About 17 years ago, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I was eleven, and between my parents and I, we did the best we could to control my blood sugars. Unfortunately, I had the privileged of getting slapped with an autoimmune disease and puberty at the same time. Raging hormones are unkind to those without a functioning pancreas.

I was treated at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. The care I received was unconditionally amazing. The hospital, the staff, and the clinic worked with me and my family ceaselessly. They worked with my parents to get me on insurance since my dad was self employed. They never shamed me for the difficulties I had with my A1C. I even got to participate in a study on the effects of type 1 diabetes among teenagers. It was incredible.

Until I turned 18. I aged out of pediatric care – as well as my state supplied insurance. In the days before the affordable care act, there was literally no option I could find to insure myself. My parents, at this point, made too much money to qualify for the “adult” version of my previously children’s program. My college didn’t offer insurance through the school. Neither myself or my parents could afford private insurance.

And so I went four years without insurance – without seeing an endocrinologist. I only survived thanks to patient assistant programs through the companies that made my insulin. I didn’t check my blood sugar often because the test strips were so expensive.

This is when my burnout started. I stopped counting carbs the way I should. I frequented bars with my friends and got rip-roaringly drunk without a second thought of my glucose levels. I was hospitalized twice – once for ketoacidosis and once for chronically low blood sugars during a severe bought of flu. I couldn’t extend the physical and mental requirements for proper care.

So I gave up.

I denied the opportunity to attend graduate school to pursue my dream career because I knew I needed insurance through my employer. So I started job hunting right after graduation. I got a job, got insurance, and started trying to put the pieces of a proper care regime back together. But I was angry. And I was tired. And in the five years since I’ve never been able to really dedicate myself to the level of care I achieved when I was younger.

Recently I’ve found out I have dot hemes in my eyes, and I know I’m on the road to retinopathy. I’m trying to get myself put back together, but the burnout and the routine are so far gone I find I’m floundering. Is there anyone else out there who has struggled with long term care? Is there anyone else who has experienced this crippling feeling of burnout? How did you cope? What tools did you use?

All help, fellowship, and advice are extremely appreciated.

Difficult People

If getting along with people was an Olympic sport, I’d medal in it. I’m not saying I would take home gold, but I had at least 18 years of training of being agreeable, and that’s no small feat. I’d like to think that I’ve matured and, to borrow the expression “grown a backbone” in my years outside of my parents home. But my default is always ‘playing well with others’.

Until recently.

I’ll confess that there is someone who I work with who just…infuriates me. I would call it irrational if the person in question wasn’t so polarizing. I worked through it for the first 6 months; painfully navigating a friendly interaction every time. But then, about 2 months ago, it felt like something inside of my literally broke. I could no longer manage the initial greeting or pleasantry. I stopped going out of my way to offer help. I started speaking only when spoken to, and referring this individual to our boss whenever possible.

Initially I was disappointed in myself. Though I now strongly disagree with the idea that women should be raised to be complacent and nice above all else, I am proud of my composure and treatment of people. To react so viscerally to someone who I only knew within a work context seemed unfair and petty of me.

But as time has passed, and as I’ve listened to other people share my same concerns over this individual, I’ve come to realize that some people just don’t mesh. This person and I could not be more different in temperaments, perspectives, or the way we approach problems. It makes sense that it would be difficult for us to work together. I had established early on that I would bend to make things more comfortable for everyone – an act that I now partially regret. Realizing my mistake and changing my behavior, while warranted, has made me appear angry and uncooperative.

I deal with that now, and I focus on my work and less on my interactions. I’m still cordial and polite and never go out of my way to be sardonic. But I’m less likely to extend lunch invitations and more likely to hold this person accountable when they mess up – as I would expect from them.

Actions of Dust

I was recently hosting an event at the college where work. It was a lecture for senior students, the theme of which was “A Meaningful Life”. Though not out of place at a liberal arts school, I work at a STEM school, and we’re often luck to get these future engineers to attend anything quite so existential.

But our attendance was decent, and I was excited myself to hear the speaker. Though small, our school does host a Humanities and Social Sciences department among the numerous engineering degree tracks. I asked one of the professors to present on the topic, giving him no more details than the title and encouraging him to make what he wanted out of it. He did not disappoint.

The synopsis of his lecture was that there are 5 things to know and understand in order to give meaning to our lives. I was in and out of the room during some of his presentation, but one thing that he said made me stop and take note of it so I wouldn’t forget.

Whether we are a circuit of biochemicals, or fearfully and wonderfully made, we are all actions of dust.

It’s such a beautiful thought to me – and a true statement. No matter our beliefs, our creeds, our faith, or our understanding of the world – we begin and end in relatively the same way. Our circumstance and situations – whether divine intervention or random assignment – dictate reactions from us. Our actions then define us, and continue doing so until we ultimately reach our inevitable end. And from death, life continues.