Tags

, , , , , , ,

Another conversation about life with the omnipod with my friend Ann Rosenquist Fee

ANN:

Ok Amy, I’m a few weeks into it and I feel like the marketing people should do a better job of talking about the OmniPod’s spiritual benefits. You know what I mean? I’m walking around with this thing stuck into some pretty tender skin. The constant sensation of it has me aware or sharpened or something in a way I think a martyr would appreciate. Not that I was seeking this, but here I am, my leg hurts and I have to do something with it because removing the Pod isn’t an option. Right? Please tell me you’ve thought about this, too, over the years.

AMY:

I’ve thought a lot about the physical pain that comes with this “invisible” illness. The pain that was in fact visible on the faces of my family and friends when they’d watch me “shoot up” or prick my finger. “Doesn’t that hurt?” everyone asked and I would shrug. Of course it hurt. It still hurts. It hurts every day. What does it mean to self inflict bodily harm every single day? I’m not sure. I don’t think I ever thought of it as being spiritual or poetic or mythical even until recently….

When I was in graduate school a teacher reminded me of the tale of Icarus and Deadalus and the dangers of flying too close to the sun. He was offering it as a metaphor for my stories of high and low blood sugars, and I thought, wow, there’s another way to think of these challenges, a way that’s less black and white, a way that’s more poetic or spiritual or something. If I fly too high, like Icarus, I’ll burn from the heat of the sun, and if I drop too low, I’ll get swallowed by the sea.

ANN:

Yeah, it’s a good metaphor. And “of course it hurt” is a really good summary of the whole strange situation of pain for a higher purpose. In the case of diabetes, it’s needles and finger-sticks in the interest of health. With religious ascetics it’s conquest of the senses through self-flogging or starvation or whatever, to get the body out of the way so the soul can flourish. Those both sound really noble but then when I think about what those habits create over time, I’d say it’s probably less noble or poetic and more like a callous. Or at least that’s part of the effect. Doing harm as a regular, normal thing sets up a value system where pain ranks pretty low, our own and other people’s. Like, really? You had a bad day? Hold out your finger.

AMY:

I love the line “to get the body out of the way so the soul can flourish.” That’s beautiful. Sometimes I do feel like my body is in the way or tripping me up and I think as a woman with diabetes, I’ve learned to ignore pain. I think that makes me less sensitive to the pain of others and I’m not sure, especially as a mother, that’s a good thing. I always wanted to be the kind of mother who would comfort their children when they were sick, but I’m impatient when my sons complain of a hurt or stay home sick from school.  And sometimes I do think to myself, “try pricking your finger all day long and then talk to me about pain.” But that’s not fair of course….there’s nothing fair about living with illness. My grandmother used to tell me after I was diagnosed (at 14 years old), “there’s always someone worse off than you.” I don’t think she was trying to be helpful, I think she was telling me to have a stiff upper lip, buck up, it’s not like you have cancer! So I felt too guilty to complain about the daily injections, finger pricks, blood sugar rollercoasters and fear of an early death, who was I to complain? Diabetes was bad, but not bad enough.

ANN:

Your grandmother was right, a lot of other stuff hurts worse. It’s that the pain is self-inflicted. That’s what makes it weird. It’s what makes diabetes special. 🙂

Let me ask you this. If you imagine yourself at 41 with all the good things you’ve got but minus all those years of a stiff upper lip, then what? Are you a different mom, or wife, or friend?

And what’s your thought on early death? I mean, are you planning for that?

AMY:

I actually don’t think about death at all! I am pretty firmly grounded in the near but definitely not distant future. I never feared death as a young woman with diabetes, and after all these years of pretty decent control and no complications, I’m at the point where I don’t think diabetes is going to take me any earlier than necessary. I do have a fear of blindness, but we can talk more about that another day 🙂

ANN:

Oh, lets. A few years ago I bought a set of Braille flashcards just in case.

AMY:

Stop! You did not!?!

ANN:

I did. Sample below, sister.

AMY:

As a 41 year old mom, wife, writer, friend, etc.etc. I go back and forth between thinking the stiff upper lip did me harm, and then I think, well no, maybe it did me some good. Maybe the stiff upper lip is what got me out the door and climbing mountains and traveling the country and jumping out of a plane even. Maybe if I hadn’t had a stiff upper lip I would be too soft. I would have stayed home and nursed my wounds.

ANN:

I have to think that way too. Soft is a nice idea but I don’t think there’s a chance, now. Too scary. Lots of years of finger sticks ahead.

AMY:

But maybe I could use a little softening on the edges?

ANN:

Ok maybe. Me too but just the edges. Just enough that we can feel the needles and get that little spiritual high. Ow. Om. Ow. Om.