Monday, May 12, 2014

D-Blog Week Day 1: Change The World (Sweat the Small Stuff)

Today marks the start of D-Blog week, a wonderful yearly outpouring of the diabetic experience as organized by Karen Graffeo of Bitter-Sweet Diabetes. Go here to learn more about the week and why it's important.

Today's topic is: "Change The World" - what diabetes issues are you passionate about?

When we talk about changing the world, there’s a lot of emphasis on the big picture; drastically improving our lives, finding a cure, creating a more affordable diabetic world. On a day-to-day basis, however, we think and post a lot about the small annoyances of diabetes, partially because there are a lot of them. Broken site. Pharmacy mix-up. Insulin skunked. Supply cost. Error five. High. Low. Out of glucose tablets. Out of time. Out of patience. Buzzing inappropriately in class. Buzzing appropriately when some idiot says something stupid.

We get told to think big, think about the future; to not sweat the small stuff in life, but there’s a lot of small stuff worth sweating.

Sometimes the stuff we sweat seems disproportionate to the amount we sweat it. Example: Me, at the eye doctor. I have a phobia of things touching my eyes. Blood? Surgery? Injections? A little scary, maybe, but a walk in the park compared to the small stuff: eye drops.  But if I look at the big picture, it symbolizes fear of things I can’t control; fear of a loss of vision, and, with that, a loss of connection with others.

Sometimes, I think the reason I rant/post/tweet/think about the small stuff disproportionately, is because the big stuff is too scary, too multifaceted, too overwhelming.

If you listen closely, though, you’ll hear volumes. Each small thing raises its voice, and speaks as a symptom of a larger problem that we might not want to fully think about, or might not even be able to understand fully.

Let’s break it down. Let’s listen.

Broken site: pain. Reminds me of my broken body. Ruined day. How do I get back down? How many days is diabetes going to ruin? What if this happens on my wedding day? What if something like this kills me?

Pharmacy mix-up: I can’t believe my life depends on other people to this extent, and that I need permission to buy the thing I need to live, and that I can run out of it and my life can be in danger because of a mix-up. How can insulin be such a dangerous, controlled substance, and yet so vital? What if something like this kills me?

Insulin skunked: I’m so fragile when it comes to ecological events and even weather conditions. How could I survive a zombie apocalypse when sitting in the sun can deactivate the substance I need to live? How can I walk the line between the number of proscribed degrees I’m allowed to live in? If climate change destroys society as we know it, how long will I be able to go on? What if production stops? I can’t siphon the pancreases of roaming farm animals. What if something like this kills me?

Supply cost: why do I get punished for something beyond my control? Why, even with a great health care system, are prescriptions not covered? Why am I limited in where I can live based on the health care system of that country? Am I a drain on society? Am I seen as second-class, a “taker,” if I get help from the government? How can I spend my life as a consumer of expensive health resources? Why am I more valuable to corporations as a constantly-purchasing chronic illness than a cured, functioning human being? (What if that sort of thinking kills me?)

Error five: I’ve bled for no reason. I’ve lost money and vital fluid and I have to do it again. I wonder what it’s like not seeing your own blood all the time, even though I just failed at bleeding enough. You had one job, lancet. How can this be my day-to-day? Who knows if the strip will lie to me even if I get enough blood on it, and tell my I’m a number that I’m not? And what if something like that kills me?

Out of glucose tablets: Why is it part of life to have to shake and feel faint every once in a while? Now I’m sweating the actual sweating. Why do I have to eat the equivalent of candy I don’t even want, which derails any sort of weight loss progress? What if this happens in a public place, at an important meeting, a performance? What if it impacts my career advancement? What if I’m embarrassed? What if it happens at my wedding? What if it happens in a private place and there’s nobody around to help me? What if something like that kills me?

Misconceptions: How can people so fundamentally judge and misunderstand each other? How can people with similar conditions be so divisive in a rush to be the more sympathetic case? How can simple facts be so twisted and misinterpreted for the sake of a cruel joke, a hoax, or personal gain? And what if something like that kills me?

The refrain is constantly there. The small stuff is the heartbeat pumping the lifeblood of diabetes: the fear inherent in every move we make. The small stuff is the big stuff. The big stuff is the small stuff. We are made of atoms, and capillaries, and the tiniest prickles on the skin. When we complain about the small stuff, we are saying: we are here. We are saying: we are scared. We are saying: listen.  We aren’t saying the small stuff is always life or death, but contained within the small stuff is life and death, over and over. Our bodies have memories and we tread the same paths again and again, searching for a way out. When we find that way out, it will begin with one small step.

Each one of us, each, with our individual stories, our daily annoyances; each of us is the small stuff in a national, global, universal dance. But together, we contain multitudes.

Let’s sweat the small stuff together.


  1. Powerful stuff. You are so right about everything. What's sad is that you're so right about all of these things. Very well said.

  2. I love this's so true. Very well said indeed! :)

  3. What a great way to look at things. Every "small" thing is so important and every "small" voice has the potential to create big change.

  4. SO TRUE! (I need a bigger font!)

  5. As usual, you are able to articulate what I think so many of us skirt around. I love this idea of listening to what's not being said. This is a fabulous post, Ilana. Also, LOL at "You had one job, lancet." Truth be told though, my lancets are so overworked that they deserve a vacation.

  6. Great way of putting things, I liked how you frame it all so well!

  7. If only more people could understand how so many of these "small" things can become such a "big" deal for a PWD. Thanks for your great post!

  8. I hate that diabetics really are so "fragile" that everything has lifelong implications, even things as small as a pharmacy tech making a mistake. Our lives are always going to be more expensive than most, and slightly limited in some ways. Every meal is a math test, and it does weight on me. I try to make jokes about it, but shit scares me. I'm thankful for everyone who lets me vent on their Twitter feed. :)

  9. Great Post! My husband and I already have a plan worked out to get insulin when the zombies come. ;-)