Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's Not the Sweetest Thing

So, a year ago, give or take a week, I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. I believe I made passing reference to this once, but in honor of the anniversary, I thought I'd treat this to a bit more thorough an examination.

I have seen very positive results to my physical fitness as a result. In the past year I have ridden the East Lansing bus about 23 times, walking for most of my other intra-Lansing trips, although anything over 3 miles I tend to walk one way and beg a ride the other. I have lost 55 pounds, which seems quite good, but also highlights how much excess weight I was/am still carrying. I make a point to be more active, adding ping-pong and more dancing to my usual fare of dancing. And I try to eat, if not well, then at least less.

I cannot totally attribute this turn around to my diagnosis. As I mentioned to my parents shortly after my diagnosis, it may have been a wake up call, but I was a lighter sleeper than usual at the time as well. Even before that summer, I was gradually wresting my life back from a malaise that had gripped me for a few years, probably instigated by a break up that rather unsettled my life, then prolonged by my incredibly brilliant idea to move to a place where I had no social support a couple years later, when I think I was actually making decent progress climbing out of the first emotional pit I was in.

Anyway, a couple of months prior to this I had started dancing in Michigan finally, so it was the first time I was dancing weekly since graduating. Even my willingness to make a follow up appointment and get my diagnosis indicates something good about my state of mind, as my first inclination when faced with an excess of stress is to curl up in fetal position (metaphorically sometimes) and hope it goes away.

However, getting diagnosed was not all roses and lollipops as it may sound. I really wish that I had blogged or journaled in those first couple of months following my diagnosis, as my thought process was interesting and I would like a first hand account of it. I remember feeling very guilty! I was also bitter, at my first appointment I was provisionally diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and I actually changed my diet and behavior as a response to that, which was odd for me. It isn't as though the diagnosis came as a surprise, our health education system is good enough that a smart kid like me got the message that being sedentary and overweight was a recipe for all sorts of health problems, I just didn't want to/didn't think I was able to confront my lifestyle issues.

So, to be diagnosed as a diabetic about a week after I came to believe that I was capable of doing something about my health was a bitter pill. I'd like to say ironic, but that usually indicates unexpected, maybe it was ironic in the sense that it felt like a cosmic joke. Fortunately, this bitterness has somewhat abated with the realization that, for the most part, being diabetic has not adversely affected my opportunities. I take pills twice a day and eat more like I should have been eating anyway and my blood sugar nearly regulates itself (crazy homeostasis, I know!). The only extra needles I face are twice a year to have my blood tested, since little pinpricks for self-tests hardly count.

As I mentioned, I felt guilty, and continue to feel that way. Partially because I do believe that if I'd eaten better from the get-go I probably would not have developed diabetes. This guilt is partially, but not entirely, alleviated by my belief that at least now I am dealing with it in a fairly positive manner. But what really makes me feel guilty is Type I diabetics. I feel like I am trivializing what they HAVE to go through, due to a birth condition, by calling my rather manageable and somewhat self-inflicted problem diabetes.

I also was very sad or shocked when I first got the diagnosis. Whatever the reason, I spent quite a bit of time morosely brooding about it and crying when I was safely ensconced someplace private. This has almost completely subsided, as I have no real justification to wallow in self pity and the reality of the diagnosis has seeped in.

Finally, I am afraid. Less afraid than when I was first diagnosed, but still afraid. Apparently diabetes can kill you, but that isn't really immediate enough to really worry me. The two symptoms I really associate with diabetes are vision loss and progressive numbing of the extremities. These threaten two of the three best things I do in my life, reading and dancing. So sure, diabetes could kill me, but before it does that it can already take my life away. Late January some of my toes and the side of my foot seemed to lose some sensitivity, once you are consciously trying to feel if your foot feels normal, odds are however it feels will not feel normal. My doctor thinks a pinched nerve is the most likely cause, and it certainly didn't present in a manner consistent with a diabetic system, but for a couple of weeks I was very frightened, and it kept occurring to me that this was too soon, I was not ready to stop dancing. I don't think that I ever will be.

I still play it somewhat close to the vest with my diagnosis, sure I am posting on my blog about it, but that means what, ten people I know will find out, and most of you probably already knew anyway. Part of this is because it isn't really something that comes up in polite conversation, because I can pretty much eat whatever I want still, just now I do so with a mind toward moderation. But, a very real part of it is the guilt, I just don't really want people to know that I am diabetic, like I try to hide most of my flaws, with rather limited success in many areas. However, I don't want people to think I am hiding it from them because I distrust them or something, so when it does come up I try to be open about it, until I can shift the subject, and I think it is probably healthier to be open about it, as I don't really like secrets, so I am even trying to become comfortable bringing it up in conversation. As far as the Internet goes, comfort is still lacking, but I am able to broach the topic now. Presuming I posted this, eh?


elfarmy17 said...

You did indeed post it. ;)

They say that awareness of the desire for change is the first step on the path to said change. Who "they" is, I am not sure, but it seems like they know some things.

Audio books are amazing things, but I wholeheartedly concur that reading is one of the most important (and enjoyable) things to be able (and willing) to do.

nibick said...

Kenny, I am happy that you are being so proactive about maintaining a healthier lifestyle! Kerri's grandma was a diabetic and she led a long, happy life by properly managing her diabetes. The hard work you are putting in now to change your habits will pay off as you get older; so keep it up!

Kenny said...

@Elfarmy: But so few blogs make audio books ;)

@Nick: Thanks!

elfarmy17 said...

@Kenny I think those are called "podcasts." :)