Burnt Out, Swearing, Still Going

From the balcony, I observed the neighborhood malcontent: bones bursting from his neck, he balled his fists, looked up into Madrid’s flaming July heat, and released a primal scream. The woman across the way, who plucks her chin hairs in the window on Saturday mornings, edged her curtains to the side and turned a worried gaze downwards. I turned to face J, who was stifling a laugh as he approached: not malicious, but impressed.

“Now that,” I said, “is authentic.”

There is nothing enviable about the man trapped in his own madness, but his wild screams, directed at no one in particular, seem to me a sort of metaphor for the myriad of frustrations we lock away in the name of social propriety.

I thought of this man as August slipped by and type 1 diabetes celebrated two decades of residence in my body. Like everything–relationships, hobbies, goals–life with chronic illness has its seasons. The season I celebrated in Year 19 might be called: I’m  sick of this shit. In April, I’d burst into tears at the public health clinic when a new nurse refused to give me test strips without first taking a fasting blood sugar. At 1 o’clock in the afternoon, this was impossible for reasons obvious to anyone who has ever been a human. “This isn’t a supermarket” he said once, and then again. In June, my blood sugar graphs looking like Six Flags Theme Park and my morale in the gutter, I took a refresher course with the endocrinology nurses at the hospital. They reminded me of my mother: caring as hell but not here for my excuses. “Life’s hard, but you have to find a way. Don’t be afraid to die at night.”

In the name of social propriety, I’ve spent many years saying that type 1 diabetes is “fine” and “I’m used to it.” Oftentimes, I’m telling the truth, but sometimes what I really want to say is that I feel overwhelmed, angry, exhausted, and scared. Sometimes, I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs on a public street, no fucks or explanations given. Sometimes, even twenty years into it, I’m still not used to it.

On my twentieth Diaversary, I did not celebrate or grieve. I woke up and kept going. In two decades, I’ve learned gratitude, acceptance, and humility, forgotten those lessons, and then learned them again. I’m grateful for my health and determined to keep it, forgiving myself for the moments when it all feels like too much.

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Dancing Through my Diaversary

Para leer este post en Español, haga clic aqui.

In August of 1998, you would have found me in the back seat of my parents’ white Chevrolet Celebrity, en route to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. I was 30 minutes away from being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, 15 miles away from practicing insulin injections on fresh Florida oranges, four words away from a different life. Your daughter has diabetes, they said. Today when I attempt to reflect on this, 18 years now gone by, I think exclusively of a line from Kanye West’s 2005 hit “Gold Digger” which refers to the moment in which a man discovers that his kid ain’t his. The line is this one:

18 years, 18 years
And on her 18th birthday he found out it wasn’t his!

I don’t want to dig too deep today.

So I’ll just say this:

It’s been real, diabetes. You’re an adult now.  If someone were to show up at my door today and say, whoops, we made a mistake, this disease isn’t yours! I wouldn’t mind. Not at all. But they won’t. And that’s alright. It’s been eighteen years and I’m still healthy and I’m still dancing (poorly, strangely, unabashedly—but dancing nonetheless). If the only thing that comes to my mind today is a wildly unrelated Kanye lyric, I suppose I’m pretty #BLESSED.