I was a graduate student in painting, preparing for my thesis show. I was getting married in 3 months. I went home for a vacation, and when I got back, I was none of those things any more. For 2 weeks, I was just a diabetic.
There were 5 days in the ICU, and there were 10 days at home. Daniel held my hand, he held it and held it and looked small and frightened. We left the hospital with what felt like not nearly enough information. We were scared, and confused, and no one had told us that blood sugars go up and down at the drop of a hat, and that they can be surprising and complicated. No one had explained about the effect of moods. What they had told us was what insulin to take and how much, and when to take it. They told us I needed to check my blood sugar 5 times every day. They told us to treat lows or highs. They left out the part about the duration of active insulin. When what happened to my blood sugars and my body didn’t fit their predictions, I felt like I was failing terribly, like there was something awful wrong with me, like I was unfit to take care of myself.
I had a food chart, and Daniel brought me carefully measured meals with exact carbohydrate counts. He stayed home from work for as long as he could so I wouldn’t be alone. And the days passed, and I felt less shaky and could do more things, and he went back to work and I went in to be a TA in a painting class. My only job was to watch the class and help kids afterwards.
The dress I wore on my first day back didn’t cover the palm-sized bruises on the inside of my elbows, the back of my hands, the sides of my wrists. I shivered in the air conditioning, even though it wasn’t cold. Half of my hair had fallen out from the toxicity of DKA so I cut it off at my chin, though fortunately I have thick hair and it was difficult to tell. I looked different, and my friends didn’t know what to say, and I didn’t have the energy to tell them that this would be okay, that I would be fine. I didn’t know if it would be, or if I would be.
It’s been more than four years since then. It took a long time, but it is okay. Right now, I am okay. Daniel’s okay. I finished my MFA, I had my thesis show, I got married. I learned more about diabetes than I ever wanted to know. I lost some friends along the way, but I lost them gently, and I made new ones who can love me as a diabetic, as someone who needs predictability and planning and caution in her life.
And then I found the Diabetes OC, and hundreds of people who know exactly what it’s like, and share my struggle. And that feels like a blessing. So this is my letter of gratitude to each of you, for helping these memories seem less unique, and helping each compromise that I must make, and each test I must do, and each minute that I spend thinking about diabetes seem just a bit less isolating.