Learning to live with T2.

May 2011. 280 pounds, 3 shots a day, well controlled diabetic. Head shot by Hannah O’Leary. http://www.hannaholearyphoto.com

‘How did you learn to live with T2 diabetes?’

Diabetes and I settled into an early, uneasy truce.

The truce would last for about 10 years.

Anger, fear, grief, frustration, confusion, embarrassment, panic. LOTS of emotions. All battling it out daily. The best words I have for the first 6 – 12 months of being a diabetic were confused and intense. A lot to learn. A lot to change. All happening at once. I was not a fun person to be around for that first year.

The meds started working pretty quickly and were clearing my brain of the cloudiness you get with high and sustained glucose levels.

I slowly started to see and understand what had happened. Later I would tell people that I started to see and understand what I HAD LET happen… It sounded harsh. But it’s the truth.

I had NOT stopped the disease when I had the chance.

Now I would have to manage it.

I couldn’t re-write history.  But I could sure as hell write a new ending. I held the pen(needle). Sorry. Diabetic pun. 🙂

I eventually accepted the idea that I had a couple of choices to make.

  • I could survive OR thrive.
  • I could learn about the disease and how to manage it OR stay ignorant and let the doctors tell me what to do.
  • I could accept that this disease owned me OR I could fight for my life.

Thrive, learn and fight.

 (These three words still mean the world to me.)

I immediately made diet adjustments. I hated the changes. But I was too scared NOT to change. EVERY single bite of food had to be considered. It was a whole new level of mental fatigue, laced liberally with fear.

About 4-6 weeks in, with the help of meds, I started to feel better. Less sleepy. Less ravenously hungry.  More clear-brained. I started to see the results of my work at eating ‘better’ show up in my daily glucose tests. Motivation to try to get those glucose numbers to drop was an incentive that worked well for me. I used it.

I quickly learned that life as a T2 diabetic, if you are actively trying to manage the disease, takes serious and relentless work.

So what exactly did my life as a T2 diabetic look like?

I had to learn to count carbohydrates. And not eat too many over the course of the day. Carbs were my favorite. This was seriously unpleasant work for a very long time. LOTS of temper tantrums on this nasty little learning curve.

Sugar free is NOT carb free. BONUS? Artificial sweeteners used in sugar free food products can cause side effects.  ‘Excessive consumption may cause laxative effect.’  Save yourself. Just trust me on this one.

I had to find sugar in my diet and GET RID OF IT! Overt and hidden. I STILL play this game.

I had to learn to stick my finger each morning for a glucose reading. And try not to bleed all over my clothes or leave the counter looking like a crime scene.

I had to manage medicines, needles and Sharps containers. I was taking 3 shots a day and 7 oral meds.

I had to learn to read and understand nutrition labels. And learn that SERVING sizes matter.

I had to learn to give myself shots. Cussing; fluent and abundant and creative. Lots of bruises and bent needles as I tried to figure out how to stab myself in the stomach.

I started to learn about being physically active. I started SMALL. Parking my car further away. Taking stairs. Drinking more water so I had to get up from my desk to pee more often.

I had to learn how to manage T2 when I was sick. Rampaging and nonsensical numbers, dehydration, questionable judgement from a foggy brain, drug adjustments.

I had to learn to manage side effects from meds. When the warning label says ‘may cause severe gastric distress’, it will. You do not want witnesses. It will be an issue every single day.

I also began to slowly, cautiously acknowledge my messed-up relationship with food.

I had to learn to count calories and track food. All of the calories. All of the food.

No hiding or lying or cheating or excuses.

This was the hardest thing to learn.

I mean, I could lie to myself all I wanted, make any excuse I wanted, but my blood work would eventually rat me out and reveal whether I was doing the work that was necessary. I was eating a LOT of food, for the wrong reasons, and all of the wrong kinds of food. Wrong for diabetes AND wrong for life.

Being honest about what I was eating, why I was eating was humbling, humiliating and brutal.

SO much learning and changing and fighting. And it never really let up.  And just to keep things entertaining and interesting – there were plenty of failures, tears, scares. I hit stumbling blocks, bad attitudes and plateaus.  I had bad numbers and crappy weeks and major set backs.  Details and stories for later days.

But giving up was NOT an option even on the worst of days. Even a small amount of progress was still progress and not a step backwards.  I had to keep reminding myself of that fact.

Thrive, Learn and Fight. Remember those words? I had promised myself that I was going to live by those words.

I forged a solid coexistence with Diabetes. We got along quite well for about a decade.  I worked to get my numbers stable. I worked to lose weight. I was working on building a better relationship with food. My doctor was happy that I was holding my own against T2. It was good enough for a long time.

And then one day…

One day ‘good enough’ was no longer good enough. Comfortable and coexisting was no longer working.

I was starting to feel restless and eager and brave…  Odd combination, I know. But I finally recognized that what was emerging was the feeling of being DONE.


I was DONE with diabetes. Done with shots. Done with being fat. Done with ACCEPTING that this was going to be the ‘story’ of my life.  I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t depressed.  It was just that good enough was NOT enough anymore. Never would be again.

I was resolute and determined.

I wanted to LIVE.

Diabetes and I were headed for a show down.

Story continued…

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