Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Mother's Love

It's hard to describe what characteristics make a great mom, but one that is undeniable is love. Every great mother in history has had a self-sacrificing love for their child. This love can manifest itself in many different ways and the really great mothers find the ways to show love in the exact ways their children need it most. This is how my mom showed me her love. 

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I was too ignorant to be scared. However, as my mother and I attended countless doctors appointments, it became clear I was in way over my 7 year old head. I was terrified that I would eat the wrong thing or forget to give myself a shot and it would all be over. Eating lunch at school was the scariest part of my day. There was no one there to help me make sure I was doing everything right. So what did my mom do?  She came up to school every single day and had lunch with me. To many kids in school this would have been a nightmare, but it made me feel safe and loved. Call me a mommas boy. I'm ok with that. 

Not long after that, I started to hear stories of diabetic kids who would have low blood sugars in the middle of the night and die in their sleep. Obviously this didn't happen often but I was young and didn't know any better and was once again terrified. At some point, I told my mom about this fear I had. So what did my mom do?  She started waking up at 3 every morning to test my blood sugar and make sure I was alright. She did this every night, without waking me up. For years. Maybe this makes me a mommas boy, but I'm ok with that. 

More recently, my doctor asked me to make some pretty dramatic changes tiny diet including cutting out wheat products. Three of my favorite foods are pizza, doughnuts, and toast. This was not an easy request. When I told my mom, who had already made these changes in her own diet, she took me to the grocery store and helped me restock my house with foods that I could eat. This probably makes me a mommas boy. I'm ok with that. 

To this day, I have lunch with my mom at least twice a week. Anytime I don't know what to do in an uncertain situation, I call my mom and she knows what to do or at least how to find out what to do.  My mom has always been there for me and offered whatever I needed at the time. I couldn't ask for anymore, but even if I did I'm sure she would do everything in her power to provide it. I'm definitely a mommas boy. And I'm ok with that. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

An Open Letter to My Diabetes

Dear Diabetes,

Today was a tough day.  You beat me up pretty good, and no matter what I did, the punches kept coming.  It got so bad that at one point I just started crying all alone in my car, because I was just done. It wasn't just about today though.  This has been going on for 20 years.  And every time I have a day like today I feel the weight of fighting you for the last 20 years just weighing down on me.  That's why sometimes I get overwhelmed and just break down.

Most people don't realize the dynamics of our relationship.  Whether it's because they've only known Type 2 diabetics, or the Type 1 diabetics had milder cases than mine, they are led to believe that the biggest repercussion of having diabetes is that it is inconvenient for me to eat certain things.  They don't realize that I haven't felt healthy for an entire day over the last 20 years.  They don't realize that the chemical imbalances you cause within me are almost certainly the cause of my anxiety and depression.  They don't understand that I've got constant headaches or body aches or feel sick to my stomach because of the roller coaster that you put me on.

And I don't blame people for not understanding.  My doctor deals with people like me for a living and he doesn't totally understand it either.  To his credit he tries though.  He tries new medications and different approaches to administering the old medications.  But due to an insulin resistance built up long ago by another doctors mistake, most efforts are wasted on you.

I joke with a lot of people about you but the truth is, I hate you.  I mean I really, really hate you.  Not in the way that I hate olives or cooked vegetables.  I mean I hate you with every fiber of my being, with the very essence of who I am.  I hate you.

But I have a secret.  I've never believed that I could beat you.

I always thought that I could live longer than you wanted me to, but I never thought I could beat you.  It was like I've always thought I could get the game into overtime, but that I would ultimately lose.  When I was diagnosed as a 7 year old, I was told they thought they were 5 years away from a cure.  I am 27 now.  So you can understand my skepticism.  Not for a single minute, of a single day over the last 20 years did I believe I would ever be cured.  Until now.

Now, there is not one, but two different cures for diabetes that are on the verge of going through human testing before being rolled out to the public.  Finally, for the first time in my life, I think I can win.  I understand it might be another 5 years or maybe more before I actually experience a life without you, but I'm counting down the days.

You got me today, diabetes.  I will admit that much.  But your days are numbered.  I.  Will.  Beat.  You.


Ravi Lulla
Diagnosed: August 12, 1994
Cured: Soon.  Very soon.

Monday, October 20, 2014

My Unlikely Hero

I was finally able to watch the documentary on Brook Berringer that the Big Ten Network aired Saturday night after the Northwestern game.  I purposely waited until I would be home alone because, as Nick Bahe would say, I knew there were going to be some seasonal allergies moving through my living room for about an hour.  And I was right.

