Ritual de lo Habitual

Thursday, June 26, 2008.

Sitting on the edge of my bed that morning, I finally came to grips with the fact that this was more than just an episode. I stumbled over nothing twice on my way to the shower. And then the world started messing with the dimmer switch and leaning the walls in on me. I had slept only a few scattershot moments that night. Spent the rest clutching my cramping stomach and shivering with nausea and dizziness.

Episodes like this have been rare in the time since my surgery over six years ago; I can maybe count them on one hand. Generally they crash in only to linger for a few moments and then subside. This one lasted almost three hours.

And I had no time for this. So I did the bootstrap thing and hopped in the car to head to my final summer ethics class. Most of the details of the remainder of that Thursday are looming just out of reach in a fog of confusion, stupidity, stubbornness and denial. Where the things we do seem to make sense at the time but are proved to be merely willful acts of overt carelessness. I took some medications that had sat in bottles long past their effective date. I tried this concoction for energy or that one for pain. I then tried to sleep it all away. But the human body will only handle neglect for so long. Eventually it will take the initiative away from you – its survival instincts for too long overridden by complacency and poor management – and kick your ass.

I hate for people to make a fuss, but things were clearly out of control and my capacity to negotiate a fuss-free recovery had dwindled away. The triage nurse actually went all bug eyed. He ushered me into a curtained room and another nurse swiftly found a vein, practically before I had the gown snapped and my head hit the pillow. Or so it all seemed. My blood pressure measured 74/30 and my sugar had peaked beyond the limits of their standard equipment – over 600. The perfect storm of symptoms converged over my little corner of the world that Thursday and it took nearly three days to clean up the damage.

I wish I could say I’ve learned my lesson. I did an admirable job mouthing the words to the doctors and nurses; a tried-and-true mix of confidence and humility. Yes, I’ll take the diabetes education classes. Yes, I’ll find a way to pay for the Chantix to help me quit smoking. Yes, I’ll check my sugar several times a day and shoot up the insulin. And yes, of course I’ll eat the right things and get plenty of rest. This is a familiar script. As is the line I get from my family – “You’re gonna end up just like your Uncle Jerry.” He never put forth any real effort to control his diabetes until the very end, when there was little that could be done. He died at 50 waiting for a new kidney.

That’s ten years down the road for me. I hope I make it . . . and hope is a good thing, right?

[Photo Credit]

19 thoughts on “Ritual de lo Habitual

  1. awww i’m really sorry to read this. going through this must have been so tough. i can’t believe your vital signs. thank goodness you’re okay.

    hope is a good thing. i hope you never stop hoping and more importantly doing things to take better care of yourself.

  2. How nice it would be to live without attention to pesky details like our health, to do what our brain wants to do, despite what our body is saying. Just live normal “like everyone else.” I understand denial, not to the life-and-death extremes of living with diabetes, but I understand.

    I wish you a speedy recovery and the strength to see and do.


  3. Sorry that this happened and I too wish you a quick recovery.

    And I have to say, this line:

    Most of the details of the remainder of that Thursday are looming just out of reach in a fog of confusion, stupidity, stubbornness and denial. Where the things we do seem to make sense at the time but are proved to be merely willful acts of overt carelessness.

    is so amazing. So universal.

    Best regards,


  4. This sounds familiar (and no less scary for its familiar nature) because my dad has had episodes like this, resulting from diabetes. Passing out in a parking lots, etc. We’re lucky it hasn’t happened while driving. And I’m the idiot who isn’t doing more to avoid getting diabetes.

    I know how annoying and hard it is sometimes to do that things that translate into taking good care of our health. Good luck with all of it.

  5. Brian. This cannot be. This cannot be, you have too much to do and too many people who love you.

  6. Yeah…Brian? You have got to slough off the denial, buddy, and get a hold of yourself. You have a family, and I know too well what it feels like to be the child of a parent who won’t care for their own health. I don’t want to describe what my mother’s death was like, but it was a result of diabetes, lupus, COPD, and heart disease. They all fed off of each other and consumed her. If she had been able to take control of her health early on, she wouldn’t have ended up the way she did…losing digits, losing part of her vision, barely able to breathe most days…

    Please take care of yourself. I know it isn’t easy being “sick,” but you have to just face it. This is your life. You have to face it. You have to.

    Wishing you well…Peace – D

  7. Wow, I wondered where you’d gone. Sheesh, this sounds horrible.

    Also wishing you a speedy recovery and long-term health.

  8. sorry.

    again i can relate- diabeties 1 & 2 everywhere in my family-

    i got gestational twice where i needed insulin. you’d think it wouldve scared me into reality…..


    so sorry…..

