Diabetes Daily

My Type 2 Diabetes Is Forcing Me to Find a New Reason to Live – Diabetes Daily

By Abby Hanna

April 21st, 2021 was when it finally happened. It was around 1:00 am and I was dozing off in bed. With the melatonin in my system and a good day behind me, I had no reason to be up any longer. My nights were usually long and painful due to my anxiety and lively thoughts, but that morning I had a good enough day to let me sleep peacefully. An exceptional day even. I had gotten my blood work from the day before back, and it looked like everything was stellar. My doctor emailed me that afternoon- “Hello Ms. Hanna, your labs look good overall.” I had carelessly overlooked the note she left about my low cholesterol (I’ll just eat more avocado toast or something) and went on with my day proud of how my body was taking care of itself without me ever having to intervene.

And then came that night. That was supposed to be a peaceful night. Me dozing off in bed. Melatonin in my system. And something told me to check my email. I decided why not, noone ever sends anything important at 1:00 am, it’ll be a quick scroll and then right to bed. I noticed another email from my doctor, more blood work results from the other day. I clicked on the message that revealed the results, and it was as if someone had replaced that sleepy pill in my system with Adderall. I’ve never sobered up so fast. I actually had a little bit of research to do from the information that she gave me. What I was looking at wasn’t an email explaining my labs, but the actual labs themselves. With a bit of research and decoding, I had confirmed what I thought was true. A cold chill ran through me as I stared at my labs. I rubbed my eyes to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. No, those labs are correct Abby. You have type 2 diabetes.

It was like finding out that your deepest fears were true. Like looking under the bed and seeing that the boogie man actually was there, or feeling the pain of pinching yourself when you thought that you were dreaming. Or looking behind you and realizing that someone is indeed following you, or getting a test back with a big fat F that you couldn’t afford to fail, or opening your bedroom blinds to reveal a dark figure is watching you, or hearing the sputtering of your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere, or reading your lab results in the middle of the night that say: You. Have. Diabetes. It was the end of my world. My body purged itself of any reason to sleep and immediately filled itself with anxiety and anguish. I did eventually end up going to sleep hours later, after learning every single thing on earth about diabetes.

I actually entered a state of bliss for the next few days. I had found out that my A1c (the number that tracks your blood sugar and how much excess sugar you have in your body) was relatively low when it came to the diabetic range. If your A1c is 6.5 or higher, you have diabetes, and mine was 6.6. I felt great about that, and although I aggressively changed my diet the next couple of days, I held dearly to my truth, which was that I wasn’t that much of a diabetic, only a little diabetic. A diet diabetic, if you will!

I knew that when I had a phone call with my doctor she would reassure me that everyone else’s diabetes was bad and that mine was just fine and that with a couple of smoothies, I’d be diabetes-free and back to normal like everyone else. So I waited a couple of days for my appointment. I set up MyFitnessPal. Ate a couple more vegetables, just for kicks, because I knew that when you have diabetes lite like me, you just have to add an order of apples to your McDonald’s meal instead of throwing it out all together.

Monday came around and we finally had the conversation. She told me everything I already knew about diabetes due to my extensive research days before. I told her that my worst habit is eating once a day. She sent a couple of informational videos about living with diabetes and told me that a nutritionist would be calling me soon. And then I posed the question. “So this is like a short-term thing, right? My A1c is pretty low for diabetes, so I just need to get it even lower and then I won’t have diabetes anymore, right?” And then she told me that this diagnosis was forever.

I started sobbing. And I sobbed through the rest of my conversation with her. I sobbed while telling my mom. I sobbed while on my walk. I sobbed in the grocery store while I picked up the “5 best foods to combat high blood sugar”. I sobbed while sitting in the car thinking about how I couldn’t flip this to be something that it’s not. I realized that this was the first thing that I couldn’t run from. I had successfully coped with everything in my life with the help of food. Food was my sidekick, my refuge, my safe space. And with this, I couldn’t run to food. I actually had to do the opposite. I had to run away from food because if I ran to it, it would be the very thing that kills me one day. It made me think about my relationship with myself and my body on a whole new level.

For as long as I can remember, food has been my safety blanket. It was my hobby. I had always loved cooking and wouldn’t mind taking the extra 20 minutes to turn top ramen into fine cuisine, or slow cooking something in the oven to make the taste richer. I loved the crinkly sounds of a takeout order, the squishy packets of soy sauce and ketchup, the red Thank You’s staring at me with gratitude as I opened the bag to reveal what treasure I ordered for that day. I loved the sizzling sound of a raw egg hitting a hot pan. The bubbling boil of a ripe stew slowly melding its flavors over a low fire. Everything about food was special to me, it was an experience, and I unabashedly leaned into it. Eating was my favorite thing to do and I would eat if I felt sad, if I was happy, to celebrate, to commemorate, to combat boredom. Everyone is supposed to eat, obviously, but I wouldn’t shy away from giving myself my favorite foods whenever I wanted them. These tendencies got a lot worse during the pandemic. I was already fighting my depression with cheeseburgers and my anxiety with brownies. The addition of a global catastrophe was scary, but it was no match for pad thai, mac and cheese, and crab rangoon. I felt justified giving myself whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. And why should I feel bad? I hate my life so I’m gonna enjoy my meals because it’s the only thing keeping me from killing myself!

Oops. Did I just say that?

The thought came tumbling to the forefront of my brain as I sat in the car thinking about this new life I would have to live with diabetes. I realized that the only thing keeping me alive was food. Literally. I hated everything else, my depression had taken everything from me but the sweet taste of lemonade or the spicy kick of kimchi. I realized that I hated my body and thus didn’t care what went into it. Growing up with body dysmorphia has made me distance myself from myself as much as physically possible. And mental illness has made me work towards quieting my brain and running from my problems in any way that I can. So, I don’t do my hair, I wear big chunky outfits to hide my body, I let the root of my fears hide in the crevices of my brain, and I revisit my good pal Caviar because it’s the only thing keeping me from ending it all. And now I am forced to take care of my body.

Learning about all the things that can contribute to high blood sugar was probably one of the wildest parts of the diagnosis. Anxiety, bad sleep habits, and stress are three things that I am too familiar with, and three things that also can raise blood sugar. Not eating enough and not getting enough exercise are also three things that can increase your blood sugar, or put it at alarmingly low rates.

Being diabetic means being confronted with my body’s health and well-being for the first time. It doesn’t just mean having more smoothies but it means sleeping at an appropriate time and making sure that I’m not stressing about all the worries of life. It means drinking enough water because my body deserves water, and it means going on a walk because my body deserves to feel the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the wind. This is hard for me. Because I want to sleep all day and I want to stress eat. I want my first time of the day leaving the house to be when I pick up my Ono Hawaiian from the delivery driver. I don’t want to have to think about loving myself and what that really means. But I have to. I have to make the decision to prioritize myself even though indulgence has felt like prioritizing me this whole time. It clearly wasn’t. Because this is where it got me. I don’t know what self-love is and I’m scared to find out, but I know that my security blanket has been ripped from me, and although it’s cold and painful, I hope there is something worth it on the other side.

 

Editor’s note: If you are struggling with mental health issues and diabetes, we urge you to seek professional help. The American Diabetes Association maintains a registry of mental health providers that have specially trained on caring for patients with diabetes.



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