Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Escaping The Escape

The wheels of my mind have been spinning recently. A question has been popping up - why. Why diabetes? Why High? Why Low? Why isn't this easier? Why so overwhelming? Why so exhausted? Why this? Why that? Why everything?????

I've wracked up my brain, searched my soul trying to connect the dots between 2010 and the long-ago time these questions began. When the vicious daily D-cycle started. Suddenly, after so much analysis, it clicked recently. Those past and present dots came together and bridged a gap between 2010 and 1984, when it all began and started what is now a continuing, frustrating, and often overwhelming journey that many in the Diabetes World seem to know all too well.

Simply put, it goes to this simple fact: Growing up, I wanted to be MacGyver. You know, the globe-trotting Secret Agent Man who could do anything in any situation with the simpliest of household items. Lock-picking with inside of a lightbulb. Bubble gum to patch gas tanks. Hockey ticket to diffuse a bomb. Paperclips and Duct Tape. While some might have cared more about Richard Dean Anderson's start on General Hospital, the appeal for this young, newly diagnosed Diabetic Kid was the man known only as MacGyver. It was cool, and I even got a red Swiss Army pocketknife just like him and I'd regularly educate my dad and friends about the cool McGyverisms seen each week.
The show lasted until the early 90s, when I was weaving my way through middle school. By that time, another favorite show came on in 89 - Quantum Leap. Each week, I could escape my Life As A Diabetic Child and transport into other people's bodies at key points in history, taking on their looks and facing whatever interesting or dangerous situation they might be facing at that key moment of body-switching. What could be better looking to a kid wanting just escape his own life?

Eventually, that show ended on a note of hopelessness - that Sam would never return home; he was destined to leap for the rest of his life. X-Files followed, and then there was Sliders (alternate universe cruising regular folk). Imagine "sliding" to an alternate world, where diabetes never existed, where it existed but you'd never been diagnosed, or a place where a cure has already been found???

Eventually came Stargate SG-1with MacGyver leading a team of alternate worlds in the galaxy!) - the latter has come evolved into a fascination with the newest Stargate series, Universe. Of course, there's also Smallville, Heroes, Chuck, and usually anything on Sci Fi to feed my fix.

You may notice a theme. Since my diagnosis in March 1984, I've been a regular lover of Sci Fi and the more creative. Sure, there were others. But mostly, it was the Sci-Fi World that captured my imagination. That's probably also why I'm a writer... I could always escape into my writing and just not focus on ME. Started out with escape-craving fiction and soul-expressing poetry, and eventually it evolved into the money-earning career of journalism.

In part, I truly believe that it's been because of my diabetes and a desire to escape. To find a place where this wasn't my life. Where I could be anything. Do anything. And not be limited. Not face the depression that has come and gone, and even been present as I've plugged along more successfully at times.

After the McGyver and Quantum Leap days and well into my X-Files and Sliders Days, I battled depression as a teenager.. Stats tell us that depression is something like 3 times more common in people with All Diabetes Types than in the general population as a whole. Apparently, I'm one of those to some degree. Never been medicated, but went to a counselor at one point. Didn't think it did any good, as I was a teenager being "rebellious." We parted ways at some point, and I don't recall much of what we talked about - except that Diabetes was a theme and I had an overwhelming sense of hopeless because of it.

As a child, it was not wanting to be different. Same as a teenager, but with added aspect of trying to find myself even when wanting to fit in as an adolscent. Dating. College. Marriage. Real jobs. Thoughts of family, and children who could someday become diabetic because of my own lack of care through the years. Guilt. Depression. All fueled by rocky diabetes care, which creates even more emotional ups and downs. Exhaustion. Even crazier D-rollercoasters. A vicious cycle. Humor helps, as does sarcasm and cynicism. To a point.

A key changing moment in my life was meeting Suzi in 2000. She changed me. She showed me there were reasons to want to be a part of this life as fully as possible, and that I was important. I smoked briefly in college, and she motivated me to quiet and not look back. She put a focus into my life, showed me that there was something worth living for, and that despite the challenges this Diabetes doesn't equate to death. That it's not hopeless. We're in it together. Have been since September 2005. With her inspiration, I eventually find my way back to journalism and writing. Now, we're living in Indiana after moving from Michigan and we look forward to starting a family when that's meant to happen.

But through the years, despite the TV shows or Method of Escape, that Depression has remained. Like a weed waiting below the soil to spring again. As always, lurking beneath the surface and flashing its face mostly when The D-Life or other aspects of reality get tough. While I love my wife and she's stronger than most give her credit for, I simply felt it was better to keep some of my feelings and worries and depression to myself rather than bring her down, or impact her world. I'm a guy, and it's my job. My journalism experience takes over and I fend off any visible sign of emotion, instead opting to stuggle internally - it's almost like an epic battle between Good & Evil, but not.