Many of you who know me may be surprised that I would be so interested in a documentary about a former Nebraska player, seeing as I'm not even a Nebraska fan.  However, my dirty little secret is that I used to be.  In fact, the first football game I ever remember watching was when Nebraska beat Miami for the national championship.  I was 7 years old at the time and I was a Nebraska fan because everyone I knew in the second grade was a Nebraska fan.

Something else happened when I was 7 years old though.  Besides becoming a football fan, and thus a Nebraska fan, I was also diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  I don't talk about my diabetes a lot, at least not seriously.  I make a lot of jokes and laugh when others make jokes as well, but let's be honest, its not funny.  And at 7 years old, all I knew is that I wasn't like the rest of my friends or classmates anymore.  All I knew was that my life was going to be different forever.  I was going to be different forever.

Now, if you remember much about grade school, being different was about as bad of a curse as you could get.  Different is bad.  Different is outcasted.  I was forever going to be different.  Needless to say, I didn't have a great year.  Sure, the hospital sends someone to your school and assures your whole class that you aren't contagious and they don't have to worry about being around you, but these are elementary school children, imagine how well that message really sinks in.  Here's a hint; it doesn't.

So while no one ever said anything, and no one ever did anything there was always the looks of concern as kids walked by you, and crossing to the other side of the hall so they didn't get too close to you.  They didn't really know what diabetes was anymore than I did, but they knew they didn't want to catch it from me.  People don't think you remember these kinds of things when you're 7, but I do.  The best part of my day was something that would mortify most school-aged kids.  My mom came up to school every single day to eat lunch with me because if I didn't eat enough, or ate too much, I could get really sick.  So my mom would sit with me, and make sure I ate the right amount of food and injected the right amount of insulin.  The only comfort I had during the entire day, was eating lunch with my mom at the back of the cafeteria, all by ourselves.

Because of all this, my mom sent me to a day camp that summer for diabetic kids on the off chance that being around lots of people that were different, would in turn make me feel more normal.  Well, for one of the few times in my life, my mother was wrong.  I hated diabetes camp.  That is, until one day while all of us diabetic kids were finishing up our disgusting diabetes camp lunches, we saw a very tall man walking towards us.

Now, when you're 7, every adult looks like a giant, but this man towered over even the other adults.  As he got closer to the picnic table where I sat, I realized I recognized that man.  I had seen him on television during the first football game I ever remembered watching.  He played quarterback for the University of Nebraska.  It was Brook Berringer.

I don't remember how long Brook spent at the camp, and I don't remember exactly what he said to me.  What I do remember, is that while I was sitting alone at a picnic table, the quarterback came and sat down next to me, national championship ring and all.  What I remember, is that as I sat and I'm sure said very little to this towering saint of a man, is that all of a sudden I didn't feel different anymore.  I didn't feel like an outcast.

Now, I know that Brook Berringer went and visited countless children and sick people in hospitals across the state.  But when I was 7, I didn't know that.  All I knew was that this guy played for Nebraska, I saw him on TV win a national title, and now he was hanging out with me.  He made me feel like he was there just to hang out with me.

As silly as it may seem for a 7 year old to have an epiphany, this small encounter changed my whole outlook and attitude on life.  I did everything I could to let who I was define me instead of the disease that I happened to have.  Brook Berringer changed my life at a very young age, just by showing up.

That season, I was the biggest Nebraska fan around.  Even as Tommie Frazier got the majority of the playing time at quarterback, I cherished every opportunity I got to see Brook Berringer play.  I remember after the season ended, being excited for the possibility that Brook might get drafted into the NFL.  Then one evening, as I was playing outside I happened to be listening to the radio (I did this a lot, we didn't have cable) and heard the news that Brook Berringer had died.  I ran inside to tell my mom and did my best to hold back tears.  I remember going to my room later and sobbing for most of the rest of the night.

A few days later, I gathered as many dandelions (I thought they were flowers) as I could from my front yard.  I gathered them together in a special place and said a prayer for Brook Berringer at my own version of what I thought a memorial service was.  I thanked God for letting me meet Brook Berringer and I prayed that God would help me not to be sad anymore because I knew he was in heaven now.  I also wrote a letter to Brook Berringer's mother.  Brook had no idea about the impact he had on my life, but I felt like she should know how much he had meant to me.  Even as a 8 year old I knew it was important to tell her that.

After the death of Brook Berringer, I stopped being a Husker fan.  I know it sounds odd, but it just didn't feel the same watching them anymore.  I think rooting for Nebraska just made me sad that Brook had died all over again.  To me, Brook Berringer was Nebraska and cheering for them was too hard.  So I did the only thing I knew to do and I started cheering for someone else.

