Staying safe and staying home

Stay Home. Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Save Lives. 

That’s the constant loop playing in my head. I’m grateful beyond words that my current freelance job means I can stay home, In fact, my daily routine hasn’t changed that much. In the past few weeks, because of a particularly intense project, I’d been working at home, cramming in as many hours as possible on weekends and evenings. 

The only big difference is that I always knew I had the possibility of human contact (beyond my husband and my cat)… 

We’re all going through something we’ve never experienced, and certainly not on this scale. I feel sometimes like I’m paddling a canoe through rough water, waiting to be swept by a wave and overturned. I view those waves in the same way I see my anxiety. Each morning, I go through the same checklist: Why am I coughing? Is that allergies (as I look over at the cat, that I know both my husband and I are allergic to); why did I just sneeze? Do I have a temperature?

Making meals feels like a contest to see how many times I can wash my hands. Wash the vegetables, wash my hands. Open a package of something pre-made, wash my hands. Touch the refrigerator handle, wash my hands. 

As a self-confessed germaphobe before this all started, I joked that this was a routine I was used to….Except that now, at the end of the day, my hands are red and raw; the rough spots worn like a badge, proving that I know how to wash my hands properly. I sing Broadway melodies in my head. I slather on hand cream before bed, wake up to semi soft hands, only to start the routine again.

For those of us living with diabetes, there’s been some added concerns. When news of COVID-19 came out, I’m sure you, like me, grimaced every time the reports gave the list of those most at risk: the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, and there it was in hard print: people with diabetes. 

I winced. A friend of ours, a doctor, called to check on us, the first weekend when we were all figuring out this new reality. He cautioned me to be extra careful and to take any warnings seriously. I listened intently, thanked him for his concern, then started crying. If I hadn’t been scared before, I was terrified now. 

Other friends called me as well, asking “Aren’t you worried? Will you be okay?” 

My blood sugar went up after each of those conversations; I understood the well-meaning-ness of these family members and friends, and took a deep breath. And a correcting dose of insulin. 

The research I’d read from the different diabetes groups seemed to be saying that as long as my blood sugar was well-controlled and I was healthy otherwise, I was at no greater risk than any of my other friends.  As long as I followed the protocols of physical distancing, of limiting exposure to people, of not going out more than once a week for necessities … in other words, as long as I followed the path that has been set for all of us. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the stress this puts on us, as diabetics, or people with any number of other chronic illnesses. I worry worry worry. My sugars are good now — but what if they’re not, the longer this continues? I breathe a sigh of relief every time my BG stays in range. Remember, too, that I’m the “grown up diabetic”, not “elderly” but certainly “mature”. 

Oddly, in spite of all the stress we’re under these days, my blood sugars have been good. I’ve been exercising regularly, making sure to get outside for fresh air. My husband put my dusty road bicycle on an old trainer and now I ride indoors, almost daily. My yoga mat sits beside my desk, ready to be rolled out when the urge strikes. 

One added concern has been whether we’ll be able to get our vital diabetes supplies delivered during the next few weeks. A week into this new normal, when I went to buy insulin, it was sold out and on back order, noted my pharmacist. I had a vial at home, and one that I’d just opened, but I always like to have one extra, “just in case”. 

The shortage didn’t last, and I was able to get insulin a day later. My insulin pump and CGM supplies also seem to be plentiful, as long as we don’t freak out and start hoarding them. When this all started some five weeks ago, I tried to buy alcohol swabs — I’d let my own supply dwindle, and was lucky enough to find one lonely box at a local drug store. 

As I clutched the box in my hand, I wondered if I should put it back on the shelf, leaving it for another person with diabetes or who lives with a medical device. I started to visualize how many I might actually have at home, picturing the usual places I stash them. If they’re in a purse, they’ve long since dried out. Same with my travel kit, which has been sitting on a shelf in the kitchen for months, considering the last trip we took was in September. And so, I bought the box, and am glad I did. I ran out of swabs a week later. 

What’s been more worrisome has been our friends and family members who are doctors, medical personnel, hospital workers, first responders, who are all on the front-line, as well as one of our nephews, who works at a local grocery store. 

These are the people I keep in my thoughts, and I urge you to do so as well.  If there’s a way to help them out and to thank them — please do whatever you can. 

My wish over the next few weeks, months, or however long this continues, is to try to keep framing it and understanding it as something that I can’t control, but I do have the power to be informed, be careful,  and yes, stay home, stay safe, and save a life; to take comfort in knowing this is something that we are experiencing as a world. 

I can’t imagine going through this without the daily memes and jokes on the internet, and the connectivity of being able to FaceTime or ZOOM family and friends. Being able to stay at home, to have the internet, to be able to make those connections is something I recognize as a privilege — as someone posted on social media recently, “You’re not stuck at home. You’re safe at home.” 

Am I going to have bad days, where I want to sit and cry and worry about what will happen next? Of course! I mean, really, how can any of us avoid this, when the information we receive is changing on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis? 

We stopped watching the news before bedtime, but I confess that when I wake up at 4 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep, I scroll through FaceBook and torture myself with news articles, YouTube videos, and opinion pieces. These are horribly sad and tragic times, that demand our attention and our empathy. 

Can I compartmentalize those moments and move on with gratitude? I hope so.  It’s what I’m trying to do. 

(Please remember, I’m not a doctor or an educator. Just a person who has had type 1 diabetes for the past 26 years. Please follow me on instagram at @grownupdiabetes.) 

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