Parts of a Whole
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. One man near the tail said the elephant was like a rope—long and thin. Another, feeling the massive leg, called the elephant a pillar. And so on. None of the descriptions were wrong, but it took all of them to produce a complete picture of the animal. Many points of view are necessary to understand a matter. This truth has become clear to me as I wrestle with type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a complex and ever-changing biochemical dance. Everything in life affects the person with diabetes. Illness, a restless night, a late dinner—all of these can result in higher blood glucose levels in the morning. If I go too long without eating (or without enough carbs), my blood glucose may plunge. Food seems easy to manage, but it’s not as simple as one might think. Is this a small or medium apple? Do I get 12 chips or 20? If I forget to pack a lunch, is it better for me to share a pizza and stay on schedule or eat something healthier later? Fitness is important, but my blood glucose starts to spike about halfway through my aerobic exercise class. Should I leave, or finish the routine?
My blood glucose is more than a number on a meter; it affects how I feel, how I view the world, and how I react to everything around me. My husband has learned that if I seem grumpy, my chemistry may be out of whack. Thankfully, he has learned how to tactfully suggest I have something to eat. Not everyone is so patient or accommodating.
Which brings me back to the elephant. As I navigate the uncharted regions of my own biochemistry, I realize that I am a complex mix of attributes, which may depend on the day, my last meal, or my medication.
Your opinion of me may depend on when you catch me. I may be perfectly cheerful after breakfast and have a great day with my students but dissolve into tears as my blood glucose plunges—or spikes—driving home from school. You may see me as negative, depending on how my meds are working, or positive if we talk when everything is in balance. All of these qualities are true of me, at one time or another, but none of them define me.
Which part of the elephant is in front of you now?
Debra Dimon Davis has been living with type 2 diabetes for five years while teaching Spanish and French to high school and community college students. Outside the classroom, she enjoys doll collecting, heirloom sewing, and exploring the natural wonders in and around St. Petersburg, Florida.
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