It was unusual.
I felt sad and alone, until panic overtook and then I was angry. I paced the smallness of my apartment, picking up pillows and hurling them at the floor. I began to overheat, and to flail my arms, and finally, FINALLY, I realized the only thing I could do was lay down on the couch and go to sleep. Before I did I spoke to myself in a quiet voice – “It’s OK to be sad,” I said, over and over again, until my heart rate slowed and my eyes closed.
I awoke hours later, all the lights on and in the same curled lump I’d surrendered to. It was the middle of the night, and what I felt in its exquisite hybrid of ache and emptiness, was grief. It just wasn’t about diabetes. It was about the 2008 death of the actor Heath Ledger.
I told you it was unusual.
To be clear, I didn’t personally know Heath Ledger. I admired his acting, and his beauty in the way of anyone who appreciates excellent work and charisma might. So you can imagine my surprise when, two days after learning I’d gained rapid weight from improper insulin management and would be starting on a pump, the horror wave of feelings rode in on the credits of 10 Things I Hate About You, and not, in fact, the $50 co-pay to my endocrinologist’s office.
One Friday evening in late October, I spent an hour at a neighborhood urgent care. It was a few minutes before 10pm when I felt like my apartment floor was rising up to meet my forehead. I blinked and the dizziness stayed. I put on my coat and boots and sped-walked clunkily around the block and up the street to CityMD. A nurse helped me into a patient room, and 2 nurses helped me out to a cab later, after the doctor recommended I go to the emergency room. Urgent care didn’t know what was wrong, but the ER could run more tests, they said. I felt terrible. “Ok, I’ll go,” I said.
But when the cab pulled up to the emergency room entrance, I climbed out and stood on the sidewalk. The night was cool and breathing the air helped my nausea. Going inside meant paperwork, blood work and a physician telling me these symptoms happen, sometimes, with diabetes. It meant a possible cat scan and a urine culture and a if they happened and got worse to follow up with my endocrinologist. Going in meant curling up under the fluorescent lights, the beeps and voices of a sleepless, nightshift New York hospital in the background.
I went home. I would be alright without the answer.
The body shutting down is within the natural order of things. Organs failing, as they will all fail, eventually. I suppose what I wanted was to mourn something happening in surprise order, but the relative ease with which you can make do with diabetes and carry on did not align with the tragic disappointment I felt in my chest. So I latched onto something else, and cried instead over the death of a talented artist. One from whose life I was completely removed and felt deep shame for co-opting the loss around it as the bizarre source of my sadness.
Either that, or 10 Things I Hate About You is the greatest fucking tearjerker of all time.