Catherine Price, a T1d, wrote this piece for the NY Times in 2009 … I just read it and it is as current as if it were written yesterday. I sat here, nodding yes as I read it, spot on, every comment, every thought. Thank you, Catherine!
Here are some excerpts … but definitely go read the full article … OUTSTANDING!
When I look at food, I don’t see food. I see sugar — in the form of carbohydrates — plotted on a multidimensional graph with proteins and fat and serving sizes and sickness and exercise and times of day.
To live with Type 1 diabetes means to be aware, constantly aware, of insulin — a hormone produced in the pancreas that unlocks your cells so they can use the energy in your food, which circulates in your blood as glucose. A healthy person’s pancreas pumps out insulin in exact, perfect doses, masterfully managing the level of available glucose so that it never rises too high, which could lead to complications, or too low, which could kill you on the spot.
Today, artificial insulin means that a Type 1 diagnosis is not a death sentence. But living with diabetes takes much more than simply giving yourself shots. It requires constant, unwavering attention to your meals, lifestyle and medication — and even the most conscientious person with diabetes will never achieve the balance that a healthy pancreas effortlessly maintains. If I take too much insulin, my blood sugar will drop too low; my body will sweat and tremble; I will become anxious, irritable and confused. If I don’t quickly eat something to give my body the glucose it needs — or, worse, if it’s the middle of the night and I am too deeply asleep to notice the warnings — I could lapse into seizures and unconsciousness and never wake up.
It would be easier to keep my blood sugar a little too high, to coast comfortably above the turbulence of tight control. But doing so would mean ignoring the destruction caused by high sugar levels — slower than a seizure, but devastating nonetheless: the capillaries in my eyes bursting from too much glucose, the tiny vessels in my kidneys overwhelmed by sweetness, the nerves in my feet losing their ability to feel.
Instead I calculate constantly, measuring my food’s potential effect on my blood against my desire to eat it, trying to walk a Goldilocks tightrope where my sugar is not too low, but also not too high. My blood sugar’s reaction to food depends on far more than the food itself. If I exercise before or after eating, it is different. If it’s the morning, it is different. If I have my period, it is different. If I am tired or stressed or sick, it is different.
From the outside, diabetes is invisible. Look closer, though, and my fingertips are calloused where I prick them to test my blood sugar 10, 12 times a day. A bulge in my pocket reveals my insulin pump, a machine connected to me by a tube that, in giving me insulin, keeps me alive; scars from its insertion sites pepper my hips. My pump means fewer injections, but it has no brain — I still decide how much insulin to take. Instead, it is a literal tether, its plastic stint in my side a reminder, as I sleep with it, exercise with it, and go to dinner with it tucked in my bra, that I have a disease, that there is something wrong. Diabetes’s subtlety is both a blessing and a curse, saving me from stares and pity but keeping the difficulty of the disease — and its severity — hidden as well.
I hate it, diabetes — wish I could take a vacation from it, eat a slice of bread without calculating carbohydrates or have dinner with friends without fear. But I can’t. So instead I try to flip things around, to use the challenges of diabetes as an inspiration to live as fully as I would if I didn’t have it — if not more so.