There’s something to be said about being diagnosed with a chronic condition as a young professional. For one, you skip the growing pains and hormonal changes of adolescence. Two, your family never has to reconcile their lifestyle habits as a result of it so when you return home for the holidays, there is no reminder of your disease.
In fact, every sweet-toothed temptation surrounds you. It’s not inconsiderate. It’s nice, actually. Your family may have not changed their holiday menu line-up based on your diabetes, but that just means for once a year, you can splurge and forget you have this haunting disease.
That is until a few days later when the sight of another chocolate truffle makes your blood sugar soar. Your aunt offers you a piece of pumpkin pie, and when you check your continuous glucose monitor (CGM) receiver to see that your blood sugar has been a steady 250 for the past two hours, you politely decline. You fall asleep on the couch, overwhelmed with exhaustion, but really, your body is suffering the effects of long-term high blood sugar. You haven’t been running in a week, and the short walks with the dog in 20-degree temperatures are not enough to increase your energy levels.
You suddenly miss green vegetables and juice. Every time your blood sugar drops as a result of overestimating your insulin to carb ratio, you run for the kitchen because across the green marble countertop are rows of cookies, some homemade and some store-bought. You start with chocolate chip, then pecan sandies, and finally fudge. You feel nauseas, and even though your blood sugar is no longer low, it doesn’t take it long before it soars high.
You continue to play this up and down game with no middle, no appropriate balance. On the fifth day of your visit, your family makes pancakes for breakfast. You know they’re hurt when you turn them down and eat a banana and some oatmeal instead. But your mind is starting to catch up with your body — these food items must be carb worthy. And there is nothing nutritious about pancakes, not to mention it will take your blood sugar two hours just to come down from them.
Your family knows some of this because you tell them, but they only see you once, maybe twice a year. They’ve never lived with this disease. They know they shouldn’t offer you too many sweets, and they always have “diet” options available, but the whole carb counting idea bypasses them. Sometimes, you try to explain, and sometimes, you just say, “that has too many carbs.” They never ask and take your word.
And when you finally travel back home and jump into your desperately missed bed, you reach for the carrots and hummus in the fridge rather than the peanut butter M&Ms on your nightstand, leftovers from before Christmas in Cookietown, when sweets were a once in awhile indulgence.