Life After Insulin (Yes, There is One)

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I read with interest the comments on my post about using insulin, particularly the ones about loss—the loss of jobs and the loss of freedom. Shortly after I started on insulin, I was fortunate to have a lot of support from my endocrinologist, who paid close attention to my numbers and told me what adjustments to make, and from my C.D.E., who taught me how to interpret my numbers and make adjustments myself. From a psychological standpoint, the early days weren’t easy.

I was on two injections a day of Regular and NPH insulin, on very tight control, and had to watch the clock very carefully. If I didn’t eat a certain amount of carbohydrate at a certain time, I’d go low. I think that having to eat when I wasn’t hungry was worse than having to wait to eat when I was.

Quite frankly, I was depressed. And I mean to the point of curling up in the fetal position and crying. I was afraid my husband would leave me—a fear that was, thankfully, unfounded. I read book after book about diabetes in an attempt to find out why and how: why I needed to do this, that, or the other thing and how everything interconnected to keep your blood glucose levels in balance.

Will that happen to you? I can’t say. It happens that I have a problem with stress-related depression and all of the changes I was making were certainly stressful.

It got a little easier when insulin lispro (brand name Humalog) came out, but that NPH could still pack a mean punch! Perhaps it became even easier when insulin glargine (Lantus) became available, but I was using an insulin pump by then so I don’t know.

Along the way, I lost a job, although whether it was the depression, the diabetes, or a combination of both is an unknown. Thankfully, that was a contract job. However, I took myself out of being a newspaper reporter. For me, erratic schedules, stress, daily deadlines, and diabetes just don’t go together well. Fortunately, the skills I learned there could be used in other places and ways that aren’t quite as hectic.

But it sure didn’t slow me down. My first question on my first visit to my first endo was, “Can you get me to Korea and back?” And, five months after starting on insulin—two shots a day of Regular and NPH and on a tight eating schedule, remember—I flew to the other side of the globe.

(My best friend’s husband is career military, so I get to go visit wherever they are stationed. That year, it happened to be in Seoul.)

I went low at O’Hare, probably from running from the domestic terminal to the international terminal, so I had a snack. Then the food on the airplane didn’t have enough carbohydrate in it so I exhausted my supply of snacks.

When I got to Kimpo Airport, I took the insulin my endo told me to take when I deplaned. But my friend was not there. I waited. And I waited. When she found the right terminal and saw my glassy eyes, she shoved a banana in my mouth.

I still travel a lot. Sometimes I take my grandchildren with me. In fact, I have since they were toddlers, insulin and all. I just throw everything into a big bag and go.

That trip to Korea in my early days of taking insulin let me know that it wasn’t going to get in the way of doing what I wanted to. In fact, I drove cross-country by myself just a few months later.

Perhaps more important, however, was all that feverish reading I did. Knowledge is a wonderful thing. Because I did learn how exercise, food, stress, and other factors affect blood glucose, I can usually balance things out automatically.

The nature of diabetes being what it is, of course, it doesn’t always work out. And sometimes I just plain old get tired of it. We all have our days, I suppose. Maybe weeks. Maybe months. And maybe that’s a theme for another post.

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