It seems to be staring at me, although I don’t see a face. I only see its black rectangular body and a few mechanical buttons that I suppose could be eyes – they are my life source. It’s buzzing at me, but I ignore its demand for attention.
There was a time I didn’t need you.
It doesn’t hear me. It doesn’t seem to respond, but it moves across my desk, as if inching closer to my exhausted body.
You are gray and ugly, and I don’t want you … but I need you.
I have a weird relationship with my insulin pump. If we were on Facebook, it would read, “It’s complicated with Gizmo.” Yes, I’ve named it Gizmo. I figure if it’s going to share my bed, it should have a name.
In approaching the holidays, I realize even though Gizmo has only been with me for two years, diabetes has been in my life for almost five. That’s not a lot considering most people with Type 1 were diagnosed when they were seven. What was I doing when I was seven? Oh yeah, playing beneath the Maple trees of Kentucky and going to church with my family every Sunday.
When I was in college and realized the brain doesn’t fully develop until we’re 20 or 25, I considered this might be why childhood seemed like the happiest years of my short life. I hadn’t met reason yet. I didn’t think about the horrible atrocities happening in the world or feel stressed about how quickly my next paycheck would disappear.
No, I lived in the present – my only concern was what fun things I could do with my day. My brother, two years younger than me, and I used to make lists during the summertime and then vote on the items on that list, planning out our free time and deducing what activities we would engage in that day.
We built Lego cities in the basement, played “house” in the church parking lot across the street, and pretended to be sisters. One time my father came home and found my brother dressed in a witch costume, answering to the name of “Susan.” I don’t know why he liked that name so much, but when we played “Sister, Sister,” I always let him choose his female name. To be fair, we also played “Brother, Brother,” but after my dad found my brother wearing a dress, we never played sisters again.
My brother was my best friend for the first 12 years of my life. We didn’t understand why other siblings fought – why would you want to ruin a good playmate? But when I started high school, I stopped playing with my brother. I became “too old” for those games, and instead, I started writing and listening to music. If anyone asked where I was, my parents always said in her room. I was the only person I needed – the only one who understood me.
I couldn’t wait to leave Kentucky. I was so done with the little it had to offer. I wanted to see the world (don’t we all?). But I didn’t make it far. I traveled two hours north to Ohio for college. Two years later, I considered transferring to some place closer to home, not that I wanted to move back to Kentucky or prove anyone right (I could never be wrong), but the people in Ohio were not like the people in Kentucky (keep in mind, I’m using a very small sample size).
It didn’t matter if I could see the world. If there was no one there to see it with, what did it matter? Ah, the emotional side of my brain was in full development. In my sophomore year, I stopped caring. I skipped classes, slept for most of the day, and wrote about other people’s lives in coffee shops in the evening. Failure is my worst fear, but on a windy day in September, I noticed something different.
I walked up countless concrete steps towards the Cohen building on the other side of campus. I worked at the nursing department there as a lab assistant. I was about to cross the street when I noticed a car coming. Without thinking, I stepped into the road, but then removed my foot as soon as the driver hit her brakes.
After years of conditioning myself to look left, right, and then left again before crossing the street, what would cause me to break the cycle? It reminded me of a time in middle school when I played softball. I was always in the outfield, but we never got any balls so I spent most of my field time staring at dandelions and clovers.
One time, when a ball actually came my way, instead of reaching my glove out to catch it, I reached my gloveless hand out and much to everyone’s surprise, caught the ball, but then dropped it as soon as the pain escalated from my hand up my arm and throughout my entire body. When my coaches asked why I would catch a ball without my glove, I didn’t know what to say. Maybe there was something a little “off” with the way my brain processed things?
Just like the softball, I ignored my training and stepped out into the street without looking. Or maybe I had looked, and I deliberately stepped in front of a moving vehicle? That thought was more disconcerting, but not unbelievable. In the past few weeks, I had stopped finding interest in my usual activities, lost my appetite, and slept during the day. I was a psychology major – shouldn’t I know what this means? I then knew someone who would.
That night around midnight, I made a phone call, one I rarely made. I was crying.
“Umm, sorry for calling so late, and this may sound a little weird, but I wondered if you had time to talk.”
“Sure, what’s up?” my 17-year-old brother said.
“I think something’s wrong with me.”
I proceeded to tell him about the earlier incident and my feelings over the past few weeks. I even told him about what I referred to as my “Friday syndrome.” Ever since midway through my first year in college, it never failed that I would feel utterly empty and sad on Fridays. When I moved back home for the summer, it seemed to dissipate, but with the start of the school year, it returned. My brother listened.
“I think you should see someone,” he said.
“I don’t know about that,” I hesitated.
“Just think about it. I think it might help because you’re going through something right now that a lot of us go through. We question things. We question our very existence, and we grow. It doesn’t seem like that now, but it’s a process. You can’t do it alone.”
“I guess I could make an appointment.”
“Just remember, once you get through this, the person you will become is worth it.”
Of course, the conversation was more involved than that, but you get the picture. In the seven years since that moment, I can’t think of anything anyone has ever said to me that has made more of an impact.
My brother was right – it was a process. When I did make an appointment with a therapist, he told me I had a “garden variety” of the symptoms of depression. That’s another whole story, but through my brother’s support and words, I was able to start the process, to answer those questions, and move on with my life.
I’d like to think that battle helped me prepare for another – the one that now vibrates against my desktop. I grew distant from my brother because it was no longer a necessary relationship, but who am I to make that call? As I prepare for visiting my family over the holidays, I consider this fact. That no matter where I am, they understand me better than anyone.
I can’t always see their faces, but those buttons are my life source.
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