It was shortly after my life almost ended that I was forced to make a choice “go see a counselor or go to a journaling group”. I was completely against the counselor thing. I had been going to one before I landed myself in the hospital on the verge of death with DKA so bad that the doctors didn’t know if they were going to be able to save me and after that event, the counselor thought I was suicidal, a lot of people thought I was suicidal but I wasn’t going to be treated for suicidal behavior because I wasn’t suicidal, I just didn’t want to have diabetes anymore and I didn’t think that there was anything wrong with that. What I thought was that just wanted to be free of this disease that I had been stuck with for twelve years and that I’d probably be stuck with for a long time to come. I didn’t want to die, but that’s what everyone thought.
I was lying in the ER that my mom and dad had taken me to after I called them and said I needed to go where the doctors told my mom “Mrs. Steele, we’re not sure if we’re going to be able to bring her out of this” did I think I was suicidal. They didn’t know what “this” was at that time. They didn’t know what I had done to myself. They didn’t know that I had gone a year without checking my blood, or if I did check my blood it was on some strange whim. They didn’t know that I had gone a year without much insulin. They didn’t know that I had had a pump that I had been wearing and during that time, I was only getting whatever it was giving me each hour thanks to the basal rate but that I hadn’t been bolusing. They didn’t know that I had gotten fed up with my diabetes and my pump and that I decided I wasn’t going to have diabetes anymore. They didn’t know that checking my blood and taking insulin wasn’t a priority on my list.
What they knew was that there was a 23 year old lying on the bed in the ER unable to breathe because she was hyperventilating. What they knew was that she was fighting them when they told her to calm down and breathe because “it hurt”. What they knew was that there was a girl lying on their bed in the ER that had been throwing up her guts all day telling her mom that it was because of a bad tuna fish sandwich. What they knew was that there was a girl lying in the ER who was so dehydrated that she could barely talk because her mouth might have well been full of cotton. They knew that whatever it was that I had done to myself, they couldn’t fix it there in that hospital, and so they drugged me and put me in an ambulance and drove me downtown.
I don’t remember the ambulance ride, except for a vague memory of the sirens going and the young man paramedic telling me “Courtney breathe, you need to breathe” and me crying “I can’t breathe. It hurts”.
They took me downtown to a hospital that happened to contain all the endocrinologists that I had taken care of me as I was growing up. How they figured out how to fix me I don’t know. I had a morphine drip connected to my IV and boy was I loopy. I remember my first night in the hospital, fighting with a nurse because I had managed to roll over in my bed in ICU and gotten tangled in my lines and set off alarms. I remember being so loopy the next day and mom just looking at me, still not knowing what I had done to myself, and me telling her. Of course, I only told her about how much I hated diabetes and how I wanted it to go away, and how I had not taken care of it. I think I left out the part where during that year and for the 2 years prior to that, I had been drinking regularly. If I was buzzed beyond recognition, diabetes didn’t exist and in those times I was free from my disease and I was having fun and I enjoyed myself. She only got half the story and she wasn’t happy with what she heard.
It took them (the doctors) four days to get me out of diabetic keto acidosis, pumping insulin into me through an IV, pumping fluids though the same IV and pumping morphine into me to get me to relax enough that I could breathe and so that they could reason with me. Following those 4 days in the hospital, I spent a week out of school, a week off work, a week with family members trying to reason with me and figure out why I had done what I did to myself. Grandma came and told me that I needed to journal. It was shortly after that conversation that mom threw the line at me “go see a counselor or go to a journaling group, that’s your choice, you have to do one or the other”. I hated her for it. I yelled at her for even suggesting that I go back to a counselor that had thought I was suicidal. I decided on going to a journaling group.
The funny thing about journaling group is that I rarely journaled about my diabetes. I journaled about all those that I hated and how people pissed me off. But my diabetes, I didn’t want to write about it, I didn’t want to confront it. I didn’t want to confront the culprit that had taken my life from me. But one thing that was often suggested as a writing technique sticks out in my head, the unsent letter. Now, I usually wrote these to people that I hated vehemently and shoved them in pocket in my journal and it was amazing how much pain was lifted when I wrote those letters and got so much that I had wanted to say and never did off my chest. What I never thought about was writing to something that had hurt me more than anyone else. The “something” that had caused me to hate so many people and to resent others. That something, my pancreas. I don’t know what it did, decided to go on vacation, got unemployed or what, but it stopped working and killed a part of me with it and that angers me. Most of my anger issues stem from my diabetes and my diabetes is no ones fault other than my pancreas’ so here we go…I always write the address on the envelope of my letters before I write them as though if I write them before addressing the envelope, it won’t get sent and we want to send this one…
Courtney’s Dead Pancreas
4 or so inches long
Just Beyond The Stomach, CB 01992
CB being Courtney’s body and 01992 being the year I was diagnosed.
Dear Dead Worthless Pancreas,
How are you these days, jobless, just hanging out, doing what? What happened, did you decide to go be a bum on the beach, are you enjoying the waves? Did you decide that you needed one day off of work and then decide that life was great not working so you weren’t ever going back. What the hell happened to you. Did you decided to go be a drunk bum in a bar incapable of taking care of yourself and living off whatever people would give you? You failed you know, I don’t think you are alive, your problem right now, you didn’t get buried, you’re not even rotting. If I had to say that you were somewhere, I’d put you in limbo, you’re chilling waiting for something to happen. I can tell you what hasn’t happened, a cure hasn’t been found for me and when a cure is found for me I pray to the dear Lord that it doesn’t have to do with you. You were unreliable the first time around and you know what, in matters of life and death, you’re not worth giving a second chance.
Do you realize that you had it good when you were working? Do you realize that both you and I could go to the beach and enjoy the surf of the sea on the water, now, you’re bumming and guess what, I’m not enjoying it, and so I hope you are.
Some days, I know you feel like coming back to work, and so you might produce just a little insulin, I don’t even know why you try, it causes me more trouble than it’s worth that you decided to get out of bed that day. You should just stay in bed, don’t show your face around here ever again, it’s not worth your time and it’s definitely not worth my time.
You know what amazes me, you’re not even as cool as the other organs, or maybe it’s that you just not nearly as important. Other organs decide to die and they get replaced. If a kidney decides to fail, guess what, I could get a new one (or at least I could before I got diabetes, thank you very much for that one). If my liver was dying (at it wasn’t because I had become a drunk to drowned out the pain of my not working pancreas. i.e. you) I could get a new one of those too. My heart, should something horrific happen to it, it might take a while, but he could be replaced as well.
But you…can you be replaced, no, you just fail to do your duty and force your carrier to get a pancreas in a bottle and inject ourselves with it. No, you’re not nearly as nice as the other organs. You’re self centered all you thought about when you quit your job was you and how cool it would be to just lie there behind the stomach that protects you from the angry people ripping you out of your nice warm bed where you lie and read and watch TV.
You’re unimpressive and uncool and maybe that’s why you quit, so you could go crawl into a corner and curl up into a fetal position and stay there until a cure could be found and not only would you have to do your job but your carrier (ME!) wouldn’t have to do her job either. You do realize that diabetes is a full time job for those of us that previously had a working pancreas (YOU) and that our job isn’t nearly as easy as your job was, and you do realize that you had it easy right, because I was a healthy kid that didn’t eat a lot of sweets. Yeah, you had an easier job than an of your surround co-workers.
I hope you’re happy with whatever it is you’re doing these days, because me, I’m miserable. Thanks for that.
This is excerpt from my NaNoWriMo project: Confessions of a Type 1 Diabetic. For the curious, it’s 1866 words bringing my NaNoWriMo total to 3738 words.