Sometimes it feels like I am at war with my body. Blood and bruises. There is dried blood on the sleeves of my t-shirt and a small spot on the back of my underwear. Blood spurts to the surface of my calloused fingers 8 to 10 times a day and I lick it away. There is a bruise on the right side of my belly button and on the back side of my left arm that I noticed when I was at the gym. The bruises take a long time to fade, turning from blue to yellow. These markings are like tattoos. They are what’s visible of my invisible disease.
I hate the sight of blood. Growing up in the woods of Vermont I saw a fair share of blood, such as when the hunters drove by our house with deer carcasses slung in the bed of their truck or when my dad beheaded a chicken for dinner. Blood terrified me then, and it still does now. A few weeks ago my youngest child got hurt at a birthday party at his cousin’s house. A soccer goal fell and cut his face, close to his eye, and we had to take him to the ER for stitches. When it was finally time to numb the area I stood by his bedside and held his hand while the doctor inserted a large needle into his face. The cut was red and deep, and I felt myself getting weak. I held tighter to my baby’s hand while he cried, and I tried to take deep breaths, but the next thing I knew I was lying on the floor. It felt like those terrible memories of waking up after a bad low blood sugar. The nurse was standing above me asking if I was OK. “I have Type 1 diabetes,” I said. “I need to test my sugar.” I was fine. My blood sugar was 95. It was the blood on my baby’s face that made me pass out.
I felt like a failure. I wasn’t there when my child needed me, and even though I was relieved that it wasn’t a result of low blood sugar, I was angry with my physical limitations. Sometimes it feels like I am at war with my body. I pinch my skin before I inject myself with a syringe, I squeeze my fingers for blood, I struggle to run (or read, or sleep, or talk, or, or, or) through a high or a low blood sugar, battling against my body. I live with blood and bruises every day. Blood on my fingers, blood on the pages of my books from when I thought the bleeding from my fingertip had stopped, and small spots of blood on my clothes. After 32 years, blood and bruises are my reality. I accept it, but I hate it, too.
My wise friend Becky Furuta (who also has Type 1 diabetes) says, “In some Buddhist traditions, there’s a prayer in which one makes a rather unusual request of the universe: Bring me challenges and obstacles. ‘May I be given the appropriate difficulties so that my heart can truly open with compassion.’ Imagine asking for that. But we do. In fact, my husband and I have deep gratitude for our children’s respective challenges, built into the fabric of their lives. Dyslexia, sensory processing disorder, autism…because they will give them a reason to work harder, to be frustrated, to learn tenacity and perseverance. We all need to struggle in ways big and small.”
So I’m going to do my best to have gratitude for my challenges. It’s really hard, but I want to try. I want to learn tenacity. I want to persevere.