A perfect storm hit my family last week. For several days, we watched the news on high alert as Hurricane Irma headed our way. We live in Charleston, South Carolina, and appeared to be a direct target for the category 5 storm. I am an anxious person regardless of the weather, and the threat of the storm raised my anxiety to panic attack levels. I practiced deep breathing, turned off the news, and went for a run to calm my nerves. Halfway through my run, I stepped on a rock and twisted my foot. I had to walk home, limping in pain.
The next morning we woke to the news that the hurricane had turned and the path of destruction was headed west, away from the southeastern coastline. Our relief quickly turned to devastation when moments later, my husband and I received the news that our brother-in-law had passed away after a long and agonizing battle with leukemia. The next few days passed in a blur of sadness. My heart hurt as I cycled through waves of crushing sadness. My blood sugar ran low all day and I didn’t know if it was a response to the anxiety, or the sadness, or the lack of appetite. I tested frequently and tried not to get frustrated. We watched the news and were numb to the warnings of storm surges in our city. We booked our flight, packed our bags. We were in motion. We were active. We had purpose and somehow that helped.
We escaped worsening weather in the south and arrived in Westport, Massachusetts, to a glorious day. A day our beloved friend would have relished. His memories were everywhere in town and somehow it helped to be there, to be closer to the memory of him. On the first day, we attended the wake and waited in a long line of the many people who loved him. The next day was the funeral and celebration of his life. All throughout these important events, my blood sugar ran high: 200, 250, 275. I was angry and frustrated. I did not want to be hindered by high blood sugar in the middle of this time of grief. I was emotionally drained and didn’t need the additional stress of high blood sugar. I wasn’t sure if it was the travel, or the emotional distress, or the disruption to my schedule and my inability to run or even walk that was causing the rise in my blood sugar. (It was probably all of the above.) My body hurt from sadness and now the pain on the inside equaled the pain on the outside. Frustrated, I tested frequently and increased my insulin doses. What else could I do?
On the last day, I sat on the deck of our rented house and stared at the water. I thought about the long, hard fight that my brother-in-law endured. I thought about the way his body was destroyed by disease. I thought about the 8 months he spent in the hospital before he came home to hospice care. I thought about how much he wanted to live.
I want to be grateful for my body in honor of my friend. Grateful for the ability to sit outside in the sun and feel the breeze on my face. Grateful for bones that will heal. Grateful for the ability to inject myself with insulin to manage my disease. Grateful for the ability to fight and win.
Want to learn more about maintaining your emotional health with diabetes? Read “Reducing Diabetes Stress: Alternative Treatments” and “Relaxation Techniques for Stressful Times.”