Writing as a Diabetic (and Why it Pertains to Non-Diabetics)

Be different. Like that leaf.

Be different. Like that leaf. (MY PHOTO. THANKS)

I’m Type 2 Diabetic. One of the fortunate side effects of being diabetic is, it makes my skin very glisteny-clean, and I am a wonder to behold.

This is a lie.

While some people consider me quite handsome, diabetes has no direct pros. In fact, there’s nothing redeeming whatsoever about diabetes. Right? Wrong. While it effects literally every aspect of my life, oftentimes throwing wrenches into my day while simultaneously hindering my “drunk coolness” factor, it also makes me a stronger, better person. It was adversity. It is now a benefit. Usually.

(And now, all you non-diabetic writers are wondering: why is this important to me?)WE ALL HAVE ADVERSITY! On one level or another, as a writer (or a functioning human being), stuff balances out against you, somewhere, somehow.

A Back Story:

Personally I feel bad for the people who’ve lived cushy lives, where providence, upbringing, or overall good luck hasn’t stripped at least some of the rosy glow from the world. Not saying I equate my hardship to starving people in Uganda or anything, but challenge makes us stronger. Conflict resolution allows us to grow as individuals.

I’m writing a memoir (on top of writing all the other beautiful things streaming out of my head like an amazing YouTube channel dedicated to me), and I began with the night terrors I had as a child. *Insert broad strokes here* Verbal abuse, alcoholism, psychological degradation, suicide attempt, and molestation later, I then got diabetes a few years ago. The other stuff is old news. I’ve dealt with it. Unfortunately, diabetes is front and center every day of my life.

Yesterday I had a strange scare. I spent the past few days feeling strange, having severe heartburn/pains in my stomach, savagely hungry yet after two bites felt super-full (while still savagely hungry). I went to Magnolia’s place, found no improvement, and eventually checked my blood sugar. I know. I’m a bad diabetic. I feel the sickness out, through energy levels and motivation and overall self-destructive attitude. If I feel highly destructive or low on energy, I know something is up. Nothing’s been up since I balanced out my meds three years ago. So my BS said 284. After injecting my regular dose and eating a banana for dinner. Terrifying. Simply terrifying. When you exist on this medication, and the whole box of five pens don’t work as prescribed (short-term insulin didn’t work, but long-term insulin did. Strange batch, that), you’re stuck up poop creek.

So instead of wallowing in self-pity, hating myself for not writing/proofing/doing ANYTHING for two days straight (in retrospect, not like me at all, folks. At. All), and overall wondering what to do (on broke funds: meaning, I have NO cash. 8 dollars in the bank account and 20 bucks in the maxed CC), I started injecting best I could, cooked up some eggs and pickles (NO CARBS! WHOO!), and called my pharmacy to get another order of insulin filled. I had options.

As you might understand by now, the whole diabetes thing severely effected my imagination. It ties into the fact I use dreams as indirect motivators for my writing, and most of my work is based on said dreams. Furthermore, having low or no energy means I’m in no way motivated to write. It kills me, because I have these thoughts in my head, but they’re so damned slippery I can’t keep them inside for more than five seconds. It’s been a struggle and a fight to get here (and part of the reason why this to-be-published book took so long. I tried to write while low on energy, and my voice was gone, my style dead, and everything about my words were hollow and without inspiration), and I fought for every inch.

As I stated in my previous entry, writing is my life. It keeps me sane. It keeps me present. I absolutely need it to survive like some people (Grossman) need wine (kidding). And this is adversity. And I know I’m not alone in it. I opened a new box of insulin, shot up this morning, and I had eaten so little the previous two days, the regular meal literally made me crash with so much extra insulin going through my body. I had to dive into the nearest food store, since I was an hour away from home, and eat at a pizza buffet. Pizza. Buffet. I shook so hard I could barely get the shit in my mouth. Hahaha If I’m not high on the BS, I’m so low I need to refill on it.

It’s a Big Picture Kind of Thing

I’ve been watching these protests in my hometown (St. Louis) over a poor black man who got gunned down in the street, unarmed. I feel the protests are warranted, the aggravation to us “regular folks” absolutely needed, and I back every single one of them 100%. In fact, even though I’m a broke joke, I donated a little bit to their cause. Because I believe in it. It’s a writer’s dream, to be involved with something like that.

