I have to admit something, both to myself and to you.
I haven’t been handling things well.
I’m not only talking about the past eight or nine weeks of COVID-lockdown, though that is a big part of it. The surreal strangeness, isolation, fear, and anger at those not taking this situation seriously, jeopardizing the rest of us because of their idiocy has gotten to me at times, as I’m sure it’s gotten to you.
I’m also talking about my own personal situation with my health.
I’m not sure if I would be able to manage each one on its own any better than I have, but both together have really done a number on me, and it’s past time that I come to terms with that.
I don’t like a lot of the ways I’ve been acting out lately. I can’t seem to keep myself from lashing out at the people close to me, the people I care about most. At times, it’s like I’m outside my body, watching as someone else who looks and sounds like me, does stupid or hurtful things to my friends and family.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t done anything serious or dreadfully hurtful. It’s been mostly small things, but things out of character none-the-less. While nothing I’ve done has destroyed my relationships, I can’t help but feel that I’ve damaged them somewhat, pushing people who mean the most to me away without explanation.
I’ve written quite a bit about my recent health troubles here in this blog, about my struggle with Type 2 Diabetes, and how, no matter what I seemed to do, I’ve been sliding ever closer to having to go on regular insulin injections to manage my glucose levels.
I mentioned in my last blog post how I had started on weekly injections despite having quit smoking several months prior and that I was making a real effort to eat healthy and get plenty of exercise. I spoke about how depressed constantly losing my battle with this condition was making me, and how I worried that things were only bound to get worse from there.
Then COVID came along, and things did get worse.
About two and a half weeks ago, after feeling decidedly “off” for several days, I checked my glucose, (something I wasn’t doing regularly, I’ll admit, even though I should have done), and found it to be high. Very high. Stroke/heart attack level high.
I had, up to that point, been a very good boy. A week before the pandemic hit, I joined a gym and started working out five days a week. Even when the gyms had to close down, I continued my workouts at home with the equipment I have here, maintaining my 5 workouts per week schedule, and using my crappy, Walmart brand elliptical machine for at least 40 mins per day.
I had cut my carb intake down a lot and upped my proteins and veggies. I was getting a good amount of sleep, taking my meds on time every day, and had cut back on the drinking. A lot.
It wasn’t enough, apparently.
I had said before that I was always genetically fated to get Diabetes. Even when I said that, though, I always maintained a micron of hope that my endocrinologist and I were wrong. We weren’t.
With my sugar as high as it was, I made the decision (realistically, I didn’t have a choice) to, in the middle of a pandemic, go to the Emergency Room. If my glucose reading was accurate, I was perhaps hours away from a stroke unless I sought out treatment.
I’m not ashamed to say I was very afraid. Emergency Rooms are no fun, to begin with, and the thought that I might have a stroke or heart attack at any moment greatly amped up my fear. Add to that the shock of being slapped in the face with what it really means to be living through a pandemic, and the strangeness of the situation just adds to the feelings of dread.
The staff at the hospital were great, but the precautions, the masks, face-shields, respirators, all of it, added a Twilight-Zone strangeness to the situation. Everywhere I turned I was reminded that just being out of the house was now dangerous, and no matter how normal everyone around me was trying to behave behind their face-masks and sterile gloves, things were far from normal.
And yes, there were people suspected of being infected with COVID-19 right there, just meters away from where I lay on an emergency room bed. Several layers of plastic sheeting separated us, and though the risk was undoubtedly much less than I feared at the time, just knowing I was steps away from several possible vectors for the virus didn’t do much to allay my, admittedly unrealistic fears.
It took a few hours to get my glucose levels back down into the safe range, and during that time I gave blood and other samples. I saw several different nurses and a few doctors, none of which I will ever be able to recognize again, as I couldn’t see their faces behind their masks, as they couldn’t see mine.
Once my sugar level had come down enough, they decided to give me a few more tests to see if they could get any indication of what was going on with me. Everything was coming back clean, but before they could release me, they decided I needed one more test. They hooked me up to an EKG and took some blood so that they could discern whether or not I had had a “silent” heart attack. They were worried because I had mentioned having some small bouts of heartburn throughout the day.
Turns out, I didn’t have a heart attack, which, though I sweat through the half-hour waiting for those particular results to come back, I was incredibly relieved to hear.
Not being able to make an appointment with my endocrinologist since his office is currently closed due to the pandemic, I emailed him with a description of what had occurred with my emergency room visit.
After some back and forth, he asked me to take my glucose readings four times a day for the next four days and send him the results. I worked extra hard for those four days to try and bring my levels down, pretty much cutting carbs out of my diet completely, keeping up with my exercising, and drinking so much water that I was going to the toilet nearly every hour.
Still, my numbers kept coming back high. No matter what I did, I was always in the high eights and nines, or the low elevens or sometimes thirteens. That’s bad.
So, that was it, the last nail in the coffin of my battle to stay off daily insulin. My endo sent in the prescription, and now, every night before bed, I have to stick myself with an admittedly small needle, and administer a substance that for one reason or another my body just will not produce anymore.
After fifty years together, my pancreas has decided to break up with me.
It’s been about a week and a half now that I’ve been on the daily insulin injections. I’m also still on my other weekly injection that I take every Wednesday, as well as the oral medications that I was prescribed prior to the insulin.
I know it shouldn’t, but that really makes me feel like a failure.
The sharp peaks and valleys that the insulin creates in my sugar levels have made me more irritable than usual, and I’ve noticed that I’m much more on edge lately than I usually am. I was a bit crankier than usual, I will admit, with all of the pandemic stuff going on, but this has really amped things up.
I’m trying not to take out my frustrations on my family and friends, but I fear I’m failing, and as a result, I’m isolating myself from people more and more, lest I say or do something to permanently damage my relationships.
I’m spending a lot more time alone, either in my office, my workshop or in my “movie theater”. I’ve become less productive as well, passing the time just watching trivial YouTube videos on my laptops, not writing, not making things or building things, or finishing things.
A bit over a month ago, I organized a Dungeons & Dragons game night with some good friends over Zoom. We’d all get on our web-cams and try to make it seem as if we were all sitting around the same table playing. It was a lot of fun, and it spawned two other game nights that I also participated in.
A few days ago I pulled out of two of the games, and I am seriously considering canceling the game I run. I don’t seem to be able to stand interacting with people for more than an hour at a time, let alone the several hours that a game night takes up.
I really hope I haven’t damaged any of my friendships with the people I’ve been playing with by leaving the games, but I can’t be sure that I haven’t.
I hesitate to use words like depression or mental illness when it comes to my situation, as I know that many people are going through much worse than I am, and I don’t want to belittle their struggles by attaching those terms to what I’m going through, but the combination of the isolation and separation brought on by the COVID pandemic and my personal health struggles have really messed me up.
Tomorrow night I go back to work, which is adding a whole other dimension to my worries and dread.
I work permanent midnights in a large factory. My plant currently employs over 4500 people, of which up to 3000 may be in the plant at the same time. That’s a lot of virus vectors.
I am afraid that returning to work in such a large group, despite the precautions the company and the union are taking for our safety, will make my exposure to the virus a certainty. I worry that I’ll bring it home to my family and risk infecting them.
I also worry that the change in schedule will make my struggles with maintaining a healthy glucose level even more difficult.
I’m afraid of so many things right now, and I worry that I don’t have the tools to deal with those fears. I feel frayed at the edges, just holding things together enough that I can hide the cracks and keep the pieces from falling to the floor.
This fear has crept into every facet of my life. I’m much less productive than I normally am, many of my projects are still unfinished despite my having been home with more free time than I’ve ever had for the past nine weeks. My writing has slowed to a trickle of words a day if I write at all, and I fear that I may have alienated most of my friends and family.
Worst of all is I don’t know how to fix that, and I fear things will only get worse as I try to get back into what passes for my “normal” work schedule.
I don’t know what else to put here.
If I’ve hurt any of you at all over the past few weeks, or if I’ve withdrawn from you, or snapped at you, I’m sorry.
Final NaNo Word Count – 56,095
Current Word Count – 92,504