Solitude

There is a picture hanging in my home. I’m not quite sure who the photographer is to give credit, or what this picture meant to the photographer. That’s the joy of art – you decide what it means to you, and everyone may have a different idea of what that should be. There has always been that one single word to describe this picture for me, and so I have have named it that – Solitude. It describes my version of solitude perfectly in a simple image. A leafless tree isolated in the midst of a snow-covered ground, with a fence which seems to separate it from…what? Who knows? I find myself staring at this picture to keep myself inspired. I see the tree as myself; the barren, snow-covered ground as the world around me. The fence…well, maybe that’s an extension of me trying to separate myself from the “noise”…

Solitude – as the dictionary states, it’s a state of seclusion or isolation.

The tree is not lonely or in pain. For this tree, solitude is a result of a deliberate choice. It has chosen to be free and use solitude to recharge, be with its own thoughts, free of distractions and full of introspect; to create. In my mind, I hope that I see this tree develop into a colorful tree, full of leaves. Those leaves would represent the things that have been accomplished and show progress. But since this is not a moving picture, those visions stay in my mind and still inspire me to continue creating. One by one, those leaves start to appear.

The definition of solitude is way more complex than only a state of seclusion or isolation. Solitude takes many forms. It can be considered pleasure, a punishment, or a treatment. Solitude can mean glory or joy when one is alone; loneliness can mean pain in being alone. I like to think of solitude as pleasure, and sometimes treatment; but never a punishment. Solitude can be a sense of peace. A mind at rest with many thoughts flowing freely. Standing still. It is a state of mind.

Noise and sounds have a big effect on whether or not solitude can be enjoyed. I can be notoriously fickle when it comes to noise in my quest for solitude.

One does not have to be alone to enjoy solitude. There are times when being in a noisy coffee shop with a lot of people around can produce a feeling of peace and allow the mind to think more clearly. Sometimes the hustle-and-bustle surrounding me creates the energy I need to be inspired.

As I say that, I realize that I am also a conflicted individual when it comes to being around other people. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with and interacting with people. My profession is an Event Planner, so I am in the midst of crowds of people quite often during the celebrations and enjoy watching the festivities and happy people as I work. I truly enjoy what I do and being in that atmosphere. Sometimes though, I do get a little overwhelmed in a negative way, as there is too much emotion coming at me from others all at once. I absorb all of that energy and emotion and sometimes have to shake it off, go take a walk and ground myself in order to move on and function. Once, when I was about 10 or 11 years old, I had a panic attack in a crowded flea market in Italy. I didn’t realize it then, but my mind was so claustrophobic because of the “noise” of everyone’s emotions. There were so many people, and I couldn’t fend off all of that energy coming at me. It was a terrifying feeling.

So that being said, being around people for inspiration is great if you have yourself grounded and your mind is at rest. I’ve been able to learn that over the years as I learn about myself.

On the other hand, there are times when being alone and in complete silence is needed to wipe away all the clutter in the mind. Sometimes you aren’t able to get yourself grounded, and being in complete solitude and silence is the only way to go.

When I need the silence, I usually have pretty severe reactions to certain sounds. I tell people that I have sensitive ears. In reality, the noise is what clutters my mind.

Silence can be a calming form of meditation. I’ve come to appreciate a quote by Ram Dass,

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

Sometimes the silence can be deafening, though. If I am by myself and trying to work or write, there are times when I just have to turn on the TV or put some music on – not because I want to watch a tv program or sing along to my favorite song, but because it’s too silent. Call it my “white noise”, if you will.

People may call me an introvert and probably think I’m anti-social. Those are a couple of the stigmas attached to that word “solitude”. At times, whether I am alone or with people, I just need to be in solitude with my thoughts. It doesn’t mean I’m a loner, that I don’t like people, or that I don’t want to be friends. I’m actually enjoying every minute of the solitude, so let me be…the results might be pretty wonderful!

The Highs and the Lows

Preface

Today is the day you get to read one of my personal essays.  A writer-friend told me this is a piece I should share immediately should I choose to start a blog (Thanks Bek! www.eatingatme.com).  While I didn’t post it immediately when I started this blog, I have chosen instead to post this at the anniversary of a significant turning point for me.  Hopefully you might gain an understanding of what goes on in the mind of a Diabetic, particularly, me. 

