So, this post is a big one for me. I’m usually a private person, but if there is something that I’ve learned over and over again in the past seven months, it’s this: that it’s okay to talk to someone who wants to listen to you and genuinely cares about you. I know that sounds simple, but talking about myself aside from trying to land some freelance work is something I don’t usually do. This post also introduces a new category to this blog that I’ve been wanting to add for years. Well, it actually started as an idea for a zine (and I might still revisit that). The more I talked about it with my close lady friends, the more I wanted to do something with it. It’s basically a series of thoughts which I’m naming a “work in progress.” Because that’s what I am. I’m not perfect, I have faults, but I won’t let others define me by those faults and most importantly, I need to be my own best friend.
Right at the end of June of last year, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I really didn’t know anything about it aside that some folks took insulin and that two people in my family have it. I pretty much broke down into a sob after I hung up the phone. I was just so surprised, like hello, I’m only 30! Of course, I’m so knowledgable now about almost everything diabetes — my age really doesn’t mean anything and genetics wasn’t exactly on my side.
However, nothing could have prepared me for the anxiety. On July 5th, (I remember this because it was right after Independence Day and Peter’s parents had just left after coming up to visit us) I couldn’t fall asleep and my thoughts and heart felt like they were racing. I had never experienced this in my life before and I was terrified. Every time I closed my eyes, it felt like all this weight was being put on my head and shoulders and it just got heavier with every second, I was pretty sure I was going to die. My body started shaking and I couldn’t even walk without Peter’s help. We went to the ER and the cold a/c in the waiting room calmed my shaking. I had just had a panic attack. Oh. Is that what that was?
It’s been over seven months now and I have lost at least 23 pounds and my A1C level is in the normal range, non-diabetes. I still have diabetes, I always will, even if my numbers are good. And that’s okay, diabetes doesn’t define me either. So here’s the thing: when I got diagnosed, my A1C had just crossed the line into what doctors consider diabetes so I was in great shape to take control of it and turn it around. There were no complications and I’ve always only had to take the lowest dose of my medicine and no, I do not need to take insulin. I’m sharing this more as an affirmation to myself because after all this time, I still have a hard time believing it.
My doctor even told me that she talks about me to her patients and always reminds me to be proud of myself for how quickly I turned it around. But all the praise in the world couldn’t penetrate my anxiety for a long time. Even now, I still remain hesitant, I don’t want to celebrate or revel in it, I just want to continue trying my best and live my life. I know others have it worse and there are worse things out there, but this was me and all I could see for so long. My anxiety changed how I viewed the rest of my life, I didn’t want to see anyone or go anywhere, and I was always in constant fear for my health.
It took me about three months to tell some of my closest friends about it. I didn’t want to talk about it, as if that would make it real. The anxiety still creeps up some days, that’s now a part of me too. Anxiety was a blessing in disguise though, it motivated me to walk at least a mile almost every day and be stricter with my food. We never were terrible eaters, but food had become very precise and planned out. I didn’t touch anything sweet for at least a month. It also taught me a lot about the people I want in my life and how I want to live my life. But the most important thing to me, throughout all of this, has been the friends who have listened to me from the beginning. Friends that text you and keep you distracted at midnight or three in the morning when you can’t sleep and you’re on the edge of a panic attack. They’re the ones who taught me to find myself again because when you have anxiety, nothing is logical and you can’t trust your own thoughts. Just writing this post and remembering those days (and nights), I still can’t believe how it used to be! I’m so, so grateful to these people.
So, that is what I have learned — there are people who really care about you and want to listen to what you have to say. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask if they can just listen to you or to keep you company over the phone and not say anything. If you ever need me to just listen, please let me know. The least I can do is to be there for someone like there was for me. A very wise and beautiful lady always reminds me, “You’ll get through this, just like you got through it before. Remember that this feeling doesn’t last, there IS an end.”
*Thanks so much for reading this! I didn’t mean to write a book! I promise these kind of posts won’t be a regular thing, but I want to be a real human too not just words on a screen. I’m hoping I’ll be able to reach other strong ladies out there who have their own experiences to share or need some assurance that things can get better from what may seem like hell.
This was such a beautiful and heartfelt post. I am sure it was difficult to write. It takes a very brave heart to be able to share something so personal and to be able to struggle with diabetes daily. I’m happy that it’s brought you to a newfound appreciation for things and people that matter in your life. It’s always nice to have a break through and have a life give us chances define beauty and if things we’ve always had. Looking forward to reading more and supporting you in your journey. XO Rachel
Thanks so much Rachel! It wasn’t so difficult now because I’m at a good place, but putting any of kind personal stuff out there is never easy. It’s interesting because the diabetes was the start of it all, but most of the last seven months have been about struggling with anxiety. I’m making it a habit to use my phone more often, but snail mail is nice too – let’s stay in touch. I’m here for you too! Thanks so much for your kind words and your support — we miss talking to you! You’ll definitely have to come up to Maine sometime! xo
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You have a beautiful blog, Karen! Just stumbled upon it today. It is brave of you to share your story, and you’re right, it’s important to lean on people who love you during a rough patch. It sounds like we have had similar experiences this past year. My Grave’s Disease (a form of hyperthyroidism) returned from 10 years of remission this winter when I least expected it. My hormones were all out of whack and my heart was racing, which caused a lot of uncontrollable emotions and anxiety. When I was feeling my worst, I had to lean on my husband for things that I normally took care of in our day-to-day lives. I also realized, though, that’s it’s okay to retreat a bit socially and/or professionally and slow down to prioritize your health. At least the silver lining for me was I started doing yoga and becoming more interested in herbalism and holistic living, which I have been enjoying quite a bit. With each month, my health seems to be improving. I am glad that you are feeling better, too!
First of all, thank you so much for reading my post and I’m glad you like my blog! I remember reading about Grave’s Disease at one point because my thyroid was at a crazy level when I was first diagnosed (it’s much better now), but I was more in the hypothyroidism side of things if it had developed into something. But both are equally scary!
I’m so sorry to hear that yours came back, but it seems like you’re already headed back into a good place! I love that. It shows that we are resilient and will do what it takes when tough things happen to us. I’m mostly an introvert, so retreating socially and/or professionally came a little too easy to me, so my push was to really get out and do things. I’m definitely ready for warmer weather in Maine 🙂
I’m excited to check out your blog as well and please feel free to stay in touch through here or by emailing me. xo
Yes, Graves can definitely be scary. If it doesn’t go into remission, doctors often recommend radioactive treatment which sounds pretty unpleasant.
I know what you mean about being an introvert and having to push yourself outside your comfort zone. I am the same way, and I do often feel like a hermit. Luckily my friends know this and they good at taking the first step to connect with a phone call or coffee invitation.
Summer weather definitely helps! I am part of a hiking group, which pushes me to get out and be active during the warmer months.