In fact, almost any major challenge in the world is worth getting involved with, as a writer. I see conflict as a kind of connective tissue between the words (muscle) and the meaning (bone). And everyone in this world has fought adversity. Even the rich folks who live on plushy cushions and drive Maseratis to luncheons in Paris. Why? They’re so disconnected from the rest of us it’s scary, or they’re expected to hide their emotions and secretly, deep down, hurt and hate themselves for it. Or insert mental illness here. Or whatever. Humanity doesn’t have a pay grade. Hardship can’t be paid off. Everyone dies.

I love that one. Everyone. Dies. So that means we’re all human. It means, no matter what you are, who you do, where you buy, you can write amazing shit. You are fully capable of dominating the page. And what you consider weakness, I call character. I’m subscribed to Eckhart Tolle on Facebook, and although his one-liners are usually not to my taste, he recently wrote “You ARE a soul. You have a body.” That’s character. Because I know, without a doubt, that man had some kind of adversity in his life. And even though he doesn’t always feel the way he talks, he talks it anyway. I can’t imagine the amount of self-reliance one needs to be strong like that.

Although, I’m strong for myself, and that’s all I need.

Self Worth in the Face of Challenge

I recently perused some blogs here on WordPress. While there are a lot of really specialized people I enjoy reading, there are also confident readers/writers who have a lot more research under their belts. They write researched, detailed posts full of pictures and MLA formatting. They divine the truth from structured research, and that’s amazing. It’s also a little disheartening (even though when I read them, I see their errors, and weaknesses–and not out of a need to feel dominant. I went to college and studied under some seriously difficult professors on complex subjects), because I want to be the best in my field. I want to be the best writer. I have so little research done, though. How can I come out on top?

I can’t. No matter how amazing you are, someone else will show up better. It’s the same with fighting, soccer, chess, and war. I can’t be the best at “writing,” as if that’s humanly possible. But I can be the best of me.

What is the ONE thing other people don’t have on you? The ONE thing people can’t take away from you? Experience. Survival. You’re a survivor of life. Even if you think it’s been boring as hell up until today (and if you do, do something about it. Go out and be stressed. Live dangerously for a week. Go camping without food! Anything to step out of your comfort zone.), you have your story to tell. And it’s as multifaceted as you are. I’m a diabetic. I’m a survivor of sexual abuse. I’m an ardent believer in the Christian God (even though I write fantasy that goes against it), and I have the ability to dream. Literally, dream, and wake up from someone else’s life for a night and be able to write about it. That’s (pardon my french) Fucking incredible. And I know you’ve got it too.

That’s why I love people. That’s why I don’t get disheartened when I read discourse on philosophy or cross-referencing victorian literature to religious norms of the time. Because they have their place–and I learn so much about them.

I consider myself a new-path walker. My ex called me a guide, once. A scryer: I collected my own constellations and traveled a place everyone else saw but didn’t understand. It’s a beautiful image, and it’s always been inside my chest. I know this. I don’t study others’ thoughts just to map a trend. I don’t recreate volcano eruptions to explain a theory. I used to. I could if I wanted.

Instead I see the more abstract patterns. It makes me a little strange. It makes me a little ignorant, as well. My fantasy writing tries to tie mysticism, science, and quantum mechanics together in a way that’s explainable. Who knows? In 200 years, someone might read my work and say, “Holy hell. This guy knew what was up!” Or, you know, “Damn this guy’s way off. Good read, tho.” (Because, you know, most english will be pigeon-peck anyway).

We need original thought, despite what media or schooling trends tell you. We need people who aren’t looking at the piles and piles of books. We need survivors who have a particular brand of survivability they want to share. It’s beautiful, different, and usually breaks the envelope open to incorporate previously unexpected theories/ideas.

I can sure as heck tell you Tolkien’s Middle Earth wasn’t in a book he read beforehand. And Gaiman, while he took ideas from religion and paganism and other places, his Door character is unique and new and nobody has matched him so far. Anne Rice cornered the market on Vampires because they seem so full: they weren’t like that before she started writing.

