"Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day-to-day living that wears you out." --Anton Chekhov
Spring is around the corner. While I love freshly fallen snow and the beauty of icicles, come February, winter tends to break my spirit and resolve. It's cold. Gray. Blah.
And of course, diabetes is ever present, but my vigilance is waning. Scratch that, my vigilance has waned. I've stopped trying to force results. I've let go of the belief I have full control over staving off looming possibilities for complications. I seem to go through this very thing each year around this time. Daily I straddle the line between feeling empowered to effect change and experiencing how limited my influence is at times. Intention, action, and attention are powerful tools, but they're not all that is at play here.
Truth is, I've given up on some things lately. Stopped working out regularly. Stopped applying for full-time teaching jobs with hotly contested benefits. Stopped searching for that ever elusive PhD funding. Stopped trying so hard. Not everywhere, but in so many areas. And y'know, diabetes doesn't quit, but I've tried to quit it.
Doesn't work, by the way. Don't recommend trying that. The epitome of my giving up and trying to "quit" diabetes came when I was very low on pump supplies but owe the pump company money since insurance is, apparently, no longer contributing. New year. New deductible in the thousands.
So what did I do?
Nothing. I did nothing. Did I call Medtronic and plead my case? No. Did I ask for a loan or assistance paying for supplies? No, I didn't.
Instead, I changed my pump site sparingly. Wallowed in the cold. Spent the better part of the week eating like a squirrel and taking shots instead of pump boluses in an attempt to prolong the pump supplies. Turning slowly. Finally, I asked my sister (also on the pump) for help and she sent me a box of infusion sets. Thank goodness for family. And empathy.
But why let it get to that point? Why would someone who knows better not act better, not advocate on her own behalf? After 20+ years with diabetes, why suffer unnecessarily?
My response is twofold: 1.) Diabetes Burnout, and 2.) Depression. Not exactly the kind of double D's one prefers to have.
Here's the thing: I have been taking care of myself and managing my diabetes for a long time. There are periods where I just feel burnt out and tired. Where I just can't micromanage my bloodsugars and meticulously count every carbohydrate that enters my body. It's a full-time job without guaranteed benefits. I've already got two of those.
Diabetes changes things, but I've said before how overall my depression has been far more debilitating than my diabetes. It's not an excuse for "poor behavior" or lackadaisical diabetes management. It is, however, an explanation. Despite my best attempts, at times, hopelessness descends along with a sense of overwhelm. The tide turns slowly.
As a teacher and hard-working young woman living with diabetes since childhood, I'm no stranger to occasional overwhelm. But the hopelessness concerns me. No matter where I've been in my life, how far afield I might feel, I've always held tight to the belief that I was on the cusp of something better, that I had it within me to turn it around.
On a very real, logical level that is still true. But I don't really feel it. Not deep in my bones. Not in my gut. Not in my spirit. Like each of us, the personal price we pay for having diabetes is high, but the toll depression on my body/mind/spirit and daily life is often much, much worse. I am tired of doctor appointments and incessant reminders of my health concerns. Tired of lapsing into the blame game.
I know am more than my circumstances and more than my body--I know it, I do--but lately, it sure doesn't feel like it. I don't feel like it. I don't feel like myself. A hopeless feeling ensues imagining this may be the healthiest I ever am.
On the way to my friend's house today I passed a man on the street. He hunched on the corner of a busy intersection holding a sign. It was homemade. Cardboard. Sharpie Marker made. It said simply this: I'm broke. Losing everything. Will work.
Driving past him in my car, I averted his gaze. I drove on, shaken, and wondered if anyone would stop. Wondered what circumstances put him there. Wondered how he felt holding that sign. What he hoped for, and all the things he's simply stopped hoping for.
Post Script: At home I opened a book. I turned to a page and read this poem by Dereck Walcott called "Love After Love," and imagined what it'd feel like when that time comes:
The time will come / when, with elation / you will greet yourself arriving / at your own door, in your own mirror / and each will smile at the other's welcome, / and say, sit here. Eat. / You will love again the stranger who was your self./ Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart / to itself, to the stranger who has loved you / all your life, whom you ignored / for another, who knows you by heart. / Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, / the photographs, the desperate notes, / peel your own image from the mirror. / Sit. Feast on your life.
Published On: February 28, 2011