Ah, the Memories

This was originally posted to my blog, Diabetes Odyssey.

Several days ago my sister IM’d me saying she thought it would be a good idea if I wrote a children’s book about dealing with Type 1 diabetes. She told me a couple of detailed ideas she could visualize about the book. I thought this was a great idea, but what really struck me was a memory she had about when I was first diagnosed.

What got me was that not only my sister, but my mom as well had told me this very same memory. I have listened to them tell it to me in detail, but I don’t remember it at all.

I have made note of it in previous posts, and I’ll repeat it here and probably in future posts; I have very few memories of my childhood surrounding my diagnosis. There could be a few reasons for this blackness of recall. I was just diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which means my blood sugars were running very high for who knows how long. This can do bad things to the brain and memory. I was traumatized by it all, it was frightening; I may have blocked some things out to spare myself the horror. I was nine frickin’ years old, how well do you remember details from when you were nine?

The memory is of me learning to take my own shot. Both my mother and my sister tell me I put on quite a terrific drama. You see, my parents were the type who made a point of teaching their children to be independent. Childhood is preparation for adulthood. If you don’t learn to take care of yourself then you will be lost as an adult. My mom was a nurse and my dad a type 1 diabetic, so they both knew what diabetes is all about and what the future held for me. Today I am eternally grateful for my parents teaching me to be an independent do-it-myselfer. But when I was nine years old and newly diagnosed, learning to take my own shot was the most terrifying experience, apparently, I really do not remember it.

I am told I was sitting on an ottoman (or maybe it started in the bathroom and then eventually led to the ottoman) and my dad first demonstrated how to draw the insulin and then he showed me how to inject by injecting himself with his shot. Then he had me do mine. He watched and told me what to do, just like he had just shown me. When it came time to inject myself, well, that’s when all hell broke loose.

I was scared. I was terrified. I’m sure my dad was calm, caring, patient and understanding at first. But as time went on and the crying got louder, I’m sure he probably became more stern, frustrated, and impatient with me. Both my mother and sister said I spent quite a long time crying, bawling, screaming, and putting up a ton of resistance toward this needle. knowing my dad, he would not have given up and injected me himself, he would have stood his ground until I did it myself and realized it was not as frightening and terrible as I imagined. So…I may have sat there for hours. My mom and sister don’t really remember how long it was, just that this went on for a while.

This kind of scenario doesn’t really happen too often in my family. For the most part we are all the type of people who face fear and adversity with a “let’s just do it and get it over with” kind of attitude. We understand that if it has to be done and there is no getting out of it, then just face it. Hesitation and resistance are a waste of time and energy. But there is the rare moment in each of our past where we crumbled in the face of fear and totally fell to bits.

Eventually, like within a week or so, I learned to take my own shot without fear or hesitation. I do remember many a morning where my dad, myself, and my brother (who is also a type 1) would all be in my dad’s bathroom checking our blood sugar and taking our shots together. Even though we were taught to be independent and do things ourself at a young age, we were still watched over by our parents until we proved we didn’t need monitoring. Last I remember checking my blood and taking my shot with my dad was when I was eleven. It all ended when he died.

It all changed when Dad died. I was suddenly cut loose and floating aimlessly…lost. I had the training, I knew what and how to do it, but the loss of Dad was too much to bear too suddenly. I still need him for emotional support, he understood my fear and suffering, he calmed me when it came to diabetes. I still needed him! And once again the whole world changed with tragedy and fear. This is one main reason I gave up on caring for my diabetes for so long. Diabetes started with fear, anger, and resistance. Dad helped keep all that in check. I can’t help but think that if Dad hadn’t died I would have calmed and come to harmony with my diabetes instead of exploding into rage, rebellion, and giving in to the fear of it at my father’s death.

“It’s your fault, Diabetes! You ■■■■■■■ disease! You killed my father! You ruined my life! I hate you! I hate you! I ■■■■■■■ hate you!”

And I spiraled into a self-destructive war against my own body for just about 25 years. Needless to say, I lost the war…but we eventually gained a peaceful, if not volatile, harmony.


Very moving, honest and well told.

This may seem a little tangential, but… One of the things that struck me is that you grew up in one of those families that contradict what I was always taught: that T2 runs in families and T1 doesn’t. Clearly there are cases where it does. In my case, I have a huge extended family and am aware of only one other T1: my cousin’s daughter–my “second cousin” though that term always seems like the wrong one. She was dx’d T1 as a kid, I believe around age 9, and is now in her 20s. We’ve never met, but she’s actually been on my mind a lot because of a recent crisis. She’s had a lot of problems dealing with her disease, compounded by drug abuse, and a few weeks ago was found unconscious, lying by the dumpsters behind a shopping mall. My cousin was sure she was going to die, but after she was brought out of a medically-induced coma she seems to be recovering ok. Obviously your situation is different, but your story of the emotional wars you’ve been through with your T1 kind of struck a chord with me. I guess what I wanted to say is that reading it, I found some encouragement in the fact that, bad as it was, you’ve matured and evolved into a more constructive relationship with this difficult and infuriating condition. It gives me some hope that, after taking things so far to the edge, my second cousin will start to find her way along a similar path. So I really appreciate you sharing it.


Thank you, and I do hope your cousin recovers and decides to take control of her health and life. It’s very difficult to watch family or friends walk down a self-destructive path and not be able to get through to them. I understand first hand that your health and life choices are your own, no one can convince you to change but you yourself.

As for type 1 in my family, there are six of us. My father and his sister, and his other sister’s son (my cousin), also I have a second cousin on my mother’s side, then myself and one of my brothers. Of the six of us only myself and my brother are still living. My father died from a stroke, my aunt from kidney failure, my cousin from a staph infection, and my second cousin from a severe hypo. It’s been very tough for me to watch my family die from complications of a disease I also have, but then I look at my brother and see how well he’s done his entire life and he encourages me to try, and keep trying.

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Tamra11, thank you for your story. And, re T1 in families, there were six of us siblings (I am an old’un and the 4 boys were all older than the two girls). Three got T1 and one got T2. Brother #3 got T1 just years after the discovery of insulin, perhaps in the early 1930’s. He died at age 38. The other brother died of T1 complic at about age 59. I am still here only because the BG meter came along at the time I was diagnosed. It was big!

We also had another family in our small town, in the 1940’s - '50s, where all five children had T1 but neither parent. This was all way before there was knowledge about keeping BG low and ages before glucose meters were available. Folks just did the best they could but, of course, complications resulted.

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Tamara: I launched into a volatile self destructive war against me as well. I came out better. I suppose that running is possible in all circumstances, except ourselves.

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So sorry that your first shot and diagnosis was so frightening for you. I still remember everything vividly, maybe as I was a few years older, 13 thus it was not shut out of my memory. So to lighten the mood, my memory of First injection. It was after a week in children’s hospital. They said either my mom could do it or I would have to do it. My mother would do anything for me but one thing I would not let her do is come near me with that needle! I took that syringe and took care of business like a boss just to keep her away from jabbing me! Then they still wanted her to try injecting me in case of a big hypo and I still refused and made her practice on an orange. Told her yeah she could inject glycogon IF I was passed out…
Loved and miss my mom but she never had to jab me in my 42 years…

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