A new normal that isn’t normal yet.

“What the f*ck is wrong with me?” I cried as I laid in bed in excruciating pain at 4 in the morning. I wanted to call someone, anyone. The tears rolled down my face as my legs stiffened.

This was night number five.

I attempted to stand up to make the leg cramps subside, stumbling to the ground as soon as I tried.

I laid on the ground for a few minutes, feeling defeated and helpless just like the night before. I reached for my water beside me, chugging it in hopes of ameliorating the problem. Maybe dehydration was the problem. I just needed to drink more water and the leg cramps would go away. Yeah, sure.

“You need to stretch more and maybe take it easy on your legs, you’re always on them.”

“Eat more protein.”

“Drink more electrolytes.”

“Get more sleep.”

I became thirsty. Always thirsty. I assumed it was because my body was craving more water since I had made an effort to drink more to make the cramps go away. I filled a giant water bottle every night and placed it beside my bedside, knowing I would wake up with cotton mouth at some point in the middle of the night. However, it never satisfied me. Refilling it twice a night became habitual, just like my muscle aches.

Drink more water. Eat more protein.

I was eating right, perhaps even eating more than usual, but my weight was dropping at a rapid rate. At first it felt good. “I’m more active now,” I told myself. Constantly walking, always on my feet. This is great.

Right. 

The more weight I lost, the weaker I felt. Spinning classes were no longer enjoyable, they were a feat to push through. A 10 pound weight was no longer something I lifted with ease, my arm would shake as I attempted to pick it up.

The legs that could once run a half marathon could hardly push through an 11 minute mile.

Drink more. Eat more. Sleep more.

My body was telling me to do all of these things, but I simply couldn’t. A gallon of water was hardly satisfying, neither was a giant slice of pizza. Walking to work was no longer enjoyable, it took too much energy out of me. I was growing increasingly irritable with people; anxiety became an integral part of my daily life.

For about a month, I accepted discomfort as a norm. Eventually I would feel better. This was just a weird phase.

Between starting a new job and working crazy hours all while still getting settled in a new city, I figured a trip home for Thanksgiving would be the cure-all to my problems. Although it would only be for a few days, I needed this mini vacation.

Reluctantly, I booked a doctor’s appointment with my PCP for Wednesday morning in Boston to see what was going on with me. Although, I had already diagnosed myself with hypothyroidism (thanks, WebMD). So, I walked into the doctor’s office fairly positive that I would be prescribed medication and I’d be back to feeling normal again. No biggie. Shit happens.

I began explaining all of my body issues to the nurse practitioner. “You poor thing!” she exclaimed. She asked me a bunch of questions trying to pinpoint what the problem could be, agreeing that hypothyroidism could possibly be the correct diagnosis.

Or maybe it wasn’t. However, I ignorantly disregarded all of the other possibilities she discussed with me. Whatever was wrong with me was a quick fix. WebMD had already told me (there was a small chance I had to get surgery, but that also wasn’t going to happen).

I had to get a series of blood tests done in the lab upstairs. I waited impatiently as my hair appointment was quickly approaching. Spending 2 hours at the doctors was not how I wanted to start my trip home. She injected the needles into my arm as I stared at my wrist watch. Get me out of here. 

I eventually made it to the hair salon, and I was finally doing something that I wanted to do. The foils sat in my hair as I chatted away with my hairdresser, blushing as she commented on my weight loss, although I knew it wasn’t really something to be proud of.

My phone rang, it was the doctor’s office. I knew the blood test results would come back later that day but I didn’t realize how fast it would be.

“Hi, is this Beth?”

Yes.

The doctor spoke to me in panic. I listened intently as she began to explain my lab results. She said a lot, but all I heard was a single sentence that made my face turn pale.

“We believe that you have type 1 diabetes.”

They advised me to get to the ER, my blood sugar was dangerously high and I apparently was in diabetic ketoacidosis (I didn’t know what that was until I Googled it either).

She washed the foils out as I blankly stared at the ceiling. I literally didn’t know what to feel.

I drove myself to the ER, not really knowing how serious my condition was (looking back it was probably an awful idea to drive). I checked myself in as my phone was blowing up with questions from my parents and my sister. No one really knew what was happening. No one understood.

My life had quickly spun into a whirlwind yet I still felt blissfully unaware of the situation that I was currently in.

I parked my car outside of the ER of South Shore Hospital and walked inside with my belongings.

“For a blood sugar count of 700, you look pretty darn good,” the nurse at the front desk said to me. That number didn’t really mean anything to me. I politely smiled.

A normal blood sugar count is roughly 90-140.

I laid in the hospital bed waiting for my family to arrive. The tears still refused to fall, as confusion was the only emotion that I could really feel. They set me up on two IVs, one filled with insulin, the other filled with salt water. I watched Modern Family on mute as patients passed by my room. My nurse periodically came in and checked my blood sugar and my vitals, eventually I became numb to it all.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve to me.

