Seeking Comfort in a Birthday Diaversary

10/20/17
WRITTEN BY: Suzannah Spinks
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The first diaversary is the hardest. If someone had told me last year that I would be have diabetes by Halloween, I would have thought they were crazy. But the diagnosis came on my 27th birthday, which also happens to be on Halloween. As people get older, they tend to dread their birthdays. Now I have two reasons to dread mine, because it’s also a reminder of the day my life changed forever. There is no way to sugarcoat that, even if a cure is discovered. I dread my birthday as much as I dread sticking myself with a needle every three days to change my pump site. I feel like I had a rug ripped out from underneath me.

As my first anniversary of my Type 1 diagnosis draws closer, the memories are coming in waves. Pictures of myself after I had lost almost 20 pounds are almost shocking to see now. I remember struggling to go up and down the stairs at both home and at work. I had no energy. I would bring a glass of water to bed with me and wake up during the night to drink it and go to the bathroom. I went out for drinks with friends and my jeans were so loose that my friend convinced to me to put leggings on — and even those were baggy on me.

Do you want to know what the scariest part was? Leaving the hospital. I was leaving the comfort and security of the place that had diagnosed me and brought me back to life. Once I could do the insulin shot on my own, I left with a month of supplies and that was that. My dad drove me home and I was happily reunited with my dog Colby. Then the panic set in: Now what? I had to figure out dinner.

In the hospital, I received a crash course in diabetic nutrition from a nutritionist back in the ICU. Did I remember that when I got home? Barely. Instead of sitting at home, freaking out, I attempted to drive to Whole Foods.

I managed to make it down the street to the store, but walking in I could feel the anxiety kicking in. It’s a busy location and people are always in there. I don’t even know how to grocery shop anymore! I don’t feel comfortable in my own body, so how can I even be around people? This was a mistake. Am I even a normal person anymore?

I rushed to grab something, then I went home and sat in the kitchen, exhausted. I had decided to make pork chops, white rice, and a salad. I made a mess in the kitchen, but I did it. Then I set up a syringe, insulin, and my meter. As I started to prick my finger, I realized I had made a rookie mistake: I forgot to take the top off my lancet and it got stuck. I burst into tears, full on bawling my eyes out. Was I really a diabetic now? I couldn’t even remember the first step in checking my blood sugar! Why did the universe decide this was my path in life? That was the first time I cried about my diagnosis.

Looking back, the breakdown was needed and bound to happen eventually. While I was on sick leave from work, I went to Whole Foods almost every day. I’m sure my credit card company looked at it and thought: “Why is this girl going to Whole Foods every day?”

The truth was that I needed to. It was close enough to home that I felt safe driving there and I needed to get over my anxiety about being in a grocery store. Sometimes I would walk through every aisle, just looking at food labels. It took me awhile to feel comfortable in a grocery store but now I’ve grown to love going again! Small victories here.

 

Maybe as years pass, it will get easier. Rebuilding myself after my diagnosis was no easy task. I’m lucky enough to have an amazing support system in my life. My family and friends have been my backbone. I feel very fortunate to have insurance through my job to cover some of my expenses. I find myself feeling afraid every day because my pancreas does not work and I need to manually provide my body with insulin — something I can’t buy at the grocery store.

I’m not alone on this rug. The T1D community I’ve gotten to know has been so supportive and helpful, and I don’t feel alone all the time. If one of us falls down, there is always someone there to pick us up. We are in this together and I take comfort in that.



Suzannah Spinks

Suzie lives in Cambridge, MA and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on her 27th birthday, which fell on Halloween October 31 (oh, the irony!).