 

The Highs and the Lows

Diabetes. It’s a word that people like me love and hate. Yes, I said the word “love”. Why would anyone love Diabetes? Especially me, the one who has it?

I have been living with this chronic immune disease since 1987. Type 1 – insulin dependent for the rest of my life or I die. How can this be something to love?

I love it because it’s an identity for me. I label myself with “Diabetic”, and I don’t care who knows about it. I used to be a bit more cautious of telling certain people and being open with it in years past, mostly because there are so many people who are so uneducated about this crazy disease. I can make sense of everyone not understanding all of this, because there are so many different types with so many different treatments, along with so many different stigmas. It’s really hard to keep track of, even for a Diabetic!

I say it’s an identity for me because I am proud. Proud of myself for all I’ve endured and accomplished and the fact that I’m still here amongst the living. Every day I trudge along and experience the highs and the lows – both literally and figuratively – and for that I am proud to call myself a Diabetic.

Literally

There are the roller coasters of high blood sugars and low blood sugars, physically feeling sick, the finger pokes to check the blood sugars multiple times a day, giving yourself injections or changing a site and refilling that reservoir for your insulin pump. The occasional kinked cannulas which keep insulin from being delivered by your pump and sending you into a dangerously high level. The inconvenience of forgetting extra supplies in case of an emergency. Hitting a blood vessel by accident when you insert your Continuous Glucose Monitor, sending blood gushing down your leg and leaving a lasting bruise, because goodness knows it will take a week for that to heal! Alarms because you’re running high; more alarms because you’re running low. The constant carb-counting and math to figure out how much insulin to take to avoid a high level, but not too much to send yourself into a bad low.

Can I eat this?  Nope, better not unless you want to feel crappy for hours because you’re high… What about this?  Ok, but this might create a roller coaster effect later, and I’ll end up low.  Did I bring enough glucose tablets with me?  Is there somewhere that I can get some orange juice or a bite to eat?

That kind of chatter goes on in your mind from the moment you wake up in the morning to the time your head hits the pillow at night. The more significant complications, like Autonomic Neuropathy. Mine causes low blood pressure.

Oops, darn it…I shouldn’t have bent over to pick that up off the floor (as I’m starting to black out).

Let’s not forget the night-time low blood sugars. The ones that could kill you. Every Diabetic’s worst fear. I could go on, but let’s end there.

Figuratively

There are high and low emotions that follow each situation. The high emotions are when your meter gives you a normal blood sugar reading and your Continuous Glucose Monitor is consistently quiet with no alarms; when you visit the Endocrinologist for a check-up and you learn your A1c results are below 7; when your blood sugar doesn’t drop when you exercise or get more of a workout than you had planned; when you decide to eat that snack and your blood sugar doesn’t skyrocket; when you feel like you finally have energy one day. And the best is when you get to wake up in the morning to live another day. The low emotions bring on the more depressive thoughts, and there are sometimes more lows than highs here. You blame yourself for a high blood sugar; a finger prick or injection hurts; you can’t eat when you’re famished because the blood sugar is just too high. You go rounds and rounds in your mind trying to figure out what caused that high blood sugar, and nothing makes sense. You just get so darned tired of it consuming your life and every thought every single day, 24/7. There is no escaping it. Your brain needs a break. You just want to be normal, like everyone else without a disease or sickness.

Different Breeds, Different Needs

Of course, I am speaking for myself here. I know plenty of other people with different forms of Diabetes, and they all feel differently and handle things and their feelings differently. That doesn’t lessen the facts and the things we all go through. I know some Type 2 Diabetics who are in complete denial that they even have the disease; they don’t check their blood sugar, and they eat crap. I’ve definitely wanted to give them a piece of my mind sometimes, but who am I to judge? I’m nowhere near perfect, but I do try my best. I also know other Type 1’s who don’t spend their time talking about it and advertising the fact that they have it. I completely understand, as we can suffer some serious discrimination sometimes. I just learned recently that a dear friend found out she has Gestational Diabetes. This is actually an area I’m not as familiar with in regards to how it’s treated. She is worried that she’s not going to have a perfect blood sugar reading every time, and that one bad reading could kill her baby, because the doctors have scared her into thinking that way. But she’s trying the best she can to do everything that she needs to do to help herself and the baby get through it.

