I have this dream. Well, I mean, nightmare. I’m standing at the gates to the afterlife and the God of Diabetes is judging me. The God of Diabetes is always portrayed by Wilfred Brimley. Come on, you know who I mean, you’ve seen the commercials. Guy with a walrus mustache, “If you have…diabeetus.” Wilfred is judging my final fate. In front of him is a scale, with a blood glucose meter on it. It’s a clear callback, my dramaturg brain notes, to the Ancient Egyptian myth of judgment, where your heart is weighed against a feather. If it’s lighter or as light, you go to heaven. If it’s heavier, your heart gets eaten by crocodiles. This is either lodged in my brain through history classes or through Sesame Street’s seminal treatise, “Don’t Eat the Pictures,” I’m not sure which. In this test, if my BG is 4-6 (mmol/l; it's a metric scale), I get into heaven. 6-8 and I get into heaven but I have to pass the written. I test and there’s a strip error. I give Wilfred a buck to buy another strip and test again. The result is in. It’s 8.5. Fuck.
“Diabeetus,” intones God Brimley, sadly. It’s all he says. Crocodile time.
Then I wake up.------------------------------
It has come to my attention that introductions are hard, particularly trying to introduce something you've been thinking about for fifteen years, when Blogger was but a twinkle in a developer's eye. My name is Ilana Lucas. I am a Type 1 Diabetic, and I have been mulling this idea over and over in my head since I was diagnosed hours before my best friend's 13th birthday party (I was 12) in 1997. My diagnosis story is atypical. My mother had insisted that I get tested because my first cousin had recently been diagnosed with classic symptoms at the tender age of four, and, well, who's the comedian who, on the subject of a disease, says "it doesn't run in my family; it gallops"? That's the case for my family and various types of diabetes (it's nowhere near as prevalent in my family as many, but it still seems to happen often enough). The doctor initially refused but humoured my mother. My fasting test came back at 27 (486 for the non-metric; whatever scale, it was bad).
When I was diagnosed, I wasn't put on insulin immediately. I have no idea why. The doctors seemed to think diet would help. It didn't. They thought metformin would help. It didn't, though it helped nauseate me constantly. It didn't help to the point where I didn't know whether it helped or not, since I hated my numbers that I could never get right, I stopped testing.
At 15, my pancreas finally gave up the ghost and I was mercifully put on insulin. My endocrinologist tells me I'm a Type 1. I'm beginning to wonder if I had a case of LADA, even though I was young. The consensus seems to be that I was a Type 1 caught very early thanks to my mother, but I've never been able to shake the worry/guilt that the (100% undeserved by anyone) stigma of Type 2 applies to me. I don't know how to define myself. It bugs me.
I didn't take care of myself for a long time. I had a fatalistic attitude toward my condition. I'm a perfectionist with an obnoxious resume: top of high school class, Princeton grad cum laude, Columbia grad school grad cum laude. I tried to be the perfect child and I never rebelled. Except for this. Diabetes was my rebellion. It was the only test I couldn't be perfect at so I ignored it. Unfortunately, it was the test my life depended on.
It's only been in the past couple of years that I've shaped up and accepted myself and what I have to do, though I'm still not perfect. I attribute this to a combination of a wise voice from grad school, and my introduction to DSMA, Diabetes Social Media Advocacy. It's not an exaggeration, though it sounds silly, to say that the other diabetics I have met through social media have changed my life. I went from MDI to a pump (Animas Ping) in November 2010, and brought my A1c's into the best shape they've ever been by a long shot, though I recognize I have a long way to go.
Other things about me: I'm currently a contract professor of English; I'm engaged to a wonderful guy I met in undergrad, and I sing in a choir and play rock handbells with five other rockin' chicks in our group, Pavlov's Dogs. I blog about theatre and music here.
Why Diaturgy? My great love, and educational background, is in a field called dramaturgy. A dramaturg is the equivalent of a theatrical consultant; she or he, through a combination of research, teaching, writing, mediation, conversation, and working with playwrights, directors, and actors, is responsible for ensuring the most powerful and accurate communication of the theatrical event possible. A dramaturg bonds everything together, functioning as a bridge between audience and production, and as a bridge between various parts of the production. The key word for a dramaturg is communication. In this blog, I hope to communicate; to dramaturg my diabetes. I hope to be a bridge between myself and other diabetics, myself and non-diabetics, and, I hope, between others who might want to enter into the conversation. I hope to do this with thought and passion.
But first, I intend to tell you why diabetes is like a bad buddy cop movie starring Owen Wilson, and I intend to share some of the silliest song parodies imaginable. Because I'm like that.
Thanks for reading!