SugarFree Spotlight: Nate G.

I’ve known Nate since around 1997. At first we were friends out of convenience, since we both knew a mutual friend who eventually moved to Alaska. Eventually we became great friends, and (although he wont admit it) he followed me to Virginia Tech. This also means he’s known me since D-Day. Needless to say, we’ve been through a lot together. I’ve asked Nate for a candid perspective on my Diabetes, the words are his own and unedited. Cause that’s how we roll.

I was in the unique position of being able to see Chris daily leading up to his diagnosis. At the time, we were in our first semester at VT and were rooming together in the dorms. Retrospectively, the signs were clearly visible, especially the increased sleep and peeing. But at the time, I thought nothing of it. I chalked the naps up to being up late and in college for the first time and having a jackass roommate who came in drunk at late hours. Ironically, the first real concern was on a weekend trip home for homecoming, the very weekend he was diagnosed officially. Being stuck in a car in traffic and having to stop so many times for piss breaks made the problem impossible to ignore.

Those first months obviously involved some major changes, many of which I’m sure I’m not even aware of. Living with multiple daily injections of insulin and having to completely revamp your diet are big changes, especially when living away from home for the first time. Chris was already a picky eater, so having to limit carbs reduced his choices to a pretty short list. I remember him have 2 or 3 things he would get at any of the food courts or restaurants we went to. But the timing of eating also caused issues. The rest of us could eat anything, anytime, and at times the fact that Chris couldn’t slipped our minds. More than once he would “stab” (inject) only to be delayed by someone who wasn’t ready to go eat and have to eat something to hold him over.

I knew other people who were diabetic, but none of them seemed to be as diligent as Chris was and is. He injected like clockwork, he was extremely careful with his diet, he stayed physically fit, and he stayed away from alcohol. Why was he so good at it? Were all the changes made only because of the diabetes? I don’t know really. It’s hard for me to tease apart what was going on in his life around the diagnosis since it wasn’t the only big change. I do know that he starting working out like a maniac and made gains faster, by far, than any of us. I know that he had always liked video games and movies, but that also seemed to increase as time went on. He had always been an organized person, but that even seemed to increase some. Were these all ways to cope with the stress of the disease and the changes it brought? Were they due to a lack of academic motivation? Or were they to distract him from other things, like girl problems? Probably some combination of them.

Chris has always had an outward sense of humor about it (calling injecting “stabbing”, jokes about intravenous drug use, his nickname – SugarFree). At the same time, I could tell there was an underlying sense of unfairness and anger about it that would come out in cynical comments.

It’s hard to tell how different life would be if Chris wasn’t diagnosed, both for himself and for myself and our other roommates. Aside from the obvious negatives related to health…without diabetes, he may have been more likely to join us more when we went out partying or been more open to new experiences like camping, the bars, and foods. On the other hand, while I don’t think there are any real positives to being diagnosed, not everything was a complete negative. For instance, he may not have focused as much on working out, and I think it was also the partial impetus for reading more philosophical/psychological material (self discovery?).

Nathan Gillard is currently a Clinical Psychology doctoral student at U of North Texas and is the senior Research Fellow in the research lab of Richard Rogers. Also he is a badass.

I’m still pinging the rest of the people on my list for future spotlight posts. In case you missed the previous posts, I invite you to check out John and Greg’s perspective.

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