I love Austin, Texas because it’s where my dear brother, lovely sister-in-law, and darling niece live. I harbor slight animosity toward Austin, Texas because it’s where my brother moved when he moved from Cincinnati and the distance between our residences changed from 2 miles to 1,129 miles. I think Austin, Texas is weird because to me it feels full of young, oddly super confident people. It’s just generally more disproportionate in regard to age and self-esteem levels than I’m used to. But, who really cares what I think about Austin‘s age and self-esteem level averages. My feelings about Austin itself are not the point here. The feelings I felt the last time I was there are what I need to write about today.
Last spring, Kevin and I were in town for a friend’s wedding and naturally were hanging with my brother and his family. We planned to meet for a run one morning, which is my preferred way to start the day. I was excited to get to run with my brother because that is an experience that is now typically limited to a few times per year when we get to turkey trot together or run around the neighborhood we grew up in when we all make it home for the same weekend. I recall that my sister-in-law was very pregnant at the time so she was doing a run/walk, but Kevin was up for a run so he planned to join us. I proceeded with my usual pre-physical activity line of questioning: (“Do you have glucose tablets?”, “What’s your sugar now?”) as walked out to the trail. As we set out for our run, so do the feelings that I don’t love to talk about.
I can’t remember exactly what Kevin said his sugar was. But it was lower than I thought it should be before he goes on a run. I asked if he thought he should he eat something. “Nope, I’m fine” he tells me. I’m a little annoyed. “How many glucose tablets do you have?” I ask. I have no idea how many he told me had, but I didn’t think it was enough. “Do you think you should get some more out of the car?” “Nope,” he says “I’m fine, let’s go.”
Off we go. Thankfully for me, because a run is usually the only thing that helps me work through unpleasant, uncomfortable emotions. Like the ones that occur in this moment.
Like being annoyed because Kevin and I sometimes disagree about proper blood sugar preparedness.
Like being irritated that he wants to run because although it’s healthy for him it’s stressful for me. Who cares if it’s stressful for me? I want him to exercise, don’t I? Yes, of course I do. But then am I uptight when he does it, but doesn’t do it exactly the way I think he should? Yep.
Like being somehow resentful that a run I was looking forward to for energy and to fill me full of feel-good endorphins is now riddled with anxiety. I go worst-case scenario quickly: I imagine Kevin’s blood sugar dropping dangerously low. I imagine him not being able to eat the glucose tablets he has. I imagine he falls unconscious, and that I am out in the middle of nowhere with no phone and no one to help me. I am so, so terrified of something like this happening. It’s like one of those repeat bad dreams you can’t get out of your head.
And at the same time that I’m fearful and anxious, I want him to make the healthy choice to exercise. I want him to feel fearless. I want him to feel anything but held back by living with T1D.
Are there things I can do to temper this anxiety? Yes. I can carry my phone when we are hiking or out for a run or walk. I can make sure I have glucose tablets in excess of his own stash. I can carry his glucagon kit. I can remind myself to not go worst case scenario all the time. I can remind myself that Kevin is a responsible, grown man who has been living well with this disease for over 17 years. I can trust in the knowledge and skills we have to know what to do in an emergent situation. I can remind myself that God has plans for us, “plans for good and not for disaster, plans to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
In this situation and so many others, I have to work to drown out the fear and anxiety. I have to summon faith, hope and trust, and let these virtues lead the way. I have to choose to let light, and not darkness, guide my path. Sometimes that is the most powerful thing we can do.