Insulin… The Necessary Medicine — even for you.

Let’s talk about insulin. I never thought about it as a medication, as much as it is something that my body no longer produces and needs in order to survive. As a kid, they told me that this hormone acted as a key to the many locks encompassed in the human body– our cells. They told me that I had to inject the hormone via needles in order to keep my blood sugar down at a normal range and that daily finger pricks were the only way to monitor blood sugar levels; checking at least 3 times a day.

The hormone was no longer being produced in my body and no one could explain why. It’s an autoimmune disease. My body killed off the beta cells that made production possible within the pancreas– an organ that is part of the endocrine system. There was also no button or way to turn it back on. For the rest of my life, I would consciously be in charge of my diet, my blood sugar, my exercise and making sure that my body was working properly– basically, everything that people take for granted.

Insulin is the hormone that allows for cells to utilize glucose– simple, simple sugars that run through your blood stream, giving life to your cells and brain. Everything is broken down into glucose. From the bread you eat, to the tiny amount of sugar in carrots and potatoes, everything breaks down to a simple sugar element that allows your body to be. Without insulin, your cells would not get the food they need to survive.

Additionally, without insulin that let’s the glucose into your cells, glucose will build up in your blood stream, turning it into syrup. It’s the best way to explain it. The sugar is released through your urine, since it doesn’t get used up, working it’s way through your kidneys (the filter for all good and bad things). This damages  your kidneys, as you can imagine, tearing through the mesh lining that keeps things like protein (the good stuff) in your body. Instead, protein breaks through damaging the kidneys and is also released in the urine. This is how kidney disease begins.

The syrupy blood also affects your eyes, nerves, heart– everything. Diabetes is a multi-organ disease only to be maintained by one little hormone– insulin. Amazing how that one little domino causes issues for everything else.

Now, my type of diabetes is normally called Type 1. I make no insulin at all. It’s different from Type 2, the type that’s taking world over by storm and more notably caused by resistance to insulin. At times, it can be controlled, not by taking more insulin (the body still produces it) but through exercise and diet.

I wear a purple pump that disperses insulin to me in small doses as would your pancreas, keeping my blood sugar in check. When I eat, I program the pump to give me a larger dose to compensate for the amount of carbohydrates (that turns into glucose) that I consume.

It sounds easy, right? Like a math equation could solve the issue.

I wish.

Everything affects body chemistry which affects blood sugar. Everything. Stress, activity, food, drink, emotions, illness, PMS, excitement, you name it. And sometimes, you don’t even know what your body is deciding to do that day. You could be giving yourself insulin the way you’re supposed to and it won’t work the way it’s supposed to. Other times, you have to troubleshoot issues with things like insulin pumps, glucose meters, syringes– to the point where you feel like McGyver, attempting to figure out how to make something work with the limited supplies you have.

We don’t necessarily complain as much as we learn to laugh, but in the end, we know we have to forge ahead, even if you don’t want to. If you want to live, you’ll do it. It’s exhausting. It’s tiring. But I’ve become one hell of a critical thinker because of it.

Insulin, although a medication now because it’s prescribed and I have to administer it myself, is a need. I don’t have a choice in taking it. I have to. There’s no day that I can say, “You know what? I’m going to skip taking my shot today.” I don’t want to end up in the hospital, causing damage or dead.

I can forget to take insulin. I can choose not to take insulin. I can think insulin will last me, when I’m down to the bear minimum (because sometimes I want to think I’m special and that one day my diabetes will go away). But I pay the consequences hardcore for all of that. And it shows. “You can’t deny what you eat because your body shows it,” I’ve heard. Well, in the same sense, “You can’t deny you’ve been neglecting yourself because the numbers show it.” That’s why sometimes going to the doctor is the scariest experience in the world. That’s when you get your numbers, you get your reality check and you realize how often you let work, life and your extracurricular activities get in the way of actually taking care of yourself.

Many times, I want to cry. Not lying. But what are you going to do.

I just don’t make insulin and because of that, it’s now my medicine. Happy October.

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