Today’s prompt for Diabetes Blog Week asks, with slight modification by me, “What is one thing you would tell someone who doesn’t have (my) diabetes about living with (my) diabetes?”
Because Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease, people who have it are in an astonishingly wide variety of health situations. I have friends who get good control through diet and exercise, friends who just need oral medication, and friends who require daily basal insulin. I also have friends who are fully insulin-dependent, including one friend who requires so much insulin that she takes a special formulation that’s at ten times the normal strength. People with Type 2 can be otherwise perfectly healthy, and they can be very sick individuals indeed. It’s not uncommon for Type 2s to be diagnosed after complications have already appeared.
Me? I’m pretty lucky, so far. I get pretty good (though possibly slipping) control on an oral medication, and have no signs of complications except occasional tingling in the feet. I can certainly get high blood sugars, but it’s not hard for me to avoid rising enough to not feel good. And, it appears that my liver still knows how and when to do a glucose dump, so I don’t at this point experience the lows that trouble most people with diabetes. You could say that even in an ‘invisible disease’ community, mine is (at this time) doubly invisible.
But what I need people to understand, need YOU to understand, is this:
I’m sick, too.
Because of diabetes, my already-iffy metabolism is downright broken. It seems like nothing works quite right. After a lifetime of feeling comfortable at a wide range of temperatures, for example, I feel both heat and cold much more keenly. And of the gang of thugs – diseases often appearing along with T2 – I have high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Because of diabetes (in combination with my personality), I live with fear of the future. I am subject to all the potential complications that all diabetics may face. Blindness, heart disease, loss of feeling in the limbs or even of the limbs themselves, kidney failure: any or all of these may be down the road for me. A while back, I read about a study that appeared to show that T2 is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease – the Alzheimer’s that has my T2 father in a care facility. You can imagine how calm that makes me feel about what is almost certainly normal middle-age loss of mental acuity.
Because of diabetes, the cycles of depression that I experience become downright dangerous. Depression makes the routines of diabetes management to seem both burdensome and also of little value. Depression also calls me into the habits of eating and minimal sleep that I’ve sought comfort in for decades.
I’ve been writing publicly about diabetes for a couple of years now. Even so, I am repelled by just typing the words “I am sick.”
But I am.
And I need you to understand that.