Eye on the Water Glass

Late last week, I met with Mind Ninja for our first session in almost a month.

We had a lot to talk about, especially given my recent visit to California as part of the annual Medtronic Diabetes Advocates Forum. Overall, we caught up and talked about the positives and negatives of life I've been experiencing lately. We discussed the theme of one door closing and another opening.

After our gap in visits, one of the things I wanted to talk about with her was my experience of just interacting with people, with friends, and how my mind and self-consciousness can sometimes get in the way of that.

A story I told her was that in past years, despite my recognition that I was among great people and friends and that I was representing many others in the D-Community who couldn't attend, my head was telling me that I wasn't up to the task and should just withdraw. That led to my dwelling on this amazingly anti-social behavior, something almost foreign to me because that's NOT how I have historically been. Somehow it's what has evolved as I've dealt unsuccessfully with depression and developed what seems like a paralysis when it comes to simple interactions or public speaking engagements. That still seems very weird to me, but it is what it is.

So going to California recently, I had in my head these past failures but was also armed with new ammunition to fight these past feelings. Medication, positive thinking, and just overall lifestyle changes meant to eliminate some of the stresses that had plagued me and brought me down. And although I felt unsuccessful in many ways, there were successes.

Among them: While I was still "the quiet guy" who didn't talk much in the larger group sessions, I was able to talk more openly in smaller groups and one-on-one conversations. Instead of withdrawing and staying by myself, I made conscious decisions to go out and be around people, to soak up their energies and interact in those smaller situations to build up my interaction experience.

That is what Mind Ninja and I discussed recently, and explored those small successes - rather than dwelling on whatever failings may have happened.

She shared one of the well-known, almost cliche examples of optimism v. pessimism: a half-glass of water. Some see it half empty, others half-full. Two guys in a desert, seeing mirage and having an insatiable thirst and coming up upon a glass with water in it. One sees it as not enough, the other sees it as a blessing just to have any. What do you see, she asked me?

In my head, I was thinking:  "Well, it really depends on my blood sugar. If I'm sky High, then that water takes on a whole new meaning for me and I can't get enough of it..."

Being a Type 2, she probably would have appreciated this joke to some degree.

But D-joking aside, I got the point and we talked about that. Historically. I've been a "glass half empty" type and have evolved in the past decade to seeing the other more optimistic side of the water glass. Lately, though, it's as if I have been saying I'm seeing it half full when in reality I'm "wearing a mask" and actually believing the glass is half empty.

It was a good, productive discussion that I benefited from. And was able to apply to an example from earlier that day, in fact.

I'd gone to the eye clinic for my annual exam. A month later than last year's visit, although I had been there late last summer for a quick follow-up. This is always a stressful experience, because I dread the moment when I'll hear if any diabetic retinopathy has surfaced. I first got that news several years ago, but it has always been mild enough where nothing more has been necessary - just tighter D-management. And whatever retinopathy symptoms I had, they've dissipated once my BGs improved.

This latest visit to my optometrist Dr. Funky Eye brought the news that more "severe" signs of retinopathy had surfaced again. He talked, and there seemed to be way too much scientific terminology and mumbo jumbo. But basically, what I heard is that white blood cells had clustered in my right eye near the retina, something that could result in blood leaking and vision loss.

Science Talk: Thanks to Google, this is what the Internet medical lingo tells me: My blood vessel tissues have become slightly deprived of oxygen and these white blood cells - known as leucocytes - stick to the capillary blood vessel walls and block them, cutting off even more oxygen in the tissue. This is background or mild non-proliferative retinopathy. If not treated or slowed down with better BG management (assuming that's possible), the retina would next respond by increasing blood flow through the larger blood vessels, causing the cells in the capillary walls to thicken. That leads to a leakage of fluid known as macula oedema. Eventually, this would all continue and new but fragile blood vessels would grow and possibly start bleeding very easily - leading to the most advanced stage of retinopathy known as proliferative retinopathy. Laser treatments come into play to prevent the blood vessel growth and bleeding. /End Science Talk.

