For years I had been working my way up to type 2 diabetes. It took a while to notice—as for over a decade I owned a grounds maintenance business and filled my day with long hours of active labor and exercise.
Heading the wrong way
My eating habits during these years where poor at best. I rarely ate breakfast. About mid day I would stop at a gas station and grab soda or gatorade, chips, and maybe some jerky. Then for dinner I would often eat a carb heavy meal, then a late evening snack—typically nachos.
About 8 or 9 years into this lifestyle by body noticeably started wearing down. hindsight lets me know that it was more than the years of hard labor. I started to recover slower after a particularly hard day of work and mentally things felt sluggish. I opted to sell my company, trading it in for new adventures of a desk.
The diagnosis and a bumpy road
As my life turned more sedentary health took a huge hit. The mind fog rolled in heavy and a little over a year later I lost much of my vision in my right eye requiring cataract surgery (later I would have the left eye also receive cataract surgery). There had been some neuropathy—I initially blamed that on working on my feet for years, but it never got better. It was time to visit a doctor where an A1C over 11 confirmed the type 2 diabetes (this was sometime in early 2016).
Diagnosed and now armed with the approved nutrition guidelines and medication I was prepared to beat type 2 diabetes. Over the next few years I experienced a few ups and many downs. I tried a number of medications some recommended by one of the top endocrinologists in the area. One such medication put me on the bathroom floor throwing up for about 12 hours and then recovering for the next 12 hours, once a week, after each injection. After trying this for a few months I gave up on that medication even though it did stabilize my blood sugar readings. It was not worth the pain each week. After this experience I kept up my insulin doses, I kind of gave up on fighting the diabetes. My numbers crept up. About a year later, I wanted to get try again and we started increasing my insulin dose—under another doctor’s supervision. My numbers came down over the next year and a half, but by this time I was taking a lot of insulin and a number of other diabetes medications. Typical of many with type 2 diabetes I was also taking cholesterol and blood pressure medication.
The road darkens
I started to have some mild panics occasionally at night waking suddenly to a feeling I could not breathe, I do have sleep apnea so there was already some history there of holding my breathe at night, but the panic was new. These milder panics started in 2019 and increased in frequency and severity until mid 2021. I felt like my throat was tightening and it was recommended that I visit an ear, nose, and throat specialist who performed a scope. At that time, I was diagnosed with acid reflux. To be honest I fought this diagnosis a little and felt that I might have had acid reflux previously, but I felt with some of my meal changes over the past few years (i.e. not eating nachos nearly nightly and cutting way back on the weekly spaghetti meal) the damage had most likely occurred in the past. Nervous about the growing anxiety related to throat tightness I was desperate to try anything so I trepidly started taking one of the prescribed medication, but not both.
After another few month or so, with the tightness of my throat not improving and the anxiety growing things just seemed to be getting worse. At this point there were many symptoms that things were not going well. I often felt a numb mentally. I was dizzy at times, especially when waking up in the night. Nightly I had to lotion my feet and wear socks to deal with neuropathy. By this time I was feeling like all I ever did was take medication—morning, noon, and night.
Fall was in the air and though I love fall I was unable to enjoy it in 2021. I was feeling terrible and anxiety was flooding my life. It seemed like things could not get worse, but they did. Late September, I was attending a BYU football game with one of my daughters—something that we really enjoy together, but this time things were different. About mid way through the game I experienced a major panic attack—though at the time I did not know what was happening. At first, I thought it was a low blood sugar event, but as it worsened I realized my heart was racing. Based on how long I experienced my symptoms my heart rate was at a sustained level of about 135–140 beats per minute for approximately 30 minutes, even though I was not doing any activity that merited that rate. We left the stadium in an ambulance. In the ER, it was determined to be panic rather than medical.
I hoped this had been a single event, but it was not and my days seemed to be filled with anxiety and additional late night attacks. I started going days on only a couple hours of sleep. As I would lay down to sleep, my throat was always so dry and tight, swallowing became hard if not impossible at times.
I began testing my heart rate regularly on my watch (I know this was not a medically perfect method) but it gave me a good idea of how I was doing. During this next month of regular testing it was just too high almost constantly, even during resting or light activity, it would be about 100–115 bpm.
Enough is enough and so the journey began
Through all this my wonderful wife could not have been more supportive. She was (and is) amazing, but nothing she could do could help me. I began to fear going to bed at night. I began to fear the setting sun. Sitting and watching a movie with my family even became stressful. I constantly felt the need to escape. These feelings where so off my normal, I just could not accept that this was to be my new reality.
I was given medication to help me sleep at night, but knew I did not want to come to rely upon medication for sleep. I had to do something. I visited a neighbor (a retired therapist) and he both gave me some recommendations on things I might try and the name of a therapist to go see. I knew the physical health issues were an escalating problem, but the panic and anxiety seemed to be pushing me over the edge. I knew I needed something major to change in my life, you can read about the beginnings of my health journey here.