Sunday, September 10, 2017

Diabetes Bites! - Part I

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes on July 5, 2017, and it has been a roller coaster since then.  Sometimes I am determined to research and understand this disease so that I can "reverse" it.  Sometimes I am frustrated to the point of giving up on even trying to understand.  Sometimes I'm scared.  Sometimes I'm angry.  Sometimes I think I've got a handle on what I need to do.  Sometimes I think it is impossible to know.  Sometimes I am all of these things in the same day.  I am writing a series of blog posts about what I have learned and what I wish I knew, to be spaced out over the next couple weeks.  If you have diabetes, or care for someone with diabetes, who has already been through these stages, still struggles with them, or was just diagnosed, please share your knowledge, questions, and fears, and maybe we can figure this out together.

Question #1, of course, is "What is diabetes?"   In a nut shell - when food is digested, the sugar it contains is released into the blood stream; insulin pushes the sugar into cells, where it is stored until it is burned for energy.  Think of your body as a house with central air and heat.  When a "normal" person's blood sugar rises, the air conditioner (insulin) quickly brings it back down.  If the level gets too low, the furnace (liver) pushes it back up.  The high-to-low range stays within a narrow band. 

Diabetes is the result of faulty air conditioning (low insulin production, low insulin effectiveness, or insulin resistance).  When my blood sugar level rises, the a.c. isn't strong enough, so the level goes higher, stays their longer, and takes more effort to bring down, thus creating broad fluctuations and long periods of time at the peak of the waves. During those high times, the excess glucose is causing damage that leads to cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, Alzheimer's . . . the fun just goes on and on.

The worst part is knowing that I did this to myself.  There is a gene that predisposes us to type 2 diabetes.  Not all people who have the gene will get the disease, but if you DON'T have the gene, you can't get the disease.  That means there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who ate the same poor diet, and gained as much or more weight as me, but they are not at risk of diabetes. That hardly seems fair!  On the flip side, there are an equal number of people who have the gene but have spent fifty years making better choices and will never develop diabetes.  I have no one to blame but me.  

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in." - Psalm 3:11-12

We teach our children that actions have consequences, and when they make poor choices in their actions, the consequences follow.  They can ask for, and receive, forgiveness and possibly even a second chance, but the consequences remain.  As adults, we are reluctant to apply that to ourselves, but God does.  For years I made poor choices in what I ate and how much I exercised (or didn't exercise), and I steadily gained weight.  In 2012 I decided to make better choices and I lost fifty-five lbs.  I felt great and didn't look too bad!  But my arrogance remained. Like an alcoholic who thinks he can have just one drink, I thought I could return to old eating patterns but not let them get out of control.  Wrong!  I was soon back to consuming high-sugar, high-fat foods; large portions; no exercise; and turning to food for comfort, reward, entertainment, and consolation.  I got rid of some pounds, but I did not get rid of my "worship" of food.  Four years later, I had regained the fifty-five pounds, plus five, and discipline followed.

"But, Lord, I tried!  I put all that effort into following a diet, walking, lifting weights.  I was strong enough to turn away from temptations (most of the time).  I was in control for 12 months!"  I did...  I was...  I could...  And God answered "You didn't try hard enough. In your struggle against sin, you did not resist to the point of shedding your blood." (Hebrews 12:4 paraphrased)  Shedding blood?  Lord, isn't that too much to ask?  "That is why I shed MY blood in your place. So you could use my strength when you were too weak."

I do not despise the Lord's discipline.  I have accepted that diabetes is the end product of my poor choices; the consequence that a fair and loving Father handed out.   I will not make the mistake of thinking I can handle it on my own.  I don't yet know exactly how to live with diabetes.  I haven't deciphered the stacks of conflicting information.  And I'm sure there will be more days when I'm a crumpled, bawling heap on the kitchen floor.  But I will look up - and remember His words, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  I will get back up and put my hand in His and try again - "For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12:9-10)