You’re On Your Own, Sweetheart!

Support. Let’s face it…we all need it in some form or another. Again, to each his own, and everyone is different in their needs. But when you have it, even in the smallest amounts, it certainly is one of those highs.

When I got diagnosed back in the late ’80’s, there wasn’t a lot of it. Even though that diagnosis took place 28 years ago, it was a whole different world. We all just didn’t know enough, and compared to now, everything was so archaic. I was already 16 years old. I got the best medical care that I could have, and they even suggested support groups. I am definitely not the support group type. Not at all. Today, in the world of Facebook and social media, there are groups you can join, and people chat about their issues. I guess this sort of thing replaces a support group meeting, except there’s no mediator in these groups to keep everyone civil. This could be good for some, but I realize that for me, it really isn’t. Some people are very supportive of others, but in one group in particular, it just wasn’t productive for anyone. So I left that group. We all have to deal with the negative every day – why do we have to listen to people who are not supportive when we are brave enough to ask a question or tell everyone about our issue? I also left because I felt as though these people just wanted a quick answer for their issue, and no one wanted to talk to their doctor to get the right one. A good portion of the members took matters into their own hands before contacting their doctors for advice, and then boasted about it on the group’s forum. I agree we all have to be our own advocates at times and do what we need to do, but some of these people were going about it all wrong. How do others applaud this kind of behavior? I didn’t want any part of that.

After my diagnosis, my parents learned as much as they could to try to help me, and they did the best they could. My family and friends are far from experts, but most of them learn the basics and I always got the love and support. I always knew it was my weight to carry, and I chose to learn what I could on my own without burdening others. No one else could do this for me. I was ok with that. I still am. I am grateful for those that know me enough to know when something isn’t right, such as an episode of low blood sugar, and offer help. I am grateful for any encouraging words, when I’m trying to blame myself or wondering what the heck I did wrong. Give me a hug when I’m down and tell me it will be ok. That’s really all I need.

But on those nights when you wake up in the middle of the night feeling an episode of low blood sugar coming on, or you realize that you’re already low, I’ve learned that I may not get that help I need. I learned this one the hard way. I will never, ever forget it.

Beware The Ides of March!

It was just after midnight, on the Ides of March, almost 4 years ago. How ironic, right? Beware the Ides of March! I woke up, and my husband was in the bed next to me, sound asleep. I was feeling something was off, and it didn’t feel major, but I drug myself out of the bed and went to the kitchen. I checked my blood sugar, and I was 42. I was certainly pretty low, but I was barely feeling it, and had been at that level loads of times and I’ve managed just fine. No big deal, but I thought, ok, time for some orange juice. I grabbed a glass out of the cupboard, got the orange juice out of the refrigerator, and started to pour…and that’s when it hit me. I had better get this orange juice down. I took a sip, and I started choking because I couldn’t swallow. In the blink of an eye, I had already lost control of those basic functions! Everything was going black and fading away. Next thing I knew, I was opening up my eyes and noticing I was laying on my side on the cold tile floor, looking into the light of the open refrigerator door. I had no idea how long I had been unconscious. I sat up, dazed, and when I could pull myself up off the floor, I started crying. That’s when I felt the most alone. Even though another human being was in the same house, no one knew where I was or what had just happened. Had I not miraculously choked down that one sip of orange juice, I would probably not be here to tell this story today.

This was my eye-opener. No matter how much support and love you get from others, your self is the one you have to count on, and even you might fail. There isn’t a support group or another human being that’s going to get you out of that one. It could happen any time, anywhere, and the middle of the night just happens to be the worst time. There have been many nights of lost sleep before and after this occurrence. Who knows if one of those nights, low blood sugar will hit in my sleep, and won’t allow me to wake up to treat it? Every Diabetic’s worst nightmare. But you have to accept it and do for yourself what you can to avoid it. It’s all you can do. You can’t live your life not sleeping. If the nightmare is going to happen, it will.

After my “near-death-experience”, I still have a fear of closing my eyes at night and wondering if they will open again in the morning. Each time they do, I am grateful for another day, and every single one of those highs and lows are worth it.

One extra

This is the last entry from February’s Writing Prompts.  I hope you’ve enjoyed all the daily posts.  I will try to continue posting daily if I can, but once wedding season kicks into gear, it may be more of a weekly thing.  I have so enjoyed working on this project!

