Both my personality and my diabetes do not work well without stability. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of four, and growing up with diabetes taught me (or forced me) to plan in advance. That means that I pack my bags a week before a trip, check menus ahead of time before trying a new restaurant, and carry insulin, my meter and strips, glucose tabs, and a snack every time I leave my house. For peace of mind and good health, I need to have every detail of every day set ahead of time.
The past six months have brought big changes in my life, making order and stability very hard to achieve. As soon as I finished my last semester of college in May, I began job-hunting. Despite all of the resumes I’ve sent, the right job hasn’t come through. For two and a half months, I enjoyed the time off from serious responsibility. It was nice to spend time catching up on sleep, evenings with my friends, trips to visit my boyfriend, and a lot of much needed mother-daughter bonding during the time I lived in my mother’s house. But soon enough I understood that I needed to take my life in another direction, so I applied to graduate school for a Master’s in Social Work to pursue a career in counseling.
Fortunately, I was accepted into grad school within a month. I was ready to get started with something new and I found a new apartment and put the deposit down right away. I sent out resumes to businesses within a few miles of those apartments. I set up my financial aid meeting and received my student loans.
In September, I took the plunge and moved from the only area I had ever lived in to a city four hours away. I had no job, only one or two friends in the area, absolutely no family around, and nothing stable to cling to, but since I was so excited to move, nothing else mattered.
Once the boxes were unpacked and the excitement wore off, however, I was faced with something that I didn’t expect – a total lack of structure and routine. Without friends, family, work, or responsibility, I felt a tremendous amount of instability. The most frustrating part of this is that the place where instability shows up, not as a feeling, but as something concrete, is in my blood sugar numbers.
My diabetes has always been difficult. Ever since I can remember, my blood sugars have bounced all over the place no matter how easy or tight my control is. I swing from high to low in a matter of minutes. I experience insulin resistance randomly. I have severe hypoglycemia on a regular basis, especially at night when I am most vulnerable to seizures. Even when I do everything humanly possible, my diabetes often does not cooperate. A lack of stability makes it even worse.
During college it was extremely difficult for me to manage blood sugars with my changing class schedules, varying sleep patterns, and inconstant food choices. My best blood sugars have happened when I’ve kept strictly to a schedule. Right now, without any schedule, my blood sugars are the worst they’ve been in years, worse even than during my college years. They hit the 300 mark, not coming down with more than adequate insulin, and bouncing up and down more than I can keep track. I check my blood sugar enough to go through a bottle of strips within a few days. I increase my insulin. I try to workout at least twice a week. I try to avoid the snacks and heavy meals that too much time on my hands and loneliness make me crave.
Yet my averages are still too high for comfort. I am still waking up in the 200s. I am still struggling with my numbers after meals. I am burned out.
I know that this is just a growing period in my life. I know that a job will come along eventually. I know that I have graduate school to look forward to in January. I know that six months is not long enough to expect to have new best friends in a new city. I know all this.
I also know that every day my blood sugars stay elevated is another day that I am putting myself at risk for complications, future challenges, and early death. Unlike a lot of other 22- year-olds, I know that I am not invincible. I know what 17 years of diabetes means.