Again, all I heard was that my retinopathy was worse and that I might need laser treatment. My mind was clouded with fear. I wanted to cry.

I go back in two weeks to see the Advanced Eye Doc (an ophthalmologist who's co-founder and medical director of the eye clinic I go to), so that he can perform a more detailed examination of my right eye to determination how far along my retinopathy is and whether any treatment - injection or laser - is needed. So, I'm a little anxious.

Immediately after this appointment, I was depressed. And scared out of my mind. And really wanted to dwell, just go crawl under my covers at home and hide.

But I went to see Mind Ninja a couple hours later, and gained some mental insight into how I was feeling. With the Water Glass example came the realization that nothing is certain at this time and there was no need to overly stress myself out about this, since there may not be true concern and even more because there's nothing I can do about it now. All I can do is work toward being better from this moment on. Not perfect, just better. Even if eye treatment is needed, enough people I know have experienced this and survived just fine with their vision. There's nothing to really worry about, once I dwell on the positives rather than the negatives.

With that, I'm going to look at the metaphoric water glass in that optimistic light as much as possible. I will take the view that my BG is at 100 mg/dL and I'm not desert-mirage-thirsty, so that water glass is half full and is more than enough to quench my thirst.

And even when I drink all that water up, there's a faucet in just the other room to get more if I need it. There's a combination of optimism, reality and practicality that I'm embracing and will be working to keep in my mind when these situations surface.

Life is good and will go on. The water glass is half full.


Jonah said…
For what it's worth, you always seem like a glass full kind of person to me.
I think I try to be both at once. Like if I was dying of thirst and I came accross a half cup of water, I would be like, well... it's not gonna do me much good if I drink it, let's see if I can find a use for it other than drinking it.

I have difficulty emotionally figuring out how to react to medical news that is bad but not urgently bad. I have trouble with that whole uncertainty thing. The medical news that so far hasn't mattered at all has scared me a lot more than the stuff that was immediately life threatening that I needed to do something about. Like, when I had acute panceatitis, I was cool as a cucumber, even though the risk of death for that hospitalization was pretty big and I knew it. When I had one microalbuminuric reading? Flipped out, even though I knew it posed no short term risk whatsoever.

Hope your eyes get better (I thought white blood cells were supposed to be a good thing?) and that you keep your perspective through out whatever comes.
Brian said…
Water is always a good reference and know that you will always have the nut jobs out there to help you fill the glass back up even if it is completely empty.

We are our own worst enemies sometimes, yet we can also always try to beat ourselves. It takes work, don't get me wrong, but it is something that can be overcome.

You are awesome, just stop breaking things, such as teeth... :-)
Kate Cornell said…
Great post, Mike. Reading how you feel in group events felt like I was reading my own story. We're a lot alike in that respect.

I know that the eye doc thing is concerning but you can handle this. It really sounds like you have some great tools (and a great mind ninja) to help you through.

Thanks for sharing.
Cara said…
It's so ironic that we would post about our vision on the same day. Thank you for your comment on my post. I know that fear. It's terrible. And it's always there, even when they say "there's been no change." :( Emotionally, it's such a hard thing to deal with. I'll be thinking about you.
Anonymous said…
Mike, I hope your next eye appointment goes better. I have a harder time dealing with eye stuff than any other thing that goes wrong – there is no way I can look at the glass as half full when it comes to a problem with my eyes! I had the laser surgery 16 years ago so I am sure that things have come a long way since then. Although I did have vision problems because of cataracts a few years ago, my current vision is 20/40 and I just use OTC glasses to read. I had a blood vessel burst and that is how I found out I had retinopathy. I also had the macular edema problem. I know that I had 2 different kinds of laser, but I couldn’t tell you what the difference was other than one needed a shot and one didn’t. My current eye doctor says that I had so much laser that it is acting like glue holding my retina together – I guess that is looking at the glass half full.

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