My new life had started, one where I would forever (or until a cure is found, if I’m feeling optimistic) have to be injecting insulin in myself.
I had a pen of Levemir and I was supposed to start using it once a day – I started with basal insulin only, baby steps. All day I was nervous because I knew that the time would come when I would have to give myself that shot, I really couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wasn’t feeling well so I went to bed early – the time had come. I laid in bed trying to get some courage – my Dad’s words resonated in my mind: he said it was unfortunate that I had gotten diabetes, but it was great that it was a treatable disease and in the grand scheme of things needles are nothing. True, but still those needles were going to have to go through my own skin. It sure didn’t help that I have a very vivid imagination, so whenever I think of something I actually see the whole film run through my mind. In this case the film had a huge monster size syringe that was going to have to break through all the skin cells, and those cells were struggling to make space for this foreign object trying to cut through them. I felt like a kamikaze on the final mission, there I was piloting my plane ready to crash it down over the enemy, but instead I kept on making circles above because I was too scared to bring myself down with the plane. It was not going to happen…I was probably in bed for a couple of hours holding the insulin, when finally my husband showed up and saved me from my misery by doing it for me. I just wanted to have him do it all the time, but he was right that it was something I needed to learn myself. I knew he was right but I still didn’t want to do it.
The day after the time came again, and I promised myself that no matter what I had to do it, also because my husband had already told me he wasn’t going to do it anymore. So there I was, I went to lay down in bed again – mainly because I was always afraid I would faint and fall – and convinced myself that I was just going to take the plastic protection off the needle and do it . So, once the cap was off, there would have been no turning back…and I kept on looking at the syringe, then at the site that I had prepared on my belly, and I didn’t feel one bit more courageous than the night before. Needle, belly…why on earth would anyone willingly want to stab themselves? I sucked….it felt humiliating not be able to bring myself to do such a simple yet essential act…so I had no choice: I held my breath, uncapped the needle and…bang! There it went, OUCH. It wasn’t the fast and easy stab it was supposed to be, instead it was a slow unsteady one that did indeed hurt….but it worked, I was finally a graduated Kamikaze!
There were plenty of things I was going to have to learn about, so I was sent to see a diabetes educator. When I first met her she welcomed me asking if I was there for gestational diabetes, and I remember thinking how in the world she could think I was pregnant since I was so skinny. Of course I had to hold back tears in her office as well, and it didn’t help that she tried to empathize with me saying she understood how I felt, because it was the first time in my life that I faced the idea of mortality. While I was there, I needed to learn how to prick my fingers to measure my blood glucose levels. I was shown some lancets and a blood glucose meter with test strips, and was told how I had to start testing at least every time before eating and before going to bed. Those lancets are not painless: they are not horrible, but they do hurt a little, and sometime they hurt and don’t even work (no blood comes out). The educator made me try myself: I kept trying to gather some courage, but it seemed like I was always waiting too long since the screen on the glucose machine would go to sleep before I could do anything. That happened maybe 5-6 times, at which point I knew the educator was starting to get impatient, so I did it but not enough blood came out. It was at that point that the educator said something that almost made me pass out: she said I was supposed to “milk” the finger. The thought of milking blood made my blood pressure take a big plunge: I started sweating and had to ask her to get me some water. See, I have an amazing imagination, and I’m able to instantly put a picture to a word, which is not always good. I’ve been in similar situations before and I can get myself sick by just coming up with an image in my mind. After a few minutes I somewhat was able to recompose myself, only so I could start all over again…I’m sure I was the talk of all of the doctors and nurses, I must have been the most ridiculous patient ever. Anyhow, the next time luckily everything worked, and that was the first one of endless pricks. After that the fun part came. I was supposed to start giving myself injections. Just think that, to this day, I still struggle with injections and needle. The diabetes educator made me practice with an orange – I rocked at poking that orange. Then it was my turn. I held the syringe in my hand for I don’t know how long, maybe 10, 20 minutes, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. By then the educator had had enough of me, so I was able to convince her that if would probably be easier if I tried at home (big fat lie of course). All set up with my new toys I went back home. I’ve always been pretty good at figuring out gadgets and such, but with these diabetes devices I felt like I was never going to learn how to use them properly. Definitely not as fun as trying to figure out a new cell phone.
The weekend following my diagnosis of diabetes was really hard: I just had this feeling of sinking deep with nowhere to grab on. I remember going grocery shopping and looking at all the food there without having a clue of what I could eat. It seemed like everything had so many carbohydrates. I thought I’d have to somehow figure out how to stop eating. I wasn’t really given much guidance and I felt so loss.
After a few days, I went to see an endocrinologist who did more blood work and determined that I had Type 1 and not Type 2 diabetes. The only good thing about that was that I could stop taking medicines that weren’t helping me at all: one was to manage Type 2, so completely useless, and the other one was for high cholesterol, which in my case was only high due to the out of control glucose levels. Speaking of out of control….my A1c was at 15%: at the time that didn’t make much sense to me even though I was shown a chart that only went up to 14%. For those of you who are not familiar with the A1c levels, they should be between 6% and 4.5% in someone who doesn’t have diabetes. Now I wonder how I was even able to function so well in those conditions.
The endo told me, like it was no big deal, that I was going to have to start taking insulin, which meant daily injections( and yes, I did ask if there was a pill form of insulin I could take instead). That was the worst thing I could have been told….I remember trying – rather unsuccessfully – to hold back the tears. This made the doctor quite uncomfortable, since she just kept on asking me what was it that scared me so much, which in turn made me cry even more. There I was, a grown up, independent woman, crying like a baby on the doctor’s bed. I did feel like a scared, defenseless baby who had no idea of what was going on. It didn’t help that I didn’t have much of a support system at the time: my family is away and my husband couldn’t come with me to all the appointments because he just had knee surgery and needed to keep the leg resting.
Normally exercising would help me cope with stress, but the doctor had told me to stop going on bicycle rides and long hikes until my glucose levels came down. I just felt like I was never going to be able to lead a normal life again, and was actually very glad we didn’t have any children because I felt like I couldn’t even take care of myself at the time.