Finally Accepting My Limitations
Have you had something, a change of sorts, in your life that you resisted like the plague. You think that the less you acknowledge it the less real it is? I’m not talking about denial but more of a lack of willingness to accept what is.
It feels like you’re swimming upstream, or constantly struggling against something intangible?
That is how I have felt the last six months…
When I was pregnant with my son I was surprisingly diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I say surprisingly because I never showed any hint of GD in my previous pregnancies and I was barely eating during this one. You can read the birth story if you are interested in the details. I was immediately placed on insulin four times a day and had to strictly monitor my carb and sugar intake.
During my three-day labor and after delivery my blood sugar was being monitored periodically. When you have gestational diabetes the condition is supposed to correct itself after 15-20 minutes following delivery of the placenta. My blood sugar was still very high hours after delivery of our son but they chalked it up to the long and hard labor and delivery.
The next morning I was tested upon waking and had a fasting blood sugar of 40. If you are not aware of what blood sugar numbers mean, anything under 70 is a cause for concern, a number of 40 meant I was close to going into a hypoglycemic seizure. I was quickly surrounded by nurses who had me rapidly consume orange juice and graham crackers and who kept checking my blood sugar every few minutes.
We finally got it at an acceptable number and after a consult with my endocrinologist during my discharge we agreed for me to check my levels every morning for a few weeks to make sure they were returning to normal and then to follow-up with my regular doctor in six months for a a1c test (an A1C test result reflects your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months).
Months had gone by and I had continued to eat the diet that was recommended during my pregnancy but not as strict. I was incredibly tired, more tired than my previous postpartum periods but I assumed it was because of the c-section recovery, rough postpartum period, and a baby who couldn’t sleep. These are all things I am explaining to my primary doctor during my six month check up. I was also experiencing blurry vision and the inability to shake any cold. In fact, I was always fighting something. She had labs ran and told me she would call me with the results, if there was nothing to worry about she would just send them in the mail. This was a Wednesday.
Friday evening I received a call from my clinic. It was after business hours and my heart sank immediately. I took the call in the bathroom as the children were all clammering for my attention right at that moment. My doctor, in an almost apologetic tone told me that my A1C levels were at a 10%. (For people without diabetes, the normal range for the hemoglobin A1c test is between 4% and 6%. The higher the hemoglobin A1c, the higher the risks of developing complications related to diabetes. )
She went on to tell me that I had an average of 275 eAG (estimated average glucose) and that I needed to be put on insulin immediately. I was silent for a while and I remember she called my name a few times. With a large lump in my throat I reiterated what she said and confirmed her diagnoses. “Yes, you have diabetes now and it needs to be treated right away. I’m sorry.” she said.
I swallowed my tears, thanked her for calling me so late on a Friday and promised to call first thing in the morning to get an appointment with the endocrinologist.
I knew that after gestational diabetes that I had a 50/50 chance of developing full-blown diabetes but that was supposed to be later in life. After the hard pregnancy, labor and delivery I felt cheated like I didn’t have a chance to try to avoid it and that I couldn’t catch a break.
I went into the bedroom where Mr. Incredible was rocking Beaner and laid on the bed and sobbed quietly. He put Beaner down in the crib and softly stroked my hair and apologized for what was happening in my body. He agreed that it wasn’t fair and that he would do what ever to help me deal with it. Riggity came in and was very concerned when I took a call in the bathroom followed by soft crying. Mr. Incredible explained what was going on because she was old enough to understand and I was okay with her knowing.
I met with the endocrinologist and was put on an insulin regime very similar to when I was pregnant. This time the meeting was more serious as this disease was no longer temporary and had many more risks and complications than gestational diabetes. We picked up two bags of supplies from the pharmacy and my heart ached as I considered what was to become the rest of my life.
Months had gone by and I religiously monitored my blood sugar four or more times a day, took my insulin and watched what I ate. I’d purchased a stack of books as it is my nature to study up on any challenge I face and tackle them with as much knowledge as was available. This time the books stayed in the same spot, untouched. Every time I tried to read them an overwhelming sense of confusion and mental exhaustion would overtake me.