One thing that never changed was the legacy that Brook Berringer had left on my life.  I never felt like an outcast because of my diabetes again, no matter the situation.  As a 7 year old, that was the greatest gift that anyone could have given me.  I only wish that I had gotten the chance to tell him thank you myself.  Maybe someday I will.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October Miracles

For the majority of the last 20 or so years of my life, if you asked me what my favorite sport was, the answer would have been baseball without hesitation.  However, over the last few years, as I've gotten busier and games have gotten longer, I felt myself drifting away from the game I once loved so much.  Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy baseball, but if given the choice between baseball, basketball, and football, America's pastime is probably coming in third place.

Still there is something about baseball that never really lets you go once it grabs a piece of your heart as a child.  That fact is never more evident than during October when the grizzled veterans who play the game appear to be transformed by the desperation of the postseason back into the children who originally fell in love with the game.  The joy of victory and the agony of defeat is no longer mitigated by the entirely to long 162 game grind of a regular season and can be seen on every face in every crucial moment.

If the magic of October had ever been in doubt, that doubt was removed on Tuesday night when the Kansas City Royals turned in a game for the ages in defeating the Oakland A's in extra innings.  You know the story already so I won't bore you by rehashing the details except to say this; after 29 years of futility the Royals took every punch the A's threw and refused to be turned away so quickly in their return to baseball's grandest stage.  It was one of the best baseball games I had ever seen.

As I was watching that game, I was reminded of one of baseballs other unique features; its ability to act as a time machine.  More so than with any other game, watching baseball has the tendency to take us back to a different time.  Some people go back to the first baseball game they ever saw or played.  Some people go back to a time they were watching a game with their dad or grandpa.  On Tuesday night, I was taken back 10 years ago to my parents living room where I sat alone watching every game of the 2004 Boston Red Sox postseason.

10 years is a long time in almost any way you look at it, but there are some things that seem to defy time and feel like they happened yesterday no matter how many years have passed.  For me, the Boston Red Sox playoff run of 2004 is one of those things.  I remember nearly every detail of what happened and how I reacted.  I even remember the hat that I refused to take off because I was convinced of its mystical powers which obviously were leading the Red Sox to victory.

10 years is a long time.  I was 17 years old.  I was still 7 months away from graduating high school.  I was 3 years away from meeting my future wife.  I was 8 years away from getting married.  I was 9 years away from getting my dogs.

10 years is a long time, but every now and then I get taken back a decade to October 2004 like it was just the other day.  The nice thing about reliving the 2004 Red Sox is that it is filled with only joy and none of the stress that originally accompanied that time in my life.  I don't get sick to my stomach thinking about how Mike Mussina almost threw a perfect game against Boston in Game 1 of the ALCS.  I don't hang my head in shame as the Sox get pounded 19-8 in Game 3.  I don't pace and wring my hands as Games 4 and 5 go extra inning after extra inning waiting for a hero to emerge.  10 years later, I only have to experience the emergence of that hero, and the ecstasy of winning 8 consecutive games as my favorite team made history, slayed their demons, and won their first World Series in 86 years.

Baseball may never mean as much to me as it once did and that's ok because that miracle in October of 2004 will always be there.  And ever year, when October rolls around, I will remember that no matter the odds, anything is possible.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Rational Response to The Matt Walsh Blog on Depression and Suicide

First, let me say that I don't hate Matt Walsh.  Unlike many of those who have responded to him, I don't think he's a monster and I don't wish harm to him or any of his loved ones.  Honestly, on more than one occasion I have found myself agreeing with Walsh's counter-cultural opinions and blog posts.  I actually find some similarities between Matt Walsh and myself.  I don't even disagree with everything he said about depression and suicide.  However, I do think he was wrong about some things, and I would like to talk about them now.

One of the major things that stood out to me from his post (which you can read here), is that Matt Walsh was obviously speaking as someone who has dealt with some kind of depression in his own life.  As someone who has done the same, I would never even begin to discount anyone who claims to struggle with such a thing.  What I will say, is that I think Walsh fails to acknowledge that there are many kinds of depression.  The Mayo Clinic defines depression as "a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest."  Call me crazy, but that sounds like it covers and incredibly broad spectrum of conditions.  I believe there are some forms of depression that are purely emotional in their origin and some that have a physical or chemical cause as well.  In simple terms, that's to say that there are some people who deal with depression as a result of life circumstances that are extremely difficult to deal with and others who deal with depression as a result of their body being inhibited or incapable of producing the chemical reaction which our brains interpret as feelings of happiness.  Both are completely legitimate but I would argue very different in how they effect a person and how they need to be treated.  I'm not a doctor or a psychologist and there may be a million other forms of depression that I'm not addressing, but I'm intimately familiar with these two (I would be happy to share my experiences but in the interest of keeping this blog under a eleventy billion words, I would ask that you contact me directly with any questions).

