Life With Type 2: Dealing With Envy

Patrick Totty

| Mar 13, 2014

Generally speaking, I'm not an envious man. It doesn't bother me that some people are richer than I, or have better looks and taste, or can jump out of bed in the morning without grumbling the way I do at a body that takes me 10 minutes to persuade that I want it to work the way I want it to, dammit.

But I draw the line at Paul (not his real name), my type-2 neighbor who, at age 70, has achieved some remarkable numbers without having gone through the rigmarole I've had to in order to arrive at a decent-enough A1c (7%).

Paul's A1c is below 6%, and his fasting numbers range between 90 and 110, averaging close to 100. I've slowly convinced him that he is not near death from hypoglycemia with such numbers, and I've done a good job of getting him to see that spiking up to 160 after breakfast is not a big thing, considering that he comes down from that high almost as fast as a non-diabetic.

Paul depends on me to explain a lot of things to him about type 2, although I'm careful to tell him that I'm not an expert and that he should double-check anything I tell him with his endocrinologist.

Fortunately, my track record of advice has been mostly borne out: His endocrinologist has almost always confirmed what I've told him, so Paul's willing to listen to me seriously when I tell him that he frets too much. Given his age and the long time he has been diagnosed with type 2--10 years--he is remarkably lucky. His numbers are great and he only takes metformin. No insulin, no GLP-1s, SGLT-2s, DPP-4s, or any of the other alphabet soup of type 2 drugs.

That's where a bit of envy creeps in. Here I am, somebody Paul considers a lay expert, taking 35 mg of basal insulin and 2,000 mg of metformin daily. When my fasting reading is 100, I'm walking on air (usually it's around 125-135). I exercise more than Paul, I'm younger, and I know more about diabetes than he does. Oh, fickle universe, how come you don't reward me with better numbers?

But as I've mentioned before when talking about Paul, he can be a Gloomy Gus. When there's good news or good fortune, he sometimes just can't see it.

Thinking about that actually makes me less envious.

Here's why: Maybe we all pay a price of admission before we enter the house of good fortune. Paul's price is fretting over his luck and waiting for it to go sour or some hidden booby trap to spring. If that's the case, it's not a terrible cost if it helps Paul stay focused on attending to and managing his diabetes--which he does incredibly well.

The same goes for me, I pay a price, too. And thinking about how I pay it makes sense. I've mentioned before that I consider myself a fortunate man in almost all aspects of my life. I'm reasonably comfortable, well fed, busy at things that interest me, have a great doctor, am loved by the people who matter to me, and not afflicted with a devastating disease. Looking at how hard life for so many other people is, I'm truly among the lucky. So perhaps dealing with type 2 with numbers worse than Paul's is my cost of admission.

I've actually told this to Paul, who is a bit of a poet and storyteller. He likes the image. He told me the last time we talked about our different circumstances, "Let's divide our karmic tasks: I'll work at being fretful and grumpy, and you'll work at being envious and hyperglycemic. In between, when we take our time-outs, we can be happy."

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