I was managing things fine for a while but soon I began to have more and more hypoglycemic episodes. Blurry visions, headaches, my tongue would go numb and I would stutter and slur when I talked. I was afraid to drive, afraid to be home alone with my kids and just plain afraid. I noticed that with my diet I was able to keep my blood sugar stable so on a trial I stopped taking my insulin for a week (but continued to monitor my numbers). My hypoglycemic episodes began to spread out and I was starting to feel a little normal again. Every once in a while, if I had pizza or Chinese food, my levels would be high but I knew it was because of those things I ate.
I showed Mr. Incredible my numbers and explained my concerns about being on the insulin. We both thought that maybe the insulin was unnecessary or still too much. (The doctor had already lowered the dosage prior). When I called and explained to the doctor he encouraged me to continue taking the insulin but to schedule an appointment so that we can discuss my numbers in person.
I went back and forth with his advice. He wasn’t there when I was about to black out while holding my baby or while driving. I decided to continue to stay off of the insulin until my appointment which was a week away.
When I met with the doctor he looked at my numbers (after I told him I went against his orders and stopped the insulin) and said I was wise to stop taking the insulin. It looks (at this time) to be unnecessary and that it was causing more harm than good. We agreed to have me continue to monitor my levels in the morning and before bed and to see him again in six months for another A1C test. He also wanted to check to see what my A1C was since being on the insulin, to see if it helped at all.
I left feeling pretty optimistic. Maybe my body had a delayed reaction to the gestational diabetes and was recovering slower than usual.
A few days later I received a letter from his office with the results of a few tests he’d run. I called and asked him to explain them to me. One test was another A1c test which showed I was at a level of 6.5%. That was great news, a huge improvement from the 10% I was just a few months prior. He also ran a test to check on the function of my pancreas.
What the results found was that I was not Type 2 diabetic like he originally thought, but that my body was producing antibodies for Type 1. In short, I have an autoimmune disease which is attacking my pancreas making my body think that any insulin I produce is harmful and needs to be stopped and not processed correctly.
We asked him why was I able to manage the symptoms with my new lifestyle and he thought that perhaps I was going through a “honeymoon phase”. It is a term that endocrinologists use when a diabetic’s blood sugar levels stabilize without medication for an unknown reason. He suspects that in 6 months my pancreas will “poop out” (as he put it), or stop producing insulin and eventually I will be 100% insulin dependent.
After I had time to digest the new information I received I decided that I wasn’t going to sit back and wait for my “pancreas to poop out”. I am going to do whatever I have the ability to do to slow down this runaway train of a diagnosis.
I am still no longer on insulin for the time being and I have been working (in conjunction with my endocrinologist) with a naturopathic doctor who has been helping me treat the disease and not just the symptoms. We have been able to keep my blood sugar stabilized and limit those hypoglycemic episodes, slow down and treat neuropathic pain (nerve pain associated with diabetes), and hopefully other diabetes complications (vision and heart damage).
Accepting My Limitations doesn’t mean that I will roll over and let diabetes take over me. The mindset of “whatever happens happens” is not an option for me.
Accepting my limitations is adjusting my expectations as a mom, specifically a stay-at-home-mom. I am more tired than not, and I confess that I am hyper-sensitive to not being able to do all that I use to. It’s not beating myself up when every meal that week wasn’t prepared from scratch (my choice to do), or the house isn’t up to my standard of cleanliness, or the list of things I would like to accomplish now is put on the back burner.
It’s being more purposeful in the things I take on, knowing I have so much energy in a day. It’s being more purposeful as I am educating my children about eating to live and not living to eat, making wise choices and developing a different palate than the typical “American diet”. It’s seeing exercise not as a cute trend but as a necessity just as important as medication. It’s excepting help from friends and family when needed and not feeling guilty if I can’t do everything and be everywhere.
Most importantly I believe that my diagnoses was not a surprise by God and that there are silver linings, although it took me a while to see them.
2 Corinthians 12:9
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
In the event that I become completely insulin dependent I will at least know that I have tried everything that I could have done and will be okay with the next necessary treatments.
What about you? Do you have something that makes life a little more challenging? How are you overcoming?
- Understanding Diabetes (deaconjohnspace.wordpress.com)