The reason it is important to recognize that depression comes in different forms is because it means making a generalized statement of any kind about the condition will probably not be accurate in a large number of circumstances.  It is entirely possible that in the instances of depression Matt Walsh has struggled with, suicide seemed like a choice and he chose to live.  And I say with 100% sincerity, thank God he did.  That being said, I also believe there are forms of depression where suicide is not a choice, its the tragic end of a disease that has infected someones life.  I will use diabetes (type 1) as an example, if for no other reason than I can speak about it with some authority having lived with it for 20 years.  As a diabetic, I am resigned to the fact that my diabetes will some day take my life.  But you know the funny thing is that it probably won't be from a fluctuation in my blood sugar when it happens.  It will probably be from heart disease, or kidney failure, or a stroke.  All of these things will be direct results of being a diabetic, but none of them are actually diabetes themselves.  So when Matt Walsh says that depression doesn't kill people, suicide does, he is right, but only in the sense that I am right when I say diabetes won't kill me.

That brings me to another point where I disagree with Mr. Walsh.  He says that suicide doesn't happen to you, that it doesn't attack you like cancer.  I would argue the exact opposite is true.  In the times I have struggled with depression, it feels like an attack, like something is crushing me.  Depression is a cancer of the mind and soul.  If it goes untreated or unchecked it will consume you.  And just like cancer, sometimes despite the best efforts of the afflicted and those around them, they succumb to the disease anyway.

Now there are a couple things Walsh wrote that I agree with, the first being that it is a fine line between expressing the sentiment of someone who commits suicide being free from their demons, and making it appear as though it would bring the same relief to someone else dealing with similar demons.  I know what people mean when they say, "he's a peace now" or "at least now he's free" and I think everyone else understands as well but I can understand how their could be a danger in someone who is struggling viewing phrases like that as a refuge to their pain.

Second, I agree with Walsh about the incredible guilt that suicide saddles with those who are left behind.  I have had two people in my life commit suicide and I feel intense guilt about each of them to this day.  One of them will have occurred 11 years ago in November, and I would say at least once a week something reminds me of the guilt I feel about my friends passing.  This is not to say that suicide is selfish or cowardly on the part of the person who commits it, it is only to say that suicide is devastating.  That's all.

I will leave you with one final thought.  I am not so arrogant as to think that it is impossible that Matt Walsh could be right on some level and I could be wrong.  Obviously I don't believe that, otherwise I wouldn't have taken the time to write this, but I won't say that it's impossible.  I will say this; there exists a place within oneself where the idea of hope and joy seem lost forever, even though that is not the reality to everyone else.  There exists a place so filled with darkness that it feels as though no light could penetrate it.  At this point, a person does not need a debate on whether or not they have a choice to live or die, they need our love and our prayers and a miracle to heal them the same way a miracle would cure someone of cancer or diabetes.

And I do believe it takes a miracle, and here's why: throughout human history we have persevered and survived as a result of the most basic instincts which are ingrained in our DNA.  That instinct is for self preservation.  Depression takes someone to a place where they will literally override the biology which has guided all of human existence and an act of God, not a choice, is the only way they can come back.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Pains Of Adulthood

Adulthood is a funny thing. While legally it occurs when you turn 18 or 19 years old, most people agree they don't feel like an adult until well after that point. The tricky part is when exactly.

I suppose for some people it happens when they get married, or buy their first house, or when they tell people they're pregnant and everyone reacts like it's a good thing. Not for me though. While I've only experienced one of those things (matriage) and am hopefully on the cusp of another (buying a house, cross your fingers), I didn't feel like an adult until tonight. 

I was heading over to my friends house to watch the NBA Finals game. Now my friend had surgery on his ACL so I thought it might be nice to bring him some food. He asked for Taco Bell and I had no issues with his request. Unlike a lot of people I don't really mind that whatever you order at Taco Bell probably isn't actual food. I find it tasty so I don't really care that the main ingredient is sawdust.

I was pretty hungry by the time I pulled up to Taco Bell so I went with my standard order when I need to get my grub on; the Taco 12 Pack. I understand that this sounds like a lot of food, and it is but for some reason, I've always