For years I had been working my way up to severe 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 were 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.
My body started wearing down about eight or nine years into this lifestyle. Hindsight lets me know that it was more than years of hard labor. I began to recover slower after a demanding workday, 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 sedentary, my health took a huge hit. The mind fog rolled in heavily, and a little over a year later, I lost much of my vision in my right eye requiring cataract surgery (again, a couple of years 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 improved. It was time to visit a doctor where an A1C over 11 confirmed Type 2 diabetes (this was in early 2016).
Diagnosed and now armed with the approved nutrition guidelines and medication, I was determined to beat Type 2 diabetes. Over the next few years, I experienced ups and downs. I tried various medications, some recommended by one of the top endocrinologists in the area. One drug 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 had stabilized my blood sugar a bit. It was not worth the pain each week. After this experience, I kept up my insulin doses, and kind of gave up on fighting diabetes. My numbers crept up.
About a year later, I wanted to try again and get my blood sugar under control. I increased my insulin dose—under a 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 other diabetes medications. Typical of many with Type 2 diabetes, I took cholesterol and blood pressure medication.
The road darkens
I occasionally began to have mild panic attacks at night. I found myself waking suddenly to a feeling that I could not breathe. I had been diagnosed with sleep apnea, so there was already some history of holding my breath 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 my doctor recommended 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 this might be an older issue. I thought 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. Nevertheless, nervous about the growing anxiety related to throat tightness, I was desperate to try anything, so I trepidly started taking one of the prescribed medications, but not both.
After another 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 numb mentally. I was dizzy at times, especially when waking up at night. Before bed, I had to lotion my feet and wear socks to deal with neuropathy. By this time, I felt like all I ever did was take medication—morning, noon, and night.
Fall was in the air, and although I love fall, I could not 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. In late September, I attended a BYU football game with one of my daughters—something we enjoyed together, but things were different this time. About mid-way through the game, I experienced a major panic attack—though I did not know what was happening at the time. 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 would be a single event, but it was not, and my days became filled with anxiety and additional late-night attacks. I started going days on, only a couple of hours of sleep. As I lay down to sleep, my throat was always so dry and tight that swallowing became hard, if not impossible.
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. It would be about 100–115 bpm, even during resting or light activity.
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 her concern and care could not 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 were so off my usual, and I could not accept that this was to be my new reality.
I consulted my doctor, who prescribed medication to help me sleep at night. The medication helped, but I knew I did not want to come to rely upon medicine for sleep. I had to do something more. I visited a neighbor (a retired psychologist), and he offered some recommendations on things I might try to bring down my anxiety levels. He also provided the name of a therapist for me to visit. 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 significant to change in my life. You can read about the beginnings of my health journey here.