Wandering Alone

WRITTEN BY: Eddy Murphy

The bluish haze blows in from the southwest, filling up these glacier-hewn alleyways with the smoke of forests states away. This place is as monumental as its scenic qualities and its symbolism. If I make it out of here alive, this small pocket of rugged Yellowstone peaks will be the setting of another victory over diabetes. Monumental.

Conquering fear is always the first step in going at it alone — for anybody, not just us insulin-dependents. One has to make the decision in the first place, and then commit to it and the dangers that lurk in the arbitrary behavior of an indifferent natural world. But that’s part of its appeal, I suppose. Much like Type 1 diabetes, nature holds its fair share of surprises; however, if approached with respect and quietude, nature nearly always provides surreal moments filled with revelation. With Type 1, the only surprises sure to make you smile are the times your sugar levels sit in a healthy range despite indulging in a carbohydrate or two.

A striking amount of satisfaction comes from introducing two wildly untamed entities: the rawest wilderness in the lower 48 states and the oppression of a chronic omnipresent disease. As one would expect, they don’t mesh well together. It’s tedious to tote both a temperature-sensitive liquid and expensive infusion equipment in a backpack. One must always confront the possibility that reversion to the dark ages looms. It must be accepted that only being intermittently aware of blood sugar levels (via finger sticks) and multiple abdomen injections in unsanitary conditions can instantly become the practice of staying alive if the fragile insulin pump fails (as they’re prone to do). As these unwanted circumstances arise, any backpacking trip immediately becomes that much more adventurous.

People ask me if I’m afraid to venture out alone. In a sense, I am. But I do it out of necessity, for finding anyone with the same appetite for bushwhacking is nearly impossible … or perhaps I’m just too lazy to find anyone. For the most part, even when hiking with friends, I feel I’m still hiking alone. No one knows what I’m dealing with. No one knows I’m charging up mountain passes to bring high sugars down (and that insulin rapidly breaking down these sugars gives me an upper hand in speed). No one knows that I’m constantly chasing small doses with simple carbs to stay alive. To them, I’m just a guy who has his diabetes “under control”. The man who doesn’t sweat. The mountain goat. The lone wolf. If they only knew.

Some may call it foolish to wander alone. I call it the next best thing to a cure.

I feel less than human at times. To confirm my humanity, I take risks. What I refuse to do is live in fear, to be consumed by it. I’ve heard of those poor souls, those tired warriors who’ve succumbed to the power of insulin at home. Or at work. What mundane places! After getting to know the backyard a bit, my confidence has become rather inflated (there’s a billion more possibilities out there than I care to imagine), and, increasingly, I find myself taking more risks to achieve a greater sense of validation.

This past weekend I rambled through the mountains of Montana. Three days alone, with my repulsive companion. Even with bad company, one can enjoy the vistas in great abundance. Especially when the company is silent.

I know you’re there. I know it. This is my time. My moment.

The peaks of the higher Madison are tinged with a shade of pink. I can hear rocks tumbling down the distant cliffs of Gallatin Peak, at the insistence of a wayfaring and surefooted goat. His white coat is now glowing — vivid, fluorescent — with the mountain. He is part of it.

I want to be with him.

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Eddy Murphy

Eddy has been warring with Type 1 diabetes for 15 years. After moving from his sedentary life in Tennessee to the American West, he pursues adventure and validation in the high country of the Northern Rockies and guides trips into the Greater Yellowstone. His ultimate goal is to bring awareness to the financial struggles of people with Type 1. He lives in his truck down some dirt road in Nowhere, Wyoming.