The first day was a blur. I had felt different, even been different, but did not know why. The general practitioner appointment seemed pseudo routine. Later, a call would come in about my blood work and the message was clear: urgent problem. Scrambling to meet with an endocrinologist and diabetes educator, everything I knew was changing; things WERE different. All of the focus was on treatments, blood testing, and carb counting. My mind swirled with medical jargon as I trudged from room to room, destination known but all else uncertain.
I parted with a gift of a plastic tray with tiny compartments for needles, insulin, a glucometer, and lancets. My adult mind tried to understand the toy before me as it joyfully announced “Here’s your new diabetes play-set!” And then I went on with my day, play-set in tow, in a colorful blue gift bag as though nothing changed.
At night, alone and undistracted I worked to unwind the mess of my new world; to make sense of it, only to shove it back in the bag the next day and trudge forward. Those around told me, “You have this. You’re strong.” while their faces betrayed the whispers that followed my footsteps away. I was placated, plattituded and praised to a leperous distance from those “with” me.
Eventually the string of the new world became untangled, only I never had anyone to help me grieve or transition. Instead of being neatly spooled, the new world wrapped itself around me in a suffocating fear. Anything I ate, touched or did could cause me to die. I found myself so bound by the fear of dying, that I forgot to live.
I started searching the lifespan of diabetics. I wanted to know the length of my new life. I searched celebrities and athletes. I wanted to know the limits of my future accomplishments. As I searched, I found an interview with Mary Tyler Moore. She described her struggle and loss with diabetes. She recounted how on bad days she would go buy a dozen donuts and drive around in the car to be away from those that would not let her grieve. Eating the donuts she would finally let the tears fall. And there it was, the tears I felt I had no permission to release where finally permitted. The loss I felt was at long last validated.
Grief is an emotion that transition us from where we were, to where we cannot help but be. Unreleased grief becomes the rope that binds us to something else. It can tie us to anger directed at God, ourselves or sprayed at anyone unlucky enough to approach. It can bury us in layers of distance, disconnecting us from the world and loved ones around us. Or, like me, it can ensnare us in fear where we never live at all.
The lesson of is that we all need to find our donut, our car, our tears. By sprinkling out out our grief we can loosen the binds of our loss and pain. Because only untangled can we step forward to live our life anew.