“Do you remember when you found out you wouldn’t live forever? People don’t talk about this, but everybody had to go through it because you’re not born with that knowledge.”
It’s been nearly eight years since I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 39. I was an anomaly – no prior history (save for type 2 on my mother’s side) or obesity. A genetic fluke, a mutation, according to my clinicians.
It’s malicious, this condition. A parasitic body-horror that turns your own body against you in a conspiracy to weaken and eventually kill you. And it doesn’t get better. There’s no improvement, no eradication of the condition. There’s only maintenance and constant supervision of this presence that wants nothing more than to eat away at you, piece by piece. And with all that? Depression. Anxiety. Stress. All adding to the mix, all accelerating the decay. And if you already have depression or anxiety at the start, it only feeds faster. I have reduced sensation of varying degrees in my feet and fingertips. My vision has deteriorated significantly. I heal much slower from cuts and bruises now.
And for the past two-plus years, I have been impotent. I’m not going to sugar coat it with the “erectile dysfunction” label, because it’s a sterile and PC-clean descriptor that doesn’t convey how crippling and soul-draining the condition really is. It has broken the last shred of my self-esteem. It has affected my relationship with my wife. It has made me insecure and emasculated to the point where shutting off would be easier than feeling anything anymore. Erectile Dysfunction sounds like a malfunction with an airplane’s landing gear. Impotence means “without power” or “helpless”. And if you’ve never had a problem with your virility, you will NEVER understand just how true that definition is.
I’m getting help. I see a therapist bi-weekly to discuss the mental and emotional state of the union. I’ve shut down my social media presence for now, maybe more permanently later on, because the last thing I’m feeling is “digitally social”. I have an impending visit with a urologist to discuss possible plans of affordable treatment, if that is even an option now. I’m exercising – weights and running, nothing fancy. We’re starting a new dietary plan at home for healthier living. They’re all positive steps, and I’m glad we are doing them.
But I don’t harbour any illusions about my state. I don’t expect reversal of fortune anytime soon, possibly not at all. I have to be prepared for the possibility that it won’t get any better, that this is the new normal that my wife and I are going to have to navigate. And that it sucks. I have spent the better part of my life brushing things off – “que sera sera” and pushing onwards. I don’t know how to do that now, because I’m tired. And angry.
It’s mid-life crisis writ large and funhouse-mirror exaggerated. That slow creep of disintegration, accelerated and visible to the naked eye. In every sore muscle, in every numb extremity, in the reminder that I am “incomplete”. I’m not doing this for pity or to eventually dispense some sunny-side-of-the-street bromides about how “it’ll get better” and to “keep your chin up”. Because fuck that. This sucks. I’m sharing this with anyone else going through this to say it’s okay to be angry and hurt and sad. I’m sharing this to say “guys, there’s no shame in this”. But there is rage and frustration from having that part of us taken away without our choice. So be pissed. For as long as you need and as long as it takes. Maybe you push through all this and come out better on the other side, new men with a new perspective. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe it will finally break you and you’ll just close off.
Because sometimes, there are no solutions.
Sometimes, it doesn’t get better.
Sometimes, things just stay awful.
What you do with that knowledge, well, that’s up to you.
Me? I’m going to lie low for a while and start figuring out where to go from here.
Because I don’t want to be sad and angry anymore and I’m in dire need of a break.