For most of my life, the end of any semester has been marked with a cold or a flu, something that forces me to take some time to recover and physically take care of myself. Sometimes the sickness is dramatic, like the respiratory infection I got the semester I finished my Spanish translation class. (One of the most stressful semesters of my life, both personally and academically.) Sometimes it’s just a cold that passes after a few days of extra sleep, juice, and chicken soup.
In the past couple of years this hasn’t been the case. I have waited after submitting final grades and finishing portfolios or other projects for the exhaustion and sickness to take over. And I have certainly been tired but I haven’t gotten sick.
So I thought, well hey, I’ve been doing this teaching thing for almost a decade, I’ve removed some major stressors from my life, perhaps I’ve just gotten past taking my stress out physically.
Rarely have I been so wrong.
A few weeks ago I went to my doctor because I was experiencing some physical symptoms that scared the crap out of me. Literally. Given the “negative history” in my family, she ordered a battery of blood tests, pretty much everything except the fasting cholesterol test I did last year.
I didn’t think much of her warnings about the extent of the tests until I walked into the lab and the attendant gave me about ten test tube labels. “All these are for me?” I asked. She nodded and pointed me back to The Chair.
I had to wait about five minutes before the phlebotomist came to take my blood. She brought six vials, two that were double sized. I kept reminding myself to breathe and wished I didn’t have such a curious nature. I had to look after the fourth vial just because I had never seen so much of my own exposed blood in one place before.
I left the lab woozy and light headed, sitting in my car for about five minutes, drinking water before I drove home.
Then the results started coming in via email.
They were just the lab results, not yet the ones explained by my doctor.
So I tried not to panic when I read “pre-diabetes” on one set of results.
My mind could not make sense of those words. I am 5’6″, 140lbs, and 36 years old. I have a BMI of 23. My diet consists of whole grains, lean meats, and lots of fruits and veggies.
And yet…. pre-diabetes.
My doctor emails me the next morning, telling me to take inventory of my diet and start exercising more to lose some weight and that we’ll re-run the tests again in August to see if this issue has resolved itself.
On top of this, I also have two vitamin deficiencies – B12 and D. The D is so severe that she ordered me a prescription dose of 50,000 once a week for eight weeks, and 1500 every day after that.
I spend a day or two freaking out. A litany of How? What? Why? plays through my head over and over again. I talk to a friend who had Type 2 and completely overhauled his life with exercise and diet changes after losing an insane amount of weight. He’s certain that this pre-diabetes has been brought on by a combination of stress and genetics. I am pretty sure he is correct.
The irony here, the thing that still has me shaking my head, is that I have been so attentive to my diet for so long because of the predisposition to heart disease that runs in my family. No one in my immediate family has diabetes – I have aunts and uncles battling it but no one in my first line of family. With that and the fact that I’ve managed to moderate my weight well as an adult, I didn’t think I’d ever battle diabetes.
Through my reflections I’ve come to realize that instead of getting a cold or other sickness over the last very stress filled years, I’ve instead been silently beating the crap out of my body. I hadn’t even registered that I stopped taking my multi-vitamin…. it just got lost in the stress filled dance I was doing to stay on schedule and finish my dissertation this spring.
A few weeks ago I started to freak out about the fact that I lost half my summer income. And yes, this is still a problem but I am going to reframe it now. Instead of flipping out about money, I am going to spend my more open summer schedule eating better and exercising. I joined our local community center that has a pool, a rock wall, a gym, and other fitness classes before I even got this news, knowing that I needed to get my blood flowing again after an intense period of sitting on my behind writing. Now I am thankful my teaching load is lighter and I have some time to get some major changes going in my life.
And I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to report back in late August that my blood sugar levels and vitamins are all back to normal.