In late 2008, we found Grace United Methodist Church. While Suzi grew up Methodist and we married in her United Methodist Church, I grew up unchurched and hadn't even been exposed to even the simplist Bible stories except for a few random days in my childhood. Our new journey with Grace offered a new channel for my fears and worries to express themselves, and it helped in finding faith and being able to regularly have Conversations with God. With this relationship that I'd never experienced before and growing spiritually, I found myself being more at ease. About Life. Diabetes. Everything. Managing the guilt, frustration, and hidden depression seemed so much easier when I discovered that I wasn't doing this alone. Not to mention that my Sci-Fi shows like Heroes, Stargate, & Smallville offered some escape each week.

Lately, even as my Family Focus and D-Life has become more of a priority, it seems as though the depression has come sneaking back into my life more regularly. The frustrations have mounted in so many different aspects of life, and this has all caused me to crave an escape even more. My work life has gotten busier and more razzled, and we've slacked in going to church even as my health has improved. I've stopped talking to God as much as I had. Now, at age 30 there are times when I feel just as lost as when I was 10 or when going through adolence. At times, I simply can't sleep and stay up to cry and be alone with my thoughts and fears without showing it to anyone. (Except maybe the dog, who just wants to offer unconditional love but is always ready for a 3 a.m. walk outside.)

I've never been medicated. And blog readers, please rest assured: Suicide has never been anything more than a passing, scattered thought in the throws of depression. Once again, my wife serves as the bringer of sunshine who talks me back from the ledge (metaphorically speaking about the cliche, not her influence). Despite my worry fear and self-diappointment, I look at her and know that there's hope. There's a reason to manage this all, diabetes and everything. That's why I do it. I've been wrong, though. Not only in cutting off communications with God, but in trying to struggle with this personally without the love and support of my wife.

So, I'm going to put some plans in place. Talk to My Wife More. My Pastor. My God. Counseling. D-Support Groups. Take a leadership role in JDRF Advocacy. I'm going to find those Active Conversations with God that helped sooth my soul in the past year. Get my worklife back together and manage my daily time more efficiently. Balance out the Diabetes Frustrations and frequent-rollercoastering blood sugars. It may very well start with a haircut. I am currently looking pretty shaggy, and it fits a lifelong pattern that the more shaggy I feel the less productive and worthwhile I feel. It's time to get a trim and start anew, fresh and productive.

In researching this online, I found a TuDiabetes thread from 2007 that Manny had started. It's here, and is also includes a link to a Vlog about Diabetes and Depression. (Warning: Can be rough to watch).

Aside from all of the above, there comes an important lesson: If you don't talk about this, it conquers you. The Craziness will win. Even when there's no visible sign, it's likely just hiding below the surface like a ninja, just waiting for a moment to snipe you off. It's not gone, and you need to recognize it still exists and can harm you if you aren't careful. The deeper you get, the easier it gets to just let the denial and depression in place and consume your entire life. To the boiling point, where you lose everything you think is important. For me, I've been submerged in the deep end for so long I've forgotten how to swim on my own - the depression is always there, like a weight, able to pull me under. Even as I seem to be going strong and staying afloat.

Find any essence of hope in your life and focus on that, communicate as much as you can, and look to the future. We're only here for a short time. It's just not acceptable to live a life off balance, because there's too much sunshine. Know that you're lucky. And even if you're Not MacGyer, the New And Improved MacGyver Coming Soon, or Jack O'Neill or Sylar, Your Life with Diabetes is one of hope and adventure and anything you want it to be. There's not a need for escape. Not when you have these Happy Thoughts to reflect on and share your life with. Life is good, even with the D.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

If I could hug you, I would!
This post speaks right to my heart. The depression that comes with Diabetes sucks. Although it doesn't eliminate it completely, it does help to be grounded in your faith, and to talk about it with other people who know what you're going through. We're here for ya!
As for the sci-fi stuff, I know what you mean. I used not to watch much of it, but I well remember MacGyver! Best dude of all time! But when you started talking about the other shows, it reminded me of why I like Fringe. Yeah, it's a little weird, but the main thing behind it is there is an alternate universe. We have a clone, if you will, living in that universe. That clone lives the road we didn't take... the other option we had when given choices. It's often made me wonder if it was the same for illnesses... Would my alternate person in the alternate world be diabetic? What would my life have been like? All we can do is wonder and live the life we have the way we have it to the best of our ability.