I’m Not Ready

I’m eating apple pie. It’s not a wise choice, but it is the choice I have made tonight.  My choice is completely unrelated to the numbers that flash at me when I step on the scale. If anything, for the first time in my life, I think I need to add a few pounds.  Excuse me while I take a bite of my pie.

No one will find out about my pie. I won’t tell anyone that I snacked on pie at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.  It’s not a dirty little secret. It’s a life-threatening one. I’m eating apple pie on a Sunday evening despite the fact that my blood sugar levels have been fluctuating all day. Despite my dark intuition that my Type I diabetes is progressing.

My friends and family are concerned about me. Yet I’m still nibbling and picking away at this slice of pie on the dessert plate sitting next to me. So I feel like a hypocrite. I feel ashamed and angry because I’m lying to the people I love the most about my health and because I don’t want this fucking disease anymore. It’s not even fully here and I don’t want it.

Raise your hand if you thought, “well, clearly she’s eating the pie because she is angry and is having self-destructive tendencies.” Congratulations. You passed psychology 101. So did I. And that’s not why I’m eating pie.  I like apple pie. And I still can’t see the connection between a snack of pie and the effect it will have on my blood sugar.  I don’t want to see it. I don’t care that there is a connection because I hate this disease and I don’t want it. It sucks. And although I vacillate between accepting that it sucks and hating it because it sucks, I’m still going to eat some pie when I damn well feel like it.

Oh, but this isn’t new to me, these feelings. I’ve been addressing them in therapy for four years since my 2007 diagnosis. My kind and patient therapist listens to me rail and flail about how much I hate this disease and how angry I am at the bad luck that brought it to me and how I don’t want it (that last one delivered with a grouchy pout and hint of whine).

But it’s not going away. If anything, the time is approaching where it is getting bigger. It will start to loom large over all aspects of my life shortly.  So I eat pie. Which is dumb because I can’t do a damn thing to regulate my blood sugar now.  At the very least, once this disease breaks wide open I’ll have syringes full of insulin to bring things down when I snack on some pie. But for now, all I can do is watch the numbers rise and fall, fluctuate without explanation sometimes, and, at other times, be the clear result of the choices I make.

The pie has been eaten and I’ve finished a glass of milk. My stomach feels tight. There is a familiar pressure at the back of my throat. A headache is blooming, and I want to cry. I put my head down and run my hands over my head, I tangle my fingers in my hair. I feel the curve of my scalp, the silkiness of my hair, the familiar slip and tug of the waves that seem to linger in the layered, choppy ends of my simple bobbed cut. I can’t say I am disappointed in myself.  I’m not angry or ashamed. I’m tired. I’m sad. I’m not ready to be diabetic. But I am.

It’s Food, Not Love

I fired my seamstress seven months ago. She closed her dry cleaning shop early, without warning, the day before New Year’s Eve, thus holding my fabulous NYE 2011 party dress captive. This sent me screeching to Nordstrom, shell-shocked kids in tow, to find a new dress for the party. It wasn’t just the one dress this one time; although she does beautiful tailoring at a reasonable price, she is terrible at meeting deadlines. Promised dates for pick up were often pushed back again and again. I was generously discounted for my patience. But my patience wore thin on December 30th. On January third, I turned in my last ticket, collected my tailoring and dry cleaning, and left her.

Her absence didn’t have much of an impact on me until now. As part of my back-to-school ritual, I try on my ‘grown-up’ clothes, after months of lounging in t-shirts, tank tops, bathing suits and tattered shorts, to get a feel for what needs to be replaced, altered, augmented, donated or dry cleaned. This year, I am feeling her absence as my son is feeling the absence of his newly lost tooth.  This year, all my pants are too tight. I need to have the trousers she so lovingly altered in, let out.

Last year was a wonderful year. After making many difficult and necessary changes within myself, I realized the woman I am outside a marriage – independent, resilient, confident. My children and I grew closer as a result of my spiritual connection to myself, and my acknowledgement of the need to nurture myself. I did yoga frequently. I meditated. I dated, had my heart broken, recovered and learned from rather than resented the breakage.

