that didn't annoy me even a minute before and things that don't normally annoy me...ever.
Sometimes I clue in quickly. Sometimes I don't.
When I don't, my lips and tongue start tingling a lot - to the point where I can hardly feel them. My heart beat gets crazier and I start to sweat. It comes on fast and furious at that point and I can easily sweat through a hoodie and a jacket as well as my jeans in minutes. The yawns progress to the point where I can hardly get a sentence out between them. The world starts to spin. I need to sit down.
What I really need to do is grab some juice.
Diabetes is a textbook disease made up of numbers. Dosages. Ratios. Units. Time.
Diabetes is often summarized on a piece a paper with pictures of people drinking water or looking pale and shaky. It comes with warnings that a person is in one of the two ends of the blood sugar spectrum and helpful suggestions about what to do.
Diabetes is all of those things. And it's none of those things.
Diabetes is the horror of waking up drenched in sweat and hardly able to reach the Dex 4s on your bedside table and wondering, through the haze, "what if I hadn't woken up?"
Diabetes is the fear of going back to sleep in case it happens again. And it's the feeling of isolation when you get to the pool the next morning, tired and shaken, and no one has any idea what you've been through and how scared you were...and how important it was to get up early anyway so diabetes doesn't win.
Diabetes is the horror of struggling to control a blood sugar of 25 with dose after dose of insulin and feeling that every minute you spend up in the clouds is another minute that diabetes is doing damage to your body. The only body you have. And diabetes is wondering if this high will be the high that puts me over the edge to the land of no return.
Diabetes is the fear of going low 1500m from shore during a triathlon swim and yet still getting in the water because the fear of letting diabetes dictate your life is greater than the fear of an open-water low.
Diabetes is squinting at the tiny air bubbles in your insulin tube, carefully priming to get them out, and then wondering if anyone will do that for you if your eyesight fails and you are no longer able to do that for yourself one day.
Diabetes is listening to people talk about other people with diabetes and all the horrible things happening to them...and refusing to let that stop you from trying to be healthy even though it's just so easy to give up and hand diabetes the reigns.
Diabetes is about doing the same thing, day after day after day, knowing it's only going to work half the time.
Diabetes is about finding a way to be proud of the fact that you test your blood sugar in public and have tubes coming out of you as you walk around the change room after your swim. Because the alternative is hiding and that's not an alternative you're willing to entertain.
Diabetes is all numbers and ratios and signs and symptoms on the outside.
On the inside, it's a never-ending battle between fear and courage. Between motivation and depression. Between the will to fight and the urge to throw in the towel.
Sometimes I'm the one on the left. Sometimes I'm the one on the right.
Depends on the day.