Most of the time, I do ok. Even as I struggle to be where I want to be medically, I still know why my blood tests come out not where I want them: it’s something I ate or exercise I didn’t do. There are times when I don’t know. A few times here and there are ok. Well, not ok, but I can deal with them. However, if it goes past a couple of days in a row I start to feel helpless. Not knowing what’s causing it, and not being able to get my blood sugars down feels like I am not in control of my body. It’s not pleasant.
It’s a feeling I have had more and more lately. But not because of my condition. Because of our political situation. I knew this administration was going to be rough, but I expected Congress and the courts would do their jobs and check executive power. They are failing miserably. That means that a lot of rights and protections are being eroded, if not outright disappearing, including protections for chronic patients. (And I suspect that living in Washington amplifies that feeling.)
I think many of us feel like there is nothing we can do. I spoke with a friend this week who wanted to talk about the latest developments. He was so frustrated after just a few minutes that he couldn’t. We had to take breaks and circle back. I could sympathize.
What he was feeling about politics mirrored what I felt with my disease. I know from experience that sometimes you need to take a deep breath and step back for a while. It must have been worse for him though—he is of the generation that worked so hard to secure our rights in the first place. I can’t imagine how it feels to have come through the social movements of the 60s and 70s, only to feel like that work is being erased in a fraction of the time it took to accomplish it.
As with a chronic condition, the important part is re-establishing that slipping control. You don’t have to start with jumping back into control of everything. Start small. For my condition, that could mean walking up the last flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator all the way or testing my blood sugars a little more often.
For my friend, I suggested that volunteering for a charity or grassroots organization might help (I have two – the Chronic Disease Coalition and the Right Care Alliance.). If you are like my friend, even an hour a week is enough to feel like you’re getting your foot in the door, like you are taking control of your little corner of your little world to help make it a little less bad. And believe me, whatever organization you choose will be happy for the help.
Don’t let circumstances, political or medical, run away with you. Take back your corner of the world through action and suffocate the helplessness instead of letting it suffocate you. If you help yourself by helping someone else, you will never be sorry.
P.S. There is one more thing you can do, of course. (If you read this column, you know what I am going to say.) Vote. We are almost through primary season, although there are still a few. Midterm elections don’t usually draw much attention, but this is different. If you don’t like how politics are making you feel, vote for someone you think will make it better. That person doesn’t have to be a perfect match to your priorities – what politician is? – but I’ll bet you can find someone who gets close. Look at their voting records (or read their platforms if they’ve never held office), listen to them speak, get a feel for how connected they are to your community, and therefore to you. Choose the one who will stand for you. There is even someone who will give you a free ride to the polls. And to think they told you there was no such thing (as a free ride).