“Listen, I’d Like to Live to See the End of the World!” (Part I)

I went to the American Diabetes Association’s Step Out to Fight Diabetes event last weekend at Adventure Island.  [Editor’s note: this happened so long ago I can’t even remember how many years it’s been!] It’s funny, ‘cuz much like my (ultimately) disappointing Flug Tag experience [A resulting blog so terrible, it’ll remain hidden], this one also started under a bad sign.  A sign, again so bad, that it almost caused me to no show.

Fortunately for you, my blog readers, not to mention the ADA‘s donation collectors, the road leading into Adventure Island is very narrow.  I guess building artificial hills wasn’t enough for their architects; they had to go all out with tiny, winding roads too.  (That Busch corporation and their attention to detail!)  It was hard enough staying on the road while fighting the increasing urge to flee; it was nearly impossible when I determined that I also needed to start taking photos as I drove!

Ever wonder what happens to reject speed signs?  They end up at Adventure Island!  Seventeen miles an hour?  What the hell kind of marker is that?

‘Well fifteen just seems a bit too slow. Twenty?  Hey!  This ain’t no goddamn speedway!  Crap, let’s just split the difference…’

Like many members of my immediate family, I don’t like having to face the reality of my illness.  I check my blood sugar the 46,598,461,235 times a day my doctor demands.  I take all the injections; I don’t skip shots, I don’t sneak candy.  I also don’t consider these things to be truly facing my illness.  At this point it’s more of a routine; just another habit I have for all the wrongly right reasons.

It’s sad that on some level I can understand that sad schmuck Pedro’s (from the third season of the Real World) dilemma.  He struggled with establishing an identity apart from his disease.  He wanted to be Pedro, a man with HIV; not Pedro a man with HIV.  He was wondering where the stress would be placed in remembrance.

At this point, I don’t even have the option to consider inflection an option. Maybe it’s ‘cuz I’ve had diabetes so long.  (Since I was four to be exact.)  Perhaps I’ve just forgotten what it’s like to be healthy; to not have to worry anymore.  Or maybe it’s because he had a disease; a foreign body within him, causing all the damage.  He had something outside himself to fight against; something else to blame.  Whereas I’m the cause of all my damage.  I don’t have a disease or a scapegoat,but, instead, an illness.  My white blood cells decided to destroy my pancreas one day and that was that. 

The end.

The end of life as you (the reader) know it.

It’s this depressing reality that made me want to turn my car around as I waited in line to enter Adventure Island‘s parking lot.  I swear, if the lanes had been wider, there’s a good chance I would’ve turned around.  I did not want to be there.  I mentioned in the derby blog that brought this event to my attention that diabetes is something I know about that I don’t care to talk about.  That I don’t care to be confronted with. It’s a presence that just sort of ruins a day.

But I had the twenty bucks with me that my father had pledged to the cause of research.  My older sister also ponied up a hundred, enabling me to best my fund raising goal of a hundred bucks.  Though her donation came in after the event took place, it was (is) appreciated.  I too thought about giving money to the cause, until I realized as I parked, that hadn’t I already paid enough?

This money would go to research that is, to disagree with what Demi Morgue said at the event, not for me, but for all the people who might get it.

‘Cuz curing diabetes might be the worst thing that could happen to me. It wouldn’t erase all the memories of what I had done and put up with over the years.  No, all of that would remain.  Instead a cure would simply invalidate those experiences.  Make them moot.  Well, you’ve suffered in the past, buy you’re better now, so get over it!  I’m bitter enough now about having the illness.  Imagine how angry I’d be having had the illness!

The Stockholm Syndrome being the theory that after being held in captivity for an extended period of time, a captive will start to identify with their captor.  In a related way, I’ve managed to identify ‘bonuses’ with being afflicted.

