It started with my hands shaking.
At first, I didn’t notice. I was too busy typing away at a paper that could determine my entire future while my brain rattled off thoughts that had nothing to do with what I was actually writing.
I had tried to trick myself into thinking I was at peace; sitting across the street from Asbury at the seminary library with a gentle breeze and the sun shining. I even had a friend with me. Yet in between the click of a period and a space bar, I felt the familiar tremble of my fingers.
Automatically, I assumed my blood sugar had dropped. After having Type 1 Diabetes for almost 13 years, recognizing the signs becomes a little bit easier.
Low blood sugar creates shakiness, dizziness, sweats and blurry vision. For me, sometimes I even experience my lips tingling or going numb. High blood sugar creates an irritability in me that I cannot describe, as well as extreme thirst, dry mouth, fruity breath and nausea. But since I only had shaking fingers, I figured it was time to eat the snacks I keep in the pocket of my backpack. Granted, I hadn’t eaten a full lunch that day so low blood sugar made sense.
An anxiety attack didn’t.
But since I live with a chronic, high-maintenance disease that impacts my immediate and future health minute by minute, why should I be surprised?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that those managing diabetes of any kind are more prone to develop higher feelings of depression and anxiety at some point in their life. It’s because not only are they making normal decisions and dealing with everyday stresses, but there is a 24/7 loop of what-ifs regarding management, healthcare and insurance.
The American Diabetes Association said the price of insulin has quadrupled in the past decade— what if I can’t afford mine? What if I run out of my supplies? Will my insurance cover this month’s injections? What if my blood sugar won’t go down? What if my blood sugar goes low and I don’t have anything to get it up? What if I pass out? What if I’m hospitalized?
What if I have to ration my insulin like the 1.3 million other diabetics the journal
Annals of Internal Medicine reported having to ration it in the past year?
What if, what if, what if…the questions never go away because diabetes never goes away. It’s exhausting.
And for 20 percent of people with Type 1, the questioning has turned into generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), a clinical condition, according to Psychologist and certified diabetes care and education specialist Dr. Mark Heyman, who works with the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health.
“It is constant mental gymnastics to have to figure out how to do anything around diabetes, and there’s always that worry of, What if I do it wrong?” said Heyman.
I’ve asked myself that question on multiple occasions. Doing one thing wrong in diabetes management can have dire consequences. Nerve damage, heart and blood vessel disease, skin and mouth conditions, diabetes ketoacidosis…all of these things are extreme but it takes one wrong decision to start a dangerous process that would inevitably lead to death.
I am not sharing this stark reality to invoke pity. I got through my anxiety attack at the seminary and I will get through any other that tries to incapacitate me, mostly because I have to keep moving forward.
Also, I refuse to let diabetes keep me from what God is calling me to do. By recognizing diabetes for what it is— an overwhelming, anxiety-ridden disease— the power it holds on me disappears.
Anxiety doesn’t carry as much weight, too, when you start talking about it. Awareness and stimulating conversations about diabetes in general only strengthens this idea. It’s the first step required to breed real change.
People will continue having to ration their insulin if nothing changes. The amount spent on diabetes supplies like insulin pumps, CGMs, and insulin will continue to rise; the American Action Forum reported the U.S. could be spending between $61-$121 billion on insulin by 2024 based on current cost trends. People will die.
If we begin paying attention, continue researching and talking (and therefore demanding action in regards to the insulin market and the need for competition at net price, rather than the size of the rebate), savings on lives and supplies could become more substantial.
You don’t have to have diabetes or be directly connected to a loved one to help get this message across. Being willing to learn and support those diabetics like me, who struggle with anxiety and fear for their future, can make a world of a difference.
Lexie is a member of the Surrendered Class and is majoring in Journalism and Christian Ministries. “I love to share people’s stories and how God is at work in the world, especially after being a part of Asbury’s Summer Ministry Team. I am also a member of the Asbury Worship Collective and in my free time can be seen reading, or talking on FaceTime to my best friends and family.”
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