The New Norm

July 19, 2011
For breakfast that morning, I inhaled two pieces of toast, two bowls of cereal, half a banana, two glasses of milk, and a water bottle to supplement. At my friend’s party that afternoon, I guzzled five glasses of soda, and my tongue still felt like a desert. Passing the refreshments table without piling another plateful of crackers was physically impossible, although my stomach threatened to explode. I had used my friend’s bathroom so many times, it was embarrassing. But this behavior was normal for me. If so, you would expect that I was an overweight thirteen-year-old, but I had dropped from a skinny one hundred pounds to a gaunt eighty-nine.

Back at home, a cloud of gloom settled over me. Over and over, I found myself slumped in a chair, arms crossed, staring lethargically at the wall. I couldn’t muster the will to trudge all the way upstairs to read if Frodo and Sam would finish their quest. Even at drama class, activity and conversations buzzed all around, but I drifted in a mindless fog, wishing I could just take a nap. But this also was normal behavior. Or rather, it was now.

A few weeks later, the emergency room doctors confirmed that I had diabetes, just as the pediatrician who sent me there had concluded. A shock wave of fear and disbelief slammed me. How could this happen to me? I vaguely remembered some acquaintance who had diabetes, but that word couldn’t possibly belong to me. And what was diabetes – something about too much sugar?

During the four days at the hospital, my questions were answered. No, I had type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile diabetes), which was not caused by overeating or unhealthiness. It’s almost an entirely different disease from the type most diabetics have. In an autoimmune disorder, my antibodies destroyed the cells that produced insulin, which is a vital hormone that carried food to my cells. Without insulin, the food I ate built up in my blood (a condition called high blood sugar) instead of getting fed to my starving cells. This resulted in a lack of energy and my brain commanding me to eat and drink everything in sight.

The nurses taught me how to calculate the right amount of insulin to inject per number of carbohydrates I planned to consume. I hated weighing or measuring every single item I ate to help determine the number of carbohydrates. But if I didn’t inject enough insulin and my blood sugar remained too high for too long, my blood could turn toxic and send me into a deadly coma.

On the other hand, when my blood sugar gets too low from an insulin overdose, I could pass out, have a seizure, or even die. My body suddenly feels as weak and shaky as if I had fasted for seven days, then tried to bench press two hundred pounds. I sometimes become too disoriented to coherently form words or process what other people are saying. When my legs start jerking and I crash into the wall, I know it’s time to drink some fruit juice – a good source of carbohydrates.

That first month after leaving the hospital was frustrating. Since high blood sugar affects hormones (among other things), I would easily burst into tears. My blood sugar was always high, and I had to (and still must) check it a minimum of four times daily by squeezing blood from my fingers into the glucose-reader. Every time a high number appeared on the “glucometer”, I felt like a failure.

But now –one year later- I am back to normal. No, not the “normal” I experienced for several months before my diabetes was discovered. I mean that I’m the same adventurous, fun-loving girl that I always was. I still love anything chocolate – it just requires extra insulin.

Recently, I checked my blood sugar on top of the mountains I had ascended and deep in the cavern that diabetics were warned not to hike through. Now I can approximate the carbohydrates on a plate of food and take my insulin shots so quickly, people rarely notice. But I just laugh at the funny looks occasionally directed at me in the cafeteria. Living with type 1 diabetes can be complicated, but I won’t let it change my personality again.

Join the Discussion

This article has 16 comments. Post your own now!

calledupward said...
Aug. 9, 2011 at 8:19 am
Awesome story!  The dry humor really made the story great - I laughed at the "brain commanding me to eat everything in sight." = )  This will be an encouragement to others facing the same difficulties.
broski1849 said...
Aug. 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm
Great story!  I hope you post more!  It's funny, because I seem to remember hiking up a mountain with a fourteen-year-old girl with Type 1 diabetes.  Odd how these coincidences happen.
Clarity said...
Aug. 2, 2011 at 9:37 am
p.s.  Brian M. is one of our favorite musicians too!  ;)
half-bloodgirl replied...
Aug. 2, 2011 at 8:32 pm
I know, he's amazing!
Clarity said...
Aug. 2, 2011 at 9:31 am
Thank you for offering this fun and informative piece.  I think Type 1 diabetes is often 'thrown in the pot' along with Type 2.  God bless you on your journey.
kinder teacher said...
Aug. 1, 2011 at 8:39 pm
Thanks for your informative story that was written in an interesting way!! Good job!  I hope to read more articles written by you.  : )
half-bloodgirl replied...
Aug. 1, 2011 at 9:19 pm
Thanks, I'm sure you will see more from me! Haha
gatewaybil said...
Aug. 1, 2011 at 2:24 pm
Very informative story
librarian said...
Jul. 31, 2011 at 11:13 pm
Very positive story on being diagnosed with Type I diabetes, which can be a very traumatic experience. Thank you for an encouraging example!
teacher said...
Jul. 31, 2011 at 9:45 pm
You offered a compelling, well-written peak into the life of an adolescent girl who won't let diabetes slow her down! (Even though it is a pain in the butt!) Well-done.
teacher replied...
Jul. 31, 2011 at 9:48 pm
I mean "peek"... :)
half-bloodgirl replied...
Aug. 1, 2011 at 9:59 am
Thanks! That is encouraging to me!
JWDuuuuuuuuude said...
Jul. 30, 2011 at 1:12 pm
BEAST! Hey, I'm her brother. gotta give her some support.
half-bloodgirl replied...
Aug. 1, 2011 at 9:21 pm
Thanks, bro. Funny, these screen names bring to mind certain people I know... : )
half-bloodgirl said...
Jul. 30, 2011 at 8:32 am
Wow! Great story!
half-bloodgirl replied...
Aug. 1, 2011 at 9:58 am
Okay, my comment on my own story was just a joke. I was just depressed that nobody had commented yet. : )
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