This morning I went to my local hospital for blood tests. I wore my exercise clothes, because later that day, I would board my trusty stationary bike for one of my five times a week hourly rides. Later, I would eat three meals, carefully calibrating calories and carbs. And even later than that, I would go to sleep, hoping to get at least 7 hours, since I’ve been reading that a good night’s sleep can help your blood sugar.
If you have type 2 diabetes, none of these activities will come as a surprise. But what I thought as I took the stairs back to my car after having given blood and urine for the tests was how automatic all of this is for me. That after many years with type 2 diabetes, I don’t think about all of this anymore.
It simply is a fact of my life; it simply is.
I don’t know when this happened: I know I used to have to force myself out of bed to exercise; I know more than once I binged on ice cream and cookies and vowed to start extreme diets the next day. I remember those diets – lots of hardboiled eggs with water or bacon and steak or cabbage soup three times a day. I remember forcing myself to run six miles and being exhausted daily; I remember days would go by before I finally buckled down and took my blood sugar readings.
But somewhere in my past, I began to change. Maybe it was getting older, maybe it came with accepting my diabetes. Maybe it was simply exhaustion: I was sick of feeling tired all the time from one unsatisfying diet after another; I was over-exercising and hated every step.
It wasn’t easy. Things that are worth doing rarely are. But slowly, I began to tackle one habit at a time. I figured out what I liked to eat, and based my diet around that, downing most of my carbohydrates in the morning so I’d have time to burn them off throughout the day. I added weight lifting to my routine to build stamina and strength. I found an endocrinologist who listened to me and answered all my questions about diabetes. I talked to my doctor about my medications – which ones I felt comfortable taking and which ones I did not. I read about type 2, to understand how it worked, and why sometimes my sugars went low and what to do to prevent that.
Things started looking up.
I’m not perfect in my diabetes care. There are times (like last week) when a friend offered me some chocolate chip gelato on a summer night and I realized the only answer was yes. There are still days when I miss taking my blood glucose readings. But I rarely skip my exercise because I picked routines that I actually enjoy and if they bore me, I call a pal to take a long talk and walk outside.
What I realized when I took my blood tests this morning is that while I’ve learned to think of all these routines as normal, to most people without diabetes, they might seem foreign or strange. But over the years, they’ve become second nature to me, so much so that I hardly think of them at all. And maybe the why of it isn’t such a mystery: maybe I realized that I had to own my diabetes so it didn’t own me.