Recognizing the Need to Tweak Thought

In 2007, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes[1] and spent the rest of the year learning what I could about the condition while at the same time learning how to live with it. In 2008, I continued to learn about living with diabetes, and I found that although diabetes affects every aspect of my life, the day-to-dayness of it does eventually slip into the background — often, at least — and become one more thing that gets swallowed up by all of the other noise in my life.

But in 2009?


Hmm. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but last week, during a drafting session for my blog, I toyed with the idea of an entry about diabetes New Year’s resolutions. Don’t worry, though, this is not that. Yet…

(As a side note: I’m sure many of you out did make resolutions related to your diabetes. What were they?)

I bring up resolutions not because of the new year, but because lately I’ve noticed a trend in my thinking about my diabetes. I’ve found my thoughts about my dealings with diabetes — the insulin pump[2] site changes and reservoir refilling, the blood glucose monitoring, the bolusing…really just the mundane day-to-dayness of it all — are skewing toward the negative.

Slightly. Increasingly.

So I have to write about it; it’s how I make sense of things. And I’m sharing with you some of my writing about it. By putting it on paper (or on screen) I’m able to come back around to better diabetic self-awareness instead of what I see as a path toward a diabetic taken-for-grantedness.

The sorts of things I’ve been thinking that are dangerous? Rather than getting up to check my blood glucose when I should, I’ll just hit “OK” on the insulin pump when it prompts me and continue doing what I’m doing. By itself not really malfeasance. But, this action will often be accompanied by thoughts about the inconveniences of the disease, followed by self-pity about what it was like before diabetes, the beginnings of “why me,” and then some form of a muttered “stupid diabetes” (or if my wife’s around and hears my pump buzz, I’ll say it louder, more clearly, so she can hear).

Sometimes I look in the mirror and find myself thinking about the future, two, three, or four decades from now, and I project out, just for a moment, a sad time in my life during which complications[3] have developed. I see myself old, infirm, unhealthy, walking without ease, winded, taking too many medications, living my life, it feels like, to keep things from getting much worse. And I blame diabetes for it.

I snap back pretty quickly.

But still, I didn’t do this in 2007 because I was preoccupied with the newness of it all. I didn’t do this in 2008 because — well, probably because — it was my first full year living with the condition, which helped create for me a barrier of living in the now. I don’t know.

In 2009, I see I’m going to have to pay closer attention to prevent those ruts in my neurological network; I have to stop fertilizing the dendritic growth of diabetic negativity. And I know from my past, from living with depression, that I will slip into meloncholy about diabetes if I give over to easy self-pity, if I’m lazy with constant small negative thoughts about Type 1 diabetes.

I don’t know if the following analogy works with what I’ve just written, but I’ll relay it anyway. When I worked on a construction crew during my summers and winter breaks in college, one of the first things I remember my boss Archie teaching me was that you never accept when you’ve gone off your measurement line, even the slightest bit, when you’re building the walls from the foundation. That less-than-an-inch that you think you can get away with in the basement when you begin framing the house will end up being a foot-wide gap by the time you get to the roof.

  1. Type 1 diabetes:
  2. insulin pump:
  3. complications:

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Eric Lagergren: Eric Lagergren was born in 1974 but didn’t give much thought to diabetes until March 2007, when he was diagnosed with Type 1. He now gives quite a bit of thought to the condition, and to help him better understand his life as a person with diabetes, he writes about it. Eric is the senior editor for the Testing Division at the University of Michigan’s English Language Institute in Ann Arbor. (Eric Lagergren is not a medical professional.)

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