Dealing with Diabetes: Living Spiritually and Physical Health

Looking for God in all the Right Places

By Eugene C. Scott

My doctor glanced down at my chart. “Did anyone tell you you have type 2 diabetes?”

I thought, What? That would be your job. How can that be? Why didn’t you tell me before? If I hadn’t felt so lousy, I would have yelled at him. Instead I mumbled, “No.”

This was March of 2011 and I had had my blood tested for diabetes by his office in November of 2010. Apparently they forgot to call with the results.

I sat staring at him, feeling anger, confusion, fear, and relief all at once. This was not good. You can lose your feet, go blind, die from this. And I love sugar. It sure answered a lot of questions, though. For a couple of years I had been struggling with growing fatigue, mental sluggishness, mood swings, the inability to concentrate and read, and cuts and abrasions that would not heal.

In the months before that startling diagnosis my health had worsened. I woke up at three in the morning on December 23, 2010 feeling the room and my world spinning as if I were on a merry-go-round.

“Eugene, you have to go back to the doctor,” Dee Dee scolded me. I was scheduled to preach at our Christmas Eve service and I could barely stand up. Preachers are often accused of  making little sense. This dizziness would assure that. The doctor guessed it might be benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, a maddening catch-all label that seemingly has as many causes and treatments as stars in the sky.

The dizziness and other symptoms persisted. Several months, doctors, and specialists later, frustrated, fearful, and feeling sick unto death, I sat in my original doctor’s office (for the last time) hearing my belated diabetes diagnosis. Turns out vertigo plus diabetes equals one sick puppy.

As I learned about type 2 diabetes, the seriousness of my health situation sank in. “Diabetes can cause far-reaching health implications like heart disease, nerve damage and kidney damage. Amputation, blindness and even death can all result from not properly diagnosing or treating diabetes,” says the American Diabetes Association.

I’ve always carried a somewhat cavalier attitude about human mortality. Seems to me every last one of us will die. Why get too worked up about it? But I realized unless I controlled my diabetes, I might die by slowing but surely losing important pieces of myself.

It dawned on me I really liked my feet. And I didn’t want to feel this way until death do us part anyway. Fear settled in–deep.

Fortunately I have a friend who is a Registered Dietitian who has worked with diabetics and also two very good friends who have type 1 diabetes. They coached and counseled me. They talked me off the ledge.

“You have to take control of your own health, Eugene,” my dietician friend chided me. She was right. The doctor had failed to call with my blood test results. But neither did I call to find out my results. Nor had I been eating very well. Did I say I like sugar? A lot.

Too often I simply let life happen. A laze faire life has its costs and I was paying them. But did I have what it takes to change?

In any story there is a character arc. This is how the protagonist changes–or fails to–over the course of the story. Poor stories–ones which we find hard to believe and finish–don’t contain enough conflict for the change the main character experiences. In good stories the conflict is so great not only does it keep us turning pages, but we believe the conflict to be strong enough to produce the transformation the main character goes through.

In tragedies the hero fails to change despite the conflict. They lose their feet and kidneys and often the girl even. And we mourn these characters.

This is how real life happens too. Fictional conflict may be more dramatic than my real life  type 2 diabetes. And you–possibly–have faced more dire circumstances. At others times in life I have too. And that conflict usually changed me. Or rather God did.

Even so I felt weak, vulnerable. I pride myself on my physical and mental capabilities, such as they are. I do not like being sick, especially in public. Not being able to hike and read or converse was devastating. And I hated the way everyone looked at me with their sad, concerned eyes as if I were a kitten, who had already stupidly used up my nine lives.

So, I stepped out of my passivity. I found another–better–doctor. I read the book, The Insulin-Resistance Diet, this doctor recommended. I did what my doctor and the book said. I asked my congregation for prayer. I prayed! I took charge of my health. I lost 25-30lbs. Even the vertigo is now manageable.

What does all this have to do with living spiritually? First, when you are dizzy and muddle-headed and your blood sugars are riding roller-coasters inside your blood veins, it is hard to live, much less live spiritually. Physical health impacts spiritual health and vice versa.

