I have a love–hate relationship with my body. It started when I was young, maybe even as young as ten years old — that was four years before I was diagnosed, so I can’t blame this on diabetes, but developing Type 1 diabetes certainly exacerbated the problem. I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom with my legs stretched out in front of me and staring at my feet. I hated my feet. They were huge in comparison to my friends’. My feet looked silly in the tiny ballet flats that girls my age wore. When winter came and it was time to wear boots, the boys in our class joked that my boots were the same size as their skis. I was the tallest in my class, too. Not one of the tallest, but the tallest, and I felt like a giant next to my petite friends. I slumped my shoulders in an attempt to make myself small.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes, my fraught relationship with my physical self was intensified. My body became something to control, something to study, and something to fear. I pricked my fingers; injected my thighs, my butt, my stomach, and my arms; and soaked through sheets when my blood sugar dropped in the night. My body was like an unruly pet I needed to tame. I rewarded and loved my body when I saw certain numbers (between 80 and 140 mg/dl) on my meter, and I punished and hated my body when I saw something different (anything above 150 mg/dl) on my meter. This system of reward and punishment was addictive, and I used all sorts of healthy and unhealthy behaviors to get good numbers.
One of the healthy behaviors I used to get good numbers was running. When I ran, I felt strong and good about my body. When I was running, I was rewarded with good blood sugar numbers. I ran through all sorts of self-destructive behaviors during my teenage years because running was like what I imagine going to confession is like for Catholics. Going for a run was like cleansing my body and erasing the damage I’d done the day before.
I continue to run today, but worry that sometimes I push myself too hard. (I say this in the midst of my marathon training.) I haven’t run in a few days because my IT band is hurting and I’m frustrated and scared that I won’t be able to run the marathon. I’ve worked so hard for months and to have to quit two weeks out would be very disappointing. I’m trying to stay positive and not drown myself with negative thinking, but it’s hard. It’s hard to love my body when it seems like it’s failing me. “Come on,” I whisper to my body as I lace up my shoes. “We’ve been through so much together.” And I start running, slowly.
Wondering when to test blood sugar? Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to find out from nurse David Spero.