Even before my diagnosis, I was no stranger to type 2 diabetes. I saw how crippling and life-changing it was for my father and grandmother to be diagnosed. Somehow, I had a gut feeling that I would eventually develop this malady.
Two years ago, I was driving to work when my vision suddenly started getting blurry. I could barely read the signs on the road. Gripped by fear, I pulled over and knew instantaneously that the day I dreaded had snuck up on me.
My blood glucose that morning was 570 mg/dl, a level that was critical. My A1C was 10.7 percent. I was told that I might need insulin for the rest of my life. It was like hearing a life sentence being handed down to me. It was one of the most depressing times of my life.
As a psychiatrist, it came natural for me to encourage my patients to conquer their fears, but in this instance, I found myself in the vulnerable position. I looked at myself in the mirror and decided I was not giving up. That weekend, with the help of close family friends, I started counting carbs and calories at every meal. I also finally heeded an aunt’s advice and got myself a personal trainer.
The trainer I picked was a guy named Andy Freeman. He and I set a goal to conquer this illness and get me off medication, which I honestly thought was a quixotic goal. That he was able to motivate and encourage me was a miracle in itself. He helped me do exercises that I had not even heard of before: lunges, box-jumps, and planks. He varied the routine daily to prevent it from being predictable. He distracted me from the difficult work at hand by sharing interesting stories and anecdotes.
In the interim, I accidentally fractured my wrist while training. I was immobilized for a month, but I vowed not to make this a setback. In six weeks, I was back in fighting form. Andy and I trained assiduously for the next six months for 30 minutes of high-intensity interval training a day, three times a week.
The result has been astounding: I've lost 75 pounds and my A1C is at its lowest at 4.6 percent. In April 2014, I was taken off all medications. Andy has been instrumental in motivating me to achieve what I thought was impossible. I have discovered within me an inner strength that has empowered me as a doctor and as an individual. I now have a better understanding of and empathy for what my patients have to go through. Change is difficult, but change has to happen for one to be able to grow and transform. This life-changing journey started out as a misfortune, but with divine providence, determination, and motivation, it turned into a blessing.
Jesus Ligot Jr., MD, is a psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University at Buffalo–The State University of New York, fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in August 2013.
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