One such ‘bonus’ is hallucinating when I become hypoglycemic.  Now this isn’t the magical mushroom hallucination you hear about from burnt out hippies.  I’ve never seen gnomes crawling under my apartment’s rugs like my friends in college had.  (Granted they weren’t on mushrooms either.)  But, as mentioned in blogs past, I have seen the characters on book covers turning around and looking back at me.  I knew they shouldn’t, and normally don’t, check me out.  That’s partly what made that morning so special.  (The other part consists of my taking sick leave from work that day.  I ended up walking to the Taco Bus,then visiting my Dad.)

In such a state I can recognize what should be happening; which in no way tempers my perception of what is happening.  You recognize the real world and its rules, but no longer feel compelled to follow those rules.  All of society’s mores and rules take a backseat when your body is cannibalizing itself in a desperate hunger for glucose.  All your mind is left to do is ponder all the wonderful possibilities of what could possibly happen.
 
It’s tripping without the moral culpability.  Thus no guilt.

There was one time in Gainesville, right after I graduated college that gave my roommate quite a nasty shock.  Now we had been friends since the seventh grade, yet somehow he had managed to remain (largely) sheltered from my illness throughout all those years.  When we moved in together, he had had the foresight to ask me what he should do if there ever was a problem.

‘Call the paramedics.’

It’s that simple.  Get a squad of professionals there.  The last thing I need is for you to be nervous and messing with my needles.  Hypoglycemia occasionally will make me extremely agitated, and I also don’t want to end up clocking you.  So just call the paramedics.

This was advice that had no need to be exercised for four and a half years. At the end of those years I was diploma’ed, and also horrendously broke.  One morning I followed my normal routine, not expecting anything out of the ordinary.  I woke up around nine, ate a bowl of oatmeal and laid back down watching Trading Spaces.  I soon passed back out.

This, in and of itself, wasn’t so unusual.  It accurately describes most non-school days at college.  I’d sleep ’til noon-ish, then bicycle around town gabbing with my homeless friends and trying my hardest now to get hit by a car.

Only on this day I didn’t wake back up. I remember dreaming that I was drowning.  It turns out I was just unconsciously trying to free myself from the confines of my sheets;ultimately to no avail.  It’s tough to gauge how long this dream went on, since my concept of time was as blitzed as my concept of reality. Luckily as much as my body seems to relish causing me pain, it also refuses to die.

So as frequently happens at these moments, I wake up with a start;with no idea why my comforter is now twisted around my neck.  (My bed really was trying to kill me!)  I tried lifting my arm to extricate myself and find that my right arm won’t respond.  At all.  It had that unnerving ‘tingling’ feeling your limbs get when you lay on them and they fall ‘asleep.’

I spent the next twenty minutes trying to wake up my ‘sleeping’ limbs.  (I had, at this point, realized that the entire right side of my body was ‘asleep.’)  First I thought placing my limb under a blanket would induce the blood to start flowing again.

Failure.

Next I tried lifting my arm up.  I didn’t regain control, but I did manage to prove that gravity exists.  Cold clocked myself right in the face.

Another failure.

Finally I had the brilliant idea that if I stood up my body would have to awaken.  Upright, gravity dictates that the blood would have to travel to all my extremities.  This rationalization turned out to be my grandest humiliation; even better than punching myself in the face!

You’ve probably realized that walking is tough when your leg’s asleep.  Your leg tingles and can’t support much of your weight.  Plus it doesn’t feel ‘right’ and so your responses are all skewed.  Now take all feeling out of the leg.  I managed to stand for a split second,then I hit the ground.  Stopping only for a moment so my knee could kiss my futon’s metal frame.

That bruise lasted a month.

Somehow I managed to shamble down the stairs without breaking my neck.  In hindsight, if you can barely stand on your legs, I wouldn’t suggest trying to navigate a set of stairs.  My ‘walking’ consisted of me clutching the wall, taking a step, and then resting my shoulder on the wall (to hold myself up) as my one good arm/hand combo pulled the other leg into position.  Repeat ’til you get to wherever you’re going!

Clearly ‘CAUTION’ is a word that my sugar starved brain doesn’t understand.  I’m frequently amazed that I’m still alive.

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