I was happy, and as a reflection, I lost weight…35 pounds. It slipped off my body as my unhappiness slipped away from memory. I brought armfuls of clothes to my seamstress, who exclaimed, “These clothes! They are too big! Why did you get them so big?” I laughed and explained that they used to fit me, snugly. I couldn’t stop grinning. I was now a slip of a woman at 125 pounds, size 4-6.

The weight loss also put me in the holy graces of my doctors. My blood sugar levels had dropped and stabilized, which meant I could stay off insulin and continue to treat my Type I Diabetes with medication.  Delicately, for several years, my endocrinologist had been mentioning that if I lost a few pounds, I’d see an improvement in my HgA1C’s. He knew I was exercising aggressively, and that I was frustrated. But he had to do his job. When he saw me, six months later and 35 pounds lighter, he was both pleased at my accomplishment and visibly relieved that the awkward ‘weight speech’ could be skipped.

Due to sudden, nearly unbearable stress, more weight fell off – fifteen pounds in two months’ time. I looked gaunt. It wasn’t a healthy loss.  Then I began to get sick – a three-week flu, followed immediately by a cold that lasted a month. Pneumonia. Bronchitis. A sinus infection. I spent about six months sick. My weight had bottomed out at 110 pounds; I was too thin. My internist determined that a healthy weight range for me is 120-125 and told me to get there as quickly and safely (read: no junk food) as possible. I followed doctor’s orders and gained weight. Ten pounds slathered on my ass and waist easily. Too easily. 5 more pounds followed. Then seven more. Now, I am fluctuating by 8-12 pounds over my ideal weight; This has smacked my emotions back to some dark days when my five-foot frame carried 160 pounds, and everything I owned fit my gelatinous body tightly.

Those 12 pounds got here through something more powerful than laziness or gluttony. They are here because of a need for comfort. I eat to comfort myself. Technically, it’s called emotional eating. I call it weakness. The frustration emotional eating causes pushes me into a depression. So I eat to combat the sadness. And I gain weight. And my blood sugar levels rise. So I get scared and even more depressed. So I eat more and move less because depression staples my thighs to the couch and tunes into “Toddlers and Tiaras” which renders me incapable of switching off the TV to do yoga or Pilates. It’s a painful, vicious cycle to be in and to watch. My friends and family are afraid to say anything when they see me reaching for a second or third helping at dinner. They know it will shame me if they comment, and I’ll eat more to comfort myself out of feeling shamed. Which will frustrate me. And around it goes.

This summer was unusual. It didn’t have the gentle ebb and flow my summers at the Jersey shore usually enjoy. My parents and I shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. We chose words carefully or avoided them altogether lest the wrong word were to tap a hole in the flimsy walls keeping the sadness in.

My brother and his family moved across the country in July. We have never been this far apart. The life we had known has been cut short, altered. It’s different and sad. My dad has been in terrible pain from aggressive osteoarthritis in his ankle. He can’t walk very well. Mom has been keeping everyone calm and happy and organized. She has run herself ragged getting my brother and his family packed and moved while taking care of my father. This is her role in the family, but it’s taking its toll on her.  I had my own angst. The beginning of my MFA writer’s residency program was approaching frighteningly fast. I was battling my self-esteem demons, and losing.  There were other woes as well…financial, social, negotiations with the ex. These changes, emotions and insecurities rendered me sleepless and sent me to the refrigerator on late-night snacking binges, bringing me to my current quandary.

While I miss the smaller sizes and loose-fitting trousers, it’s the decline of my health that tortures me when I see the 130’s stare at me from the digital readout of my scale. I can’t feel the Diabetes killing me, but I know it is. And I know how I got here. When I’m away from the scale, my tight pants are an uncomfortable reminder that I failed myself. Again. I have learned to identify the difference between emotional hunger and stomach hunger. I have yet to learn how to deny my emotional hunger. Or how to satisfy that hunger – the yearning.  Each day I whisper to myself, “today you will stop yourself.” But, like the addict too soon out of a twelve-step program, I relapse.  And I start over.

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