Beyond that, this whole process has been like waking up from a semi-coma, first physically and now spiritually. Sometimes it feels as life is coming at me–full tilt–like water out of a fire hose. I miss more than I swallow but it’s sure fun drinking.

And that’s just it. I’m having fun. I am thankful for my diabetes. Because on December 26, 2011, a year after my vertigo onset and seven months after my diabetes diagnosis, I decided to take the next step and move out of my passivity in my spiritual life as well. That’s what I mean by living spiritually. I am no longer waiting for God to happen to me. I have grabbed his hand with all my might. And I’m holding on for dear life.

Join me in Living Spiritually?

Eugene C Scott has had a few health problems in his short life (he’s only 55!). He doesn’t have many spare parts left. As a kid he never figured to live beyond 35. God and life are full of surprises, which includes co-pastoring The Neighborhood Church.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Dealing with Diabetes: Living Spiritually and Physical Health

  1. John Moyer

    Giving bad news…I coach a whole course at CU School of Medicine on relational centered communication, a skill set so often “missed” by the busy physician. So we start early, in the first year. It’s a complex process, rich in content, the students love it. Hopefully they will carry it with them into practice someday and avoid comments “has anybody told you that you have Type II Diabetes?” I am sorry this happened to a friend, and ought not to have happened. Taking an extra 3-5 minutes, setting the scene, and doing it the empathic way, would have resulted in a much better outcome!

    • John: Your empathy even now is helpful. Thank you. And thanks for pouring your heart into your profession to deepen and enrich it. I have had too many of the opposite experiences (doctors caring for my spirit as well as my body) to let this experience taint my view of your wonderful profession.

      Plus, God always uses the material at hand to shape us and teach us if we are malleable. I hope you see God in every crack and crevice of your day today.

  2. Michael J. Klassen

    Eugene, you have come such a long ways in the last year. I’m so thankful you’re feeling better!

  3. Georgie-ann

    I’m glad you’re feeling better too!

    One of the things many of us in this modern American culture “slumber” about (until coming to a rather “rude awakening”), is the dangerous diet pattern set before us. “Come feast!” “Enjoy yourself!” “Buy this!” “Drink that!” And no “skull and crossbones” poison symbols anywhere in sight to even give us a clue about the hidden dangers lurking throughout our overly processed, highly commercialized and heavily-hawked “food and consumption kingdom.” Our susceptibility to suggestion, and our unwitting trust and conned desires very often originate and are tweaked as early as toddler-hood, during the Saturday morning cartoon-watching rituals. What does a toddler know? Everything looks good to them! Bring on those unlucky Lucky Charms! And the damage begins. And the (more or less unwitting) addictions: To (unquestioned/unexamined) entertainments, distractions, foods, beverages, cigarettes, and so on down the spiral — who are the fools? (Cue: revisit “Pinocchio.”) The “consumers”/us.

    I could diverge into an extensive indictment of “subtle” manipulations of naive populations by underhanded (and both ignorant and/or demonically inspired) commercial profit-mongering “illusionists,” and thieves of full and honest disclosure, good health and commonsense. It seems so “innocent,” and so available, and “to be desired” — a “simple” candy bar! But it didn’t grow on a tree! It’s not a natural fruit. It’s an artificial concoction, wherein may lie many undisclosed perils!

    Within the last couple of days, (via Mercola.com), I’ve been getting my eyes opened as to the potential “hidden” dangers of the ubiquitous wheat products in our diets — really,…wheat?,…”Who knew?” Who would have even suspected it way back in Grandma’s day? But now many are living longer and eating more, (in fact, much more!): our processed foods are more available, adulterated and modified now than then; most of us are not “living on the land” directly connected to our natural survival sources; and we take the wide-spread chronic debilitating “diseases” that pervade our society pretty much for granted, as we trustingly step up (one MORE time) for our extra-large DD regular coffees, VERY “light & sweet”, please and thank you very much,…one MORE time,…(eventually, that stuff’ll kill ya,…as they say!)

    Really,…hard lessons learned. “Buyer beware.” The devil IS in the “hidden” details in many cases. But, co-operating with the Truth WILL set us free! God IS Good and God IS a Healer. When our incredibly beautifully designed bodies finally “kick up their heels” in reaction to an intolerance and an inability to process naturally the un-naturally processed stuff we do to them, it IS a “wake-up call.”