I don’t remember the exact moment that it set in. Perhaps it was the 2am wake up call to prick my finger and check my blood sugar. Or maybe it was the third time I plead for food only to be told to wait until my insulin drip runs out. It may not have been an exact moment, but possibly a culmination of overwhelming events, conversations, and ‘I’m sorry’s.

You didn’t do anything to cause this. Type 1 and Type 2 aren’t the same. This is just a bump in the road. You can live with this. You’ll be OK, Beth. You’re a healthy person, this will be manageable for you. 

I talked to dozens of different nurses, dietitians, and doctors. They periodically came into my room in the ICU, asking how I was doing, reassuring me that things were going to be OK. Saying this would soon become a “new normal.” Telling me that my life wouldn’t be any different, I’d just have to make some adjustments here and there. I was so exhausted and overwhelmed that all of these words went over my head.

But this was my life now.

This is my life now.

I stared at the “Diabetes Management” book given me to by one of the dietitians. On the cover was two overweight elderly people. One was holding a tennis racket and the other was cutting vegetables. A fucking tennis racket and vegetables. Honestly? Be more irrelevant.

The first page read “What is Diabetes?” It was plastered with the symptoms that I had been ignoring for a month. I quickly shut the book and threw it back on the chair beside me.

I spent the entire week in the hospital. They were monitoring and perfecting insulin levels for the time being so I could make it back to DC safe and sound. My meals were carb controlled, and I was taught the basics of balancing proteins, carbs, and fats in a mini-diabetes boot camp.

At first they would inject my insulin for me. I would lift up my shirt and they punctured the needle into me–the physical pain was minimal, however, the mental pain is what hurt the most.

“Do you want to try doing it on your own?” She handed me over the insulin pen. I held it with shaky hands. The tears started to fall again.

This was my new normal.

This is my new normal.

I feel silly for mourning over this disease. My constant tears in the hospital didn’t seem warranted for. There are more people in this world in far worse shape than I am currently in.

It’s ok to be angry.

Diabetes was continually described to me as a “livable disease.” I was told I could still do what every other 22 year old does; that sooner or later it’ll just become an integral part of my life.

It’s not the technicalities of it that scare me. I don’t need to change my life all that much. The needles aren’t large, the finger pricks to test my blood sugar hardly feel like a pinch.

What scares me is my ignorance.

I stare at my plate, it no longer looks like food. It looks like carbs, fats, proteins; it looks like poison. I stare in my purse, it no longer looks like a black hole for my house keys. It looks like a safe haven for my diabetes kit.

My stomach is no longer skin, it’s a grid split into quadrants; quadrants that are meant to be punctured with a needle 4 times a day.

What scares me is failure. Low blood sugars when they should be higher. Exercising at the wrong time. Forgetting my glucose tabs when I’m in desperate need. Not knowing how to respond to people saying “eat this,” when I know I can’t. Pricking the same finger too many times. Running out of test strips.

Failing at being a “good” type 1 diabetic.

I have more questions than I do answers. And that is what perhaps scares me the most.

I have a new normal, except, it’s not normal yet.

 

119 thoughts on “A new normal that isn’t normal yet.

  1. During my undergrad, I was diagnosed with a disease that was once incurable and deadly because its medication was not discovered and even when it was, people died of it because they couldn’t afford it.

    When I was told the first time that I have this disease, it was unbelievable for me or anyone in my family. We went for further tests to confirm as we couldn’t believe the doctor. We went for second opinion of other doctors as well because it was so hard for us to believe that living in a clean environment, how I could ever get it?

    The thing is, unexpected comes to us when we least expect it.
    And when it does, it is hard for us to believe. Within moments, everything that you had planned ahead changes.

    And then you realize, how valuable health is and the truth of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My husband was diagnosed with a blood sugar of 800. It had been happening so gradually over 7-8 years. If he hadn’t blown a disc in his back he might have ended up worse. I was a nurse and helped him through it all. Thank you for sharing the emotions and difficulties of diagnosing and living with Diabetes. It was a constant struggle for him for various reasons but believe me your health is more important than anything. Can you locate a support group for diabetes? The advice and help from others may be a life saver for you. If there isn’t a group near you, then start one. This will help you I believe. Good luck. Know the enemy and don’t give up the fight against it. Best wishes to you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have type one diabetes and I live in Europe. Every three or four years we get headlines like this, written by journalists who read one part of a report and ignore the rest of it. No operation yet!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Best of luck on this journey to a new normal. And thank you for sharing – I’m sure you have helped so many people come to terms with their own new normal (for whatever reason they are in need of a new normal).

