My friend’s mother was just diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I wanted to bestow my wisdom (yeah, I know) on him so that perhaps it could help during this transition. Then, I realized I had never really shared my experience with anyone (well, not too many). So, here I am.
I don’t actually remember when I was diagnosed (last year or the year before). What I do know is I had been having health problems for years that I kept attributing to other factors, illnesses, conditions, whatever I could find via Google. I experimented with different treatments (yes, acting as my own doctor because not one of these problems I felt was important enough to see a doctor about). Then God thumped me on the head, like He has so many times in my life. I developed a severe allergy to seafood. It is so severe now that I can’t even go near an aquarium (you should have seen me at Bass Pro Shops … that’s how I found out about that one). So, Emergency Room, followed by a visit to my family doctor, which included all the tests you can imagine when you have never (and I mean never) had a thorough yearly exam.
That’s when I was hit with it and now, looking back over my life, I think I had type 2 diabetes for at least 21 years (well, 21 years this past February). I was thirsty all the time. If I did not have something to drink at all times (I couldn’t go more than 20 minutes without drinking something) my mouth and throat would become so dry I would cough and have a hard time breathing.
I couldn’t go more than an hour or two (two was pushing it) or less time if I was doing heavy manual labor without eating. If I did, I would get the shakes and feel very weak (sometimes I felt like I was going to pass out). I describe the start of it like this, “It feels like my stomach is shaking, like it’s cold”. After meeting, then marrying my husband, I always felt self-conscious about raiding their cupboards so we would be there for hours before he would force me to eat something (that’s one of the times it felt like I was about to pass out).
Cuts and scrapes (especially on my hands/fingers) became infected quickly and took forever to heal once the infection was dealt with (sometimes, soap and water just don’t work like they should). Even though I was always diligent (too much information for some but I’m a female … what are you going to do?) I got yeast infections all the time. Before being diagnosed, I thought I had just developed allergies to certain ingredients but after changing everything, nothing worked. And even though I can’t say they are directly related to the diabetes, I got bladder/kidney infections at least once a year. I say directly related because my view of my body is, when one thing goes wrong, a lot goes wrong at the same time. It’s like my body has A.D.D. (it can’t really focus on one thing while there are too many distractions).
So, when I was diagnosed, I did exactly what my doctor said (but, as always, took it to the extreme). I took my Metformin and Glucophage. I regularly cut myself (tested my blood sugar). Instead of living on sugar (sugared coffee all day during the winter and sugared tea and soda during the summer) I went sugar-free everything (and let me tell you, Sugar-Free Sees Candies are not even worth the bother … yuck!). I even embarked on the 1970’s version of Atkins (as in fats, meat and salad). After 4 months, I was off all my medications. Due to my diet and the medications, my blood sugar would drop so low I would have to scarf sugar to bring it back up (fruits and juices didn’t work fast enough). As long as I followed that sugar intake with a slower digesting carbohydrate (or even just some straight meat), I wouldn’t experience a sugar high, then crash. It wasn’t easy. I actually cried one night because I could smell the Cheez-Itz my step-daughter was eating.
Due to other health issues (not mine) I had to abandon the die-hard Atkins way of eating. Although my blood sugars have been normal for at least a year, I am always watching for the signs to come back. Last week I got REALLY thirsty so I freaked out. I checked my blood sugar and it was normal. I guess it was just the 100+ degree weather and I was legitimately thirsty! 🙂 I just eat better, still focusing on proteins (not having a pile of toast for breakfast like before) with a side of good carbohydrates and a sprinkling of bad if I still want them. I think, as in all things, the key (in my case) is simply moderation. If I were to lose more inches, I would be better physically but that’s not my main focus (since this saga began, I have only lost roughly 10 pounds but I have lost 9 inches off my waist alone). I actually squeezed my rear into a size 14 pants yesterday (it wasn’t pretty … I looked like a mushroom) but I could breathe AND sit without busting out the seams!
My point in all this is, it’s not the end of the world. It may feel like it (especially in the beginning when you have to give up all that you have loved to eat for so many years) but you will eventually learn to appreciate food again, I promise.