    Unfortunately, for the society-at-large, we have many more things than diet issues to “wake up” about. We have been systematically “lullabied” into a conforming acquiescence to much that is serving no really Godly or healthy purpose, and that wastes/squanders (drip by drip) our precious time and energies.

    I’m guessing, but I think that if we really did begin to “wake up”, we would find ourselves simplifying many things, yet becoming more fulfilled and satisfied at the same time. Passively accepted,(unexamined) living circumstances and compulsive consumerism — (in THIS day-and-age of one (lying) commercial influence after another!) — is NOT a path to health, spiritual revelation or freedom.

    Actually, “the ball is ALWAYS in our court.” Our ever-present challenge (and opportunity) is what WE are going to DO with it, and WHO we are going to BE, while we are doing these things. Truly, we are vulnerable to being “sold a bill of goods” almost every moment of passively lived lives. Passively lived lives are not usually simply quiet or reflective, either. Rather they become carried along on a low monotone repetitive drone of noises and “sound-bites” that overlap and blend into one another, making it “feel like things are happening” one fleeting, ephemeral second after another, ad infinitum. God is telling us that there IS so much more, and that we are WORTH so much more, than any of these “canned messages” and default societal habits and pass-times can ever do or be for us.

    Waking up from this induced, seductive and pervasive earthly “faux-paradise” dream is tough, and it can even be very “ouchy.” (So, no wonder we might have preferred to remain “peacefully lulled” for as long as it lasts — but that’s never forever!) But it is also a Good Thing. True Reality and Real Life for us can only begin (and will get better!) when we wake up to discern Truth from Lie, Real from False, Authentic from Imitated, Value from Waste, Healing from Hurt.

    God Loves us, and will help us with everything.

    Luke 12:6,7

    6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

  4. Georgie-ann

    In “the old days” we were only ever offered small amounts of “goodies,”…and fast foods — and especially bargain-priced SUPER-SIZED fast foods — didn’t really exist. I can’t recall any poignant suffering connected with this situation: if all you’ve ever had is three regular Oreo cookies at one time, after a meal and only occasionally, each Oreo cookie becomes a REALLY BIG DEAL and a whole lot of fun,…how many different ways you can figure out how to eat them, savoring each lick of cream filling,…(& especially if you have a little brother one year younger than you, then the challenges are endless!)

    I honestly think that one of our biggest problems is simply having too much of too many OK things, and not many customary limits, and expecting to be able to safely indulge in them anytime and at will, just because “we feel like it.” I can’t think of anything that I’ve decided to eliminate absolutely and completely as far as food options go, but many things are eaten very few and far in between. I probably enjoy them just as much that way, or even more. At least, it’s nice to also try to be nice to your body and health, and not only serve the appetite/addiction!

    The habitual DD coffee was a really really bad one for me, and I was very sad to give it up. But a few years later, and after many many cups of all kinds of home-brewed teas, I’m feeling much better: steadier and clearer. When I really need an encouraging boost, (as in the middle of a “big project/push” that I’m dreading), or for a really, really, really special treat, I’ll ever so happily pull up to the DD-window, and order my “special” as if I do it every day. And I absolutely enjoy it to the full, planning an eventual return in a couple of months or so, God willing!,…& it’s all OK.

    If we resist outer limits and disciplines, all too often we’ll find that we have to develop our own personal inner limits, and sometimes that’s even more difficult,…but probably better for us in the long run,…you know, like “developing character” and all that!

    (-:

    happy dieting & self-control & learning and thinking about what we’re doing to ourselves without realizing what we’ve been doing!

    Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

    iow,…”It’s all good.”

    p.s.,…On a historical note: I do actually remember, very very very long ago, having a White Castle hamburger (sitting in a car beside my brother, in Louisville, KY),…it was warm, small, succulent, delicious, and is still one of my favorite foodie memories — the ultimate essence of fast comfort food,…and so bad for you! At least another ten years passed before we ever saw a McDonald’s.

    • Georgie:

      I love your seasoned, wise insight and view of life and God. When I was young, we went out to eat about once every six weeks or so. It was a big deal. And fast food was relatively unheard of.

      Stay healthy and holy.

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