So write. Write your way. Write with a crippled hand or a glass eye or with diabetes, or with dark skin or breasts or whatever. Because while they’re presented as challenges, they’re also identifiable as survivability. My writing will always be a struggle for me, now that I’m diabetic.

But I can control it, and it makes my words all the more delicious when I finally read them. Be good to yourself. Be good to the world. Write the crap out of whatever you want to write about. No matter what, you’re the best person to write it. And that’s no small epiphany.

Also, I am fine with the insulin. BS at 95. And I’m thrilled with energy.

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4 thoughts on “Writing as a Diabetic (and Why it Pertains to Non-Diabetics)

  1. Oh, man. 284’s pretty high, especially for Type II. Sounds like things are sorted now, but hope it wasn’t anything major–bad batch of medication? I’m on insulin, and I’ve had those times where I look down at my meter, my blood sugar’s like 400, and I freak the fuck out, take more insulin, and it becomes 450. There goes fifty bucks for a new vial of insulin. Urgh.

    Sorry to hear your ass is just as broke as mine this week. If I see another ramen noodle, I’m probably going to hang myself with it.

    And I have to add–I don’t think research takes place only within the stacks. Your entire life is research, and this is something a lot of people who advocate locking themselves in a room with a typewriter and never coming out don’t understand. To write about overcoming hardship, you have to’ve overcome some hardship. To write about love, you have to’ve been in love. Etc. The biggest part of research is, to me, exactly what you’re talking about. All the little stuff–what sort of coffee you’d be drinking at a Midwestern diner, what your police officer hero does to answer a call–it’s little stuff. Important for the believability of your story, but still little, because before your MC’s a police officer he’s a widower, father of two, and worshipper of Beelzebub Lord of the Flies (or whatever core beliefs you want to give him). Or maybe he IS a police officer first, which suggests a whole different range of issues.

    Research, while necessary, has never impressed me. Detailed research makes you a good researcher. It does not, in and of itself, make you a good writer. It’s intuition and empathy, I think, that go farther towards that.

    Purty picture, too. Insert comment about being a leaf on the wind here.

    • 284 was the highest I’ve seen since, you know, I got the golden ticket and knew I won the anti-Wonka trip. For the rest of my life. It’s all good now, with a breezy 110 this morning.

      Life is research. Exactly. It’s something you’ve been experiencing your whole life. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, I CAN lock myself in a room for months at a time and continue to gain important life experience simply because of the random-ass way I dream. I live lifetimes in my sleep. Like last night, I dreamed I was in an area cut off by flooding. No violence, but nobody let anybody into their homes, even though I didn’t belong there. A more emphatic use of a gun I’ve never seen before! And the feeling of being outcast so completely? Priceless.

      Anywho. Gracias. I agree.

      • I remember, my first diabetic birthday I couldn’t have cake. So yeah–the Trail Mix Ticket.

        I’m no Freudian by any stretch of the imagination (is ANYBODY, any more?), but I think dreams do provide important insight into what’s bothering us and what’s sticking in our minds. I have a recurring dream where my teeth are loose, and start falling out–and for some reason it always occurs in my grandmother’s house, where I haven’t lived for years and years. I think it’s an anxiety dream, directly connected to worries about my own independence and ability to care for myself properly. Dream interpretation can yield interesting results, but I feel it’s best done personally (as, aside from certain broadly-defined cultural symbols, a mouth full of broken teeth can mean different things for me than for, say, someone who really hates their teeth, or who has had tooth problems their entire life).

        But yeah, dreams can hold some important life lessons. I wrote a short story once based on a dream I had–the only thing I remembered was a devil, full on campy red face-paint and goatee devil, standing out in the middle of a cornfield. I don’t know what it meant, but it sure stuck with me.

      • I agree about self-inspection when it comes to le dreams.

        My dreams are so random it’s not even funny. And I don’t mean drug trip-drippy, but more one night I’m a businessman with a briefcase full of government secrets and the next I’m walking through a zombie apocalypse, trying to convince some woman to take the damn gun and shoot to survive. And then there are the fantastic. Oi. Lost Boys falling to earth on a meteor only to put up camp in Forest Park, turning the whole place into a war zone where the local government can’t even touch them in fear of collateral damage. Sorry. That’s the past two weeks’ worth of interesting.

        And the flying ones. *swoon* Okay I’m done.

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