From February’s Writing Prompts, February 29, 2016

One extra day, an hour, or just one minute…to make it right. To repent.

I hope that we are all given that time, and we all make the most of it. It would make all the difference in the world.

Don’t miss that opportunity. You don’t want to say there’s no time left, when life is too short to begin with.

Make it right before you go.

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? ~John Wooden

Drunk

From February’s Writing Prompts, February 28, 2016

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday that brought up some memories of my time in Italy as a teenager. It brought smiles and a little laughter. Then I realized the topic for today’s writing prompt… Drunk. What a coincidence!

Growing up in Italy as a kid and teenager in my day was so much different than being on American soil. Like night and day. Like any typical teenager, especially one coming from America, you’ll always try the things you know you can get away with, at least once! Oh, those poor American parents…

Those things included drinking alcohol, as there is no drinking age. Granted, teenagers in America will get their hands on it anyway, but when you are in a place where it’s not controlled, you bet it will get taken advantage of!

Hanging out at the K Bar or the Bambusa in Villaggio Coppola, Pinetamare. Drinking until you can’t stand, smoking cigarettes, playing in the band. Sleeping in until noon. It was all normal.

If you talk to a few of them these days, now that we are older, some get sick at the mere thought of the word Amaretto.

Drunk in Italy…it was considered a custom for the American teenager.

P.S. I’m not really talking from experience, I was just an amused witness to it all, as I didn’t indulge. I was the quiet one of the bunch. But I still laugh today as I reminisce. I hung out at places like Sala Giochi (an arcade) in Pinetamare…but the shenanigans weren’t much different!

“An American monkey, after getting drunk on brandy, would never touch it again, and thus is much wiser than most men.” ~Charles Darwin

Crazy in love

From February’s Writing Prompts, February 27, 2016

I find myself wandering. Trying to figure this life out.

As I try to solve this puzzle, I’m learning something new every day. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?

Instead of accepting defeat, I’m going to move forward. I may still wander, but I’m going to experience all I can along the way. I’d rather have stories to tell when I get older, than sit here and have nothing to give back.

Looking for the meaning of life is futile. I’d rather enjoy all of the experiences in the journey and be in love.

Crazy in love…with life.

“Experience all the good the world has to offer, and offer to the world all that you have experienced, and you will have lived the greatest love story of all.” ~ Richard A. Snipes, wasia.org

“You learn something out of everything, and you come to realize more than ever that we’re all here for a certain space of time, and, and then it’s going to be over, and you better make this count.” ~ Nancy Reagan

The bone crunched

From February’s Writing Prompts, February 26, 2016

The bones are crunching, straining at the weight. The weight of all that is placed on one’s shoulders. It can be quite the burden and very hard to bear.

For some, the world is a bit much to handle. One goes without living life while living everyone else’s, and they don’t even realize it until those bones start to crunch. Those people are the caretakers. They come in so many forms, and do it for so many different reasons, but they all experience the same thing. They go without living, while their bodies and minds deteriorate.

Then the realization kicks in. Instead of feeling like a bag of broken bones, they start living. One day at a time. Then they become strong as those bones start to rebuild.

“I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.” ~Unknown

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” ~Jonathan Safran Fore

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” ~Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

The fight

From February’s Writing Prompts, February 25, 2016

Those with chronic illnesses have an unfair fight. It’s a fight that is dealt with daily, even hourly. We didn’t ask for it, and we didn’t get a choice. We fight.

The fight to keep yourself alive, with all of the frustrations and set-backs. The fight to live well in spite of it, as you do your best to stay as healthy as you can. The fight for happiness and well-being, as you fight the many emotions of success and failures. All of this before whatever else life brings to the table.

As hard as it can be, we have to stick to the fight. There are no other options.

Don’t think of the person stuffing their face with a candy bar as self-indulgent. That could be someone who is in a desperate fight. It is survival.

And if we fall, don’t give us sympathy; but a little help or support would be great as we try to pick ourselves back up. It really is our own fight to endure, after all.

The fight is exhausting, but we keep on to avoid getting knocked out.

Don’t give up…keep up the fight.

“It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair.” ~Taylor Swift

“Stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit.” ~Edgar A. Guest

“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” ~Audre Lorde