I originally wrote this post for Diabetes Sisters in 2008 and am re-posting it because it’s a good reminder to me of how competitive diabetes can be. “What’s your A1c?” people ask and I feel defensive. “What’s your blood sugar?” And I have the urge to hide my meter…These are personal questions and the simple answer is that numbers do not reflect the hard work I do every day.
My son Will is a natural athlete. He has grace, balance, hand eye coordination and determination. As a mother who never excelled at sports, it has been a thrill to watch him on the soccer and t-ball fields and at home as he races around the street on his scooter. I knew he must have gotten it from his father. But Will doesn’t like competition. Last summer, as we drove toward our cottage in Maine, Will began to cry as we prepared for my childhood tradition of racing to be the first one to see the lake and sing the song, “Keoka, Keoka, we love you, we love you!” Whoever saw it and sang the song first, got a dollar to be spent at the penny candy store. Will was panicked about losing, so we agreed not to compete. So, when it was time to sign up for t-ball this spring and Will told me he didn’t want to play, I wasn’t surprised. I reminded him of how much fun he’d had the year before and how his team needed him, but I could see the anxiety in his eyes and so I let it go. Maybe my son was more like me than I thought. I didn’t want him to have the same memories I had of suffering through team sports as a kid. Maybe he would become a runner like me…
I began running in high school and run almost every morning. On the days I don’t run, I feel sluggish and never truly awake. I began competing in local races after college, 5k’s, 10k’s and eventually I ran in a marathon. I kept a running log and wore a watch to time my mileage. Every day, as soon as I got done with my run I’d mark it down in my book, “5 miles, fast and hard.” Or, “8 miles, tough, my leg was hurting the whole time.” Those days depressed me, I didn’t like to record what felt like failures. But after a while, I began to enjoy my runs less and less. I ran so that I could write it down in my log, I ran so that I could time myself on my watch. So from time to time, I left my watch on the dresser when I headed out in the morning and when I got to the last page in my log book, I didn’t replace it. On the mornings when I ran untimed, I ran more slowly, I paid attention to the sounds of my steady breathing and the blossoming flowers along the trail and I began to enjoy my runs like I hadn’t in a long time.
My running log book was just like my blood sugar log book. I kept track of my blood sugars, what I ate and my exercise so I could report back to my doctors. On the days my blood sugars were bad, I didn’t like seeing it in print, “85, 135, 250…” it made me feel like a failure, was a reminder every time I looked at the records, and I didn’t want my doctors to see the proof that I wasn’t the perfect student. I was competing with myself and chasing blood sugars so I wouldn’t have to record a “bad” reading. If I was over 200, I’d quickly give another shot and then eventually I’d get low and it was a rollercoaster disaster.
It took me several years before I stopped keeping a blood sugar log book and the day I got rid of it felt great. I felt free. I am like my son and I don’t like competition. If I have a high blood sugar, I feel bad (emotionally and physically) but I no longer beat myself up about it. I don’t write it down, and I move on. This morning I woke up and my blood sugar was 95. Perfect. The sun was out and the air was crisp and clear. As I drove the boys to school, we listened to their favorite song, “The Best Day Ever.” And as I ran along the trail, breathing deeply, feeling the sun on my face, the song played in my head the whole way.