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The journey of diabetes is not an easy one and I wish you the best on it. As a diabetic myself, I was diagnosed when I was eight and in a coma for a month solid. My doctors didn’t take me seriously because of my ethnicity (and they learned from that after the lawsuit–of which all profits went to charity) and all of it spiraled out of control to the day I was finally diagnosed. But, don’t forget that being a ‘good’ diabetic isn’t as easy as your doctors would have you believe. Any diabetic will tell you that it takes a while to come into control of your body and that there were frustrated nights and thrown meters and insulin pens. Again, best of luck on your journey 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you so much for sharing! You are such an inspiration to the many who have struggled through a same, or similar, experience. You are truly brave and we can all learn from the journey you are on.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi there. I’ve just read your blog and I thought that I could perhaps help (a bit). My boyfriend has had diabetes type 1 for about 4 years. He doesn’t take the insulin and he manages his diabetes really well. It’s all about food. And his sugar level is very stable. You are very welcome to contact me/him for more info. I wish you all the best, Nataly (P.S. We are not doctors, I know nothing about medical world, it’s just that we’ve read a lot about type 1 and how to avoid taking the insulin)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, I have always considered diabetes as just another disease, never stopping to consider how it can drastically change the life of the one with diabetes. I have never looked at it as new ‘normal’ that can consume you as you work to deal with stabilizing it and ‘normalizing’ your life with diabetes. It is not just a case of taking a pill once a day. Thanks for the enlightening post.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thank you for sharing this! This reminds me of my own journey of finding out that I was a Type 2 Diabetic at 19 years of age. I bawled in my car all the way from the walk-in clinic to the hospital emergency room. It took me years to accept it and find my “new normal” and there are days when it’s still ridiculously rough. Do know that you’re not alone and I wish you all the best.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Reblogged this on beared and commented:
    I have to say, I myself do not struggle from the illness that the author of this post struggles from. However, I do understand the hardships, feeling of loss and the struggle to adjust to a “new normal.”
    Truly an inspiring read. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. As someone who has Diabetes for 17 years, I can completely understand how you are feeling, especially during difficult times like that. Sending you love x

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I remember when my 12 year old brother got sick as you described. (Years ago now) My mom took him to the hospital and told the doctor to check him she was concerned he was diabetic. She was familiar as we have an extended family member who is diabetic. That doctor said all his tests came back fine that he just had a stomach virus. Several hours after returning him he continued to get worse. He was laying on the couch, eyes closed and exhausted not moving much at all. The phone rang and it was the nurse from the hospital. She called to tell my mother at the risk if losing her job that the doctor never ran one single test to rule out diabetes and she was concerned my mother’s diagnosis was correct and that my parents needed to take him to a different hospital in a near by town. By the time they got him to the hospital his bloodsugar was 927 I’m sure you can imagine his physical condition with a bloodsugar that high. He stay in the hospital for quite a while. He went in a tubby 12 year old boy and he came out looking half the size he went in at. At his age his level of understanding is so different then age 22 but I can’t help but imagine it would be equally overwhelming at any age. He had the advantage of youth and two very dedicated parents. It changed all our lives we had scheduled time for dinner our meals changed but not by much. I remember my brothers struggle it is difficult to wrap ones mind around being insulin dependent and fearful to think of doing it wrong. He will be 30 this year and has a lovely wife and two beautiful kids. Taking insulin and managing what he eats has become as normal to him as brushing his teeth. This isn’t to say he has totally mentally past it. It has prevented him from doing somethings (but unless you’re considering being a semi truck driver you shouldn’t run I to those type of issues). When he first found out my mom researched it like there would be a cure if she looked hard enough. There was researching about isotopes from pigs or something and a dozen other studies being done that looked promising, as you know there is no cure. What I hate the most is that they call it a disease. When I think of disease I do not think of diabetes. Failure of the pancreas to produce the bodies insulin needs just don’t seem well fitted under the label disease. Then again, I’m just a homemaker, still disease seems unfitting. Hang in there it really well become your normal (you’ll never love it, but it’ll be normal). Make sure you share with tour coworkers and friends information about your diabetes. A good support group is awesome but they need to know what to do for you in an emergency too. My brother had tells when he would start getting too high, fruity breath, darkening under his eyes, goofy behavior or unresponsive/ delayed response when being spoken too. The people close to you will start picking up on your tells too.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hey guys, I recently started an inspirational blog 🙂 You all are welcome to have a visit and leave your recommendations in the comments. Thank you and enjoy your day ahead 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. A transition to a “new normal” is always difficult. The fact that you care enough about your body to be stressed out about it puts you miles ahead of most patients. You are taking ownership of your body and learning about its unique details. This is not an easy diagnosis. A lot of my patients go through a grieving process…but come out on the other side with more education and confidence. You will conquer your new normal, even if it takes time.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: This is why I blog
  15. This post was so honest and beautiful, I was immediately attracted to a topic which isn’t usually talked about, because people are scared to share their struggles and let go of their image of having the perfect life. I loved this….so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. Much love, stay strong.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. You echo fears of my own. My father was diagnosed just 2 years from the age I am now. We so heavily rely on our bodies to protect us from the outside world. How do you handle it when the danger comes from within?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you for sharing your story and your fears. You are a very powerful writer! I’m a new follower and a new blogger myself and am glad to have stumbled across yours. Stay strong and keep going – you can do this!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hello,

    I’ve had type one and injected myself with insulin for 11 years and completely relate to everything you’ve said. But what keeps me positive is knowing that whilst I might have this shitty condition, its only a part of who you are. And it certainly isn’t the defining part.

    Stay positive.

    x

    Liked by 1 person

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