The last time I cracked the binding on these journals was back in 2009, when I was cleaning out the apartment I was living in at the time. I happened upon them again last night, while searching for something in the attic. (I never found what I was looking for up there, but I did come down with a bunch of stuff I wasn’t looking for. Going into the attic is like going to Target.)
As I wrote a few years ago, these journals span the better part of ten years, starting from when I was about eight years old and going into my junior year of college. They’re old, and tattered, and it’s fun to flip through them and see what was top-of-mind for a ten year old. In the earlier journals, diabetes is rarely mentioned. There are mentions of attending Clara Barton Camp, but nothing really specific about diabetes or insulin injections or any of the tasks I knew I was tending to at the time. (I was busy being “just a kid” and not “a kid with diabetes,” which is the kind of childhood I was happy to have.)
But one entry, from back in 1999 when I was in college, talks exclusively about diabetes, and the period of burnout I was in.
“I have been diabetic for 13 years (this September) and I don’t know if I’ve taken the best care of myself. I have eaten a lot of the wrong things. I don’t exercise enough. Even though I still test, I am reluctant to test and last week, I saw a 50 and a 350 in the same day. Not okay. I hate taking my insulin shot. I’m really scared of lows, especially after the one when I couldn’t find the honey jar fast enough. My A1C runs at levels that makes my doctor raise an eyebrow sometimes because she knows I’ve been thinking about having a baby some day. I went to the Joslin Clinic last Thursday and they said I need to start thinking now about having babies much later. Which is hard to think about, since I don’t even have a father for these not-yet-made babies. Am I screwing up my chances of having a baby by having trouble controlling my diabetes? It’s a weird place to be in, worrying about stuff that won’t happen for a really long time, but that’s how diabetes is – makes you worry about all the crap in the future that other people might not think about until it’s actually happening. Must be interesting, not banging your head against a crystal ball all the fucking time.”
I wish I could send that girl a note, the 20-year old me who wrote with painstakingly neat handwriting (shocking, compared to the scrawled EKG graph my pen produces now), and tell her that just a decade or so later, she’d be sitting at her kitchen table and drinking coffee, having just sent her three year old daughter to school for the morning. That even after crossing the line into “complicated,” it’s still okay. The payoff seems irritating at times – “Work hard and the reward is … to keep having to work hard?” – but the alternative is unacceptable. Life with diabetes often means trying, and continuing try, even when you don’t want to.
I’d also suggest that she stop cursing so much back in the day, because surely she’d kick that habit as an adult.