Last week in a post I shared a favorite quote, the gist of which is that people will only act rationally once they’ve tried all the irrational options.
About a week ago I found myself having to admit that I’d been acting irrationally for many years. I was diagnosed 20 years ago as a Type 2 diabetic, and the fact that I got the disease was completely my fault. Too much weight and too little exercise eventually resulted in a substantial rise in my blood sugar caused by the inability of my body to properly use insulin.
A normal healthy teenager could eat a big package of Skittles, four glazed donuts, a baked potato the size of a gunboat, and wash it all down with a liter of Dr. Pepper and it wouldn’t be a problem. His body would release a surge of insulin which would, in short order, bring the teen’s blood sugar back to normal.
Something as simple as a cup of rice or a couple of slices of bread will cause my blood sugar to spike, and even though I have insulin in my bloodstream, it does little to lower my blood glucose level because my system is now insulin resistant.
High blood sugar has a variety of unpleasant effects. For me, the most visible is a greatly increased thirst. Long before I was a diabetic I was thirstier than most people, and the disease has made that even worse. In addition, two of the anti-diabetic medications I’m on have the side effect of increased thirst. That is why you rarely see me without something to drink.
When we know that we are going to be out of the house for a few hours Becky will pack a cooler with several drinks. When I walk into a church service it’s with a Coke Zero and a bottle of water. At home, I will sometimes drink a couple of gallons of iced tea in a day. Because what goes in must come out, I can never stray far from a restroom.
The constant need for drinks and access to restrooms means there are some kinds of places I won’t go and activities I will not attempt. In addition to the constant thirst, there are other short-term effects of hyperglycemia including pronounced fatigue and blurred vision. While these can be annoying and limiting, I have become accustomed to them.
The longer-term effects of prolonged high glucose levels are much more serious and include things like blindness, nerve damage, an increased risk of strokes, and ultimately, an early death. These are things the irrational part of me minimizes as I, like so many non-diabetics, gobble up donuts, fries, and Kit-Kat bars while never checking my blood sugar.
I am so used to the feelings that accompany high blood sugar that I tell myself that diabetes is irrelevant to my daily life. It is a sad fact that many diabetics won’t worry about the serious complications of the disease until it’s too late to do anything about them.
I am forced to admit that I’ve been treating my diabetes the way that Homer Simpson deals with his car’s flashing check engine light.
That was the road I was on, but my eyes have been opened and I can see what awaits me if I don’t take the exit marked Common Sense.
I know the changes I’m making are, while long-delayed, rational ones. I know I’ll kick myself for waiting so long to do the right thing, but maybe I should give myself a little credit for not exhausting all the other alternatives.