Denial With Diabetes
Not long after the birth of my daughter Laura, I began rapidly losing weight, which was welcome, but soon I became tired, finding it hard to make it through the day without a nap. Even when I was awake I felt drugged. I thought constantly about sleep and food. I ate everything in sight, my usual lunch of one sandwich tripled to three. My food consumption increased while my weight dropped.
I clearly remember the shock on Vicki’s face one evening as she came to the kitchen to prepare a meal.
“Alina, do you know where the cottage cheese went?” She asked.
“I ate it,” I replied.
“What about the chips, the eggs and the bread?” Vicki questioned.
“I ate them too.” I said.
It was hard enough facing me, but when Vicki could see my condition, I was humiliated. I realized I was eating us out of house and home while my body was starving. As soon as I finished a meal, I became drowsy, would fall asleep and then wake up ravenous.
Joe urged me to go see a doctor and find out what was going on. I refused, blaming my fatigue on staying up with the baby. Deep inside I knew something wasn’t right but I told myself I could get through it if I ate healthy foods and avoided stress. I couldn’t bear the thoughts of being sick and didn’t want to hear the truth. Always independent, I hated to ask for help or rely on anyone.
Denial became a way of life for me. I tried to hide how tired and sick I was or how much I was eating. My weight continued to drop to the point where I lost my menstrual cycle. Friends and family began to comment that I was too thin. I grew irritable with my children because the noise they made would grind on my raw nerves. If Joe or Vicki tried to bring my health up to me, I would lash out and snap at them. I had a part-time job which I found increasingly difficult to do. In addition, I had always balanced our family check book and made sure the bills were all paid on time but now I could not concentrate long enough to run the numbers and some bills fell through the cracks unpaid. I wasn’t fooling anyone but myself.
I withdrew emotionally and physically from Joe. I had lost my sex drive and didn’t want to talk about why. I was too tired to fight, and I viewed any talk about my health as a fight. I felt misunderstood and alone, wondering if I was just going crazy.
One evening while watching a news program, the host began talking about diabetes and a voice in my head said, “you have diabetes”. I turned off the program. Only old people who are out of shape get diabetes. I was twenty-five, diabetes was impossible. But those words, “you have diabetes” kept running through my mind.
About two weeks later Joe and I were lying in bed. In the dark he pulled me close to him and gently said, “Alina, you are dying before my eyes and I just can’t sit here and watch. I need you, your children need you. Please go see what is wrong. I am with you every step of the way.”
“I have diabetes!” I sobbed.
“I know; everything will be ok. I will make the appointment”, Joe assured.
At the Doctor’s office, my blood sugar registered 450. Tests confirmed that I did, in fact have type 1, or juvenile onset diabetes. The doctor told me that I was fortunate to have made it this far without going into a diabetic coma. He advised me to start on insulin immediately.
“What do we need to do?” I asked.
“The dietician will go over the methods for counting carbohydrates and balancing your meals as well taking the insulin injection.” He replied.
“Injection, Isn’t there another way? You don’t understand; I am terrified of needles! See this scar on my hand? I cut myself washing a glass when I was sixteen. I refused to let my dad take me to get stitches because of the needles! Don’t they make insulin pills?” I pleaded.
“I am sorry the insulin would just digest in the stomach. Injection is the only way,” he calmly said.
“Well I won’t do it, I can’t do it!” I exclaimed.
Joe squeezed my hand,” We will do it together. I can give you the shots.”
The nurse had Joe and I practice injecting insulin into an orange until we became comfortable. I cried most of the way home feeling angry and scared. Joe gave me my first shot but I knew he could not give me every shot.
I remember my mother telling me “God won’t give you anything in your life that you are not strong enough to handle. He loves you.” So I turned to God. When it came time for my next injection, I prayed and went for it, determined to face my fears head on. Shaking I injected myself twice, both times jerking the needle out before I could deliver the insulin. Finally, the third shot was success! I laughed at the irony.
Seventeen years later, I still have to take a deep breath every time I go to poke myself with a needle. And, I still have to accept that I need people to help take care of me and support me through both sickness and health.