  9. If you only could take care of yourself the way you love your family and the way you can write.

    Perhaps you should write about resistance to the obvious? Many of us do it and don’t know why.

    This was beautifully written, Tysdaddy. Welcome back to your blogging fan club.

  10. hey brian, whoa, that is big stuff…will be thinking of you…take care of yourself…lots of people need you to stick around for a long, long, long time. peace, kathy
    ps: this was great writing. you really captured the moment, even though it was a sucky one.

  11. I knew something was wrong. June 30th I posted (in the wrong blog-post) “Where are you? I thought work didn’t start till the 7th”

    I give you this for a guilt-trip-hopefully-some-inspiration:

    My son (age 10) had a classmate who moved away this year. She moved across country because her dad didn’t think he could raise her on his own and wanted to be closer to his sister. See, her mom died the last month of school. I saw her, just a few weeks before when they were outside the grocery store selling girl-scout cookies. She was having some bad health problems. She was on a donor waiting list for kidneys but they thought that on top of that, she might have cancer. They took her off the list for a while. She was having dialysis done every couple of days. Her daughter was being really good about it she said. Being quiet and helpful, fetching things, brushing her moms hair. Just sitting on the floor doing her homework, next to her mom laying on the couch, her hand lightly on her moms arm.

    Her mom told me what a sweetheart her daughter was, how much she loved her and how much pain these health problems were causing her. She was in such agony, she said, that if it weren’t for her daughter, she would have just let herself slip away already. She had come close a few times, but she did not want to leave her young ten year old daughter without a mother. So she was fighting the pain, fighting the depression, fighting the health insurance people, fighting the shutdown in her body. Her daughter needed her, and so she was willing to keep fighting, keep trying, keep praying.

    Sadly, her body couldn’t hold out. I’ve written her daughter a letter. After the summer ends, I’ll get the address from my son’s teacher. I want her to know, in her grief, that her mom didn’t abandon her. I want her to know how much her mom was fighting all that sickness because she wanted to stay with her daughter. That if God choose to take the pain away from her mother, it was out of kindness and because He knew He could find a way to take care of her daughter.

    It is evident from your posts, Tysdaddy, how much you care about your children. So I have complete confidence that no matter the annoyance, pain, or burden taking care of yourself creates… you’ll do it for their sake.

  12. Brian, I’m really sorry to hear about your health problems. It sounds like you almost died, my friend.

    I’m tempted to post a real in-your-face diatribe about your health and your responsibilities to your wife and kids, but I’m just going to say this: there is no “hope”. JUST DO IT.

  13. Our lives hang by a thread. We can loose our lives in so many ways.

    Mountaineers talk about two types of danger.

    Objective and subjective.

    Objective danger is stuff that you can’t control like avalanches.
    Subjective danger is stuff that you can control like doing your climbing harness up correctly.

    Objective danger we can’t really do much about, but subjective danger we can. Your health problems sound like subjective dangers that are going to turn into objective dangers.

    I’m with Kat on this one.



    Remember that there are a lot of people who love you.

  14. Okay – I’m seriously going to kick your cyber ass if you don’t do something different. If you don’t decide to care.

    I know, that’s harsh. But hear me out here. My husband is a recovering addict and I can recognize the lack of give a craps. He had a spill memorized too. You have to ask yourself why you’re okay with treating your body like crap? You have to decide it’s important that you don’t die and take the wheel. Period.

    That being said, I’m on my first morning of chantix..for the second time. I’m asking MYSELF why I’ve been treating MY body like crap for so long? I just caught wind of a woman that used to work here who is fighting lung cancer at 30. I DO NOT want to die young. It scares the crap out of me.

    Good luck…don’t hate me…

  15. I’ve replied to many of you individually, but I wanted to thank the collective group for all your words and thoughts.

    I am heading back to work today after nearly two months of being laid off. Should be interesting . . .

  16. Woof! I’m incredulous as I read this – I had no idea. It’s a hard thing to have to relearn how to take care of yourself, but I guess you have to – 50 is too damn young to be kicking it, man.

    This was beautifully written, however. It gripped me immediately. This right here –

    “Where the things we do seem to make sense at the time but are proved to be merely willful acts of overt carelessness.”

    -is something I find myself thinking about all the time (yeah, I know – worry much?).

    This was powerful writing!

  17. You are a very silly man. Now go to your room and think about what you’ve done. Seriously. If I could reach from here, I’d slap your wrists. But then you know this because everybody in the whole blogosphere has already told you. So have a hug to go with the slap.

    That said, you had a blood sugar reading that BROKE THE MACHINE! If you are going to have a medical drama, at least you’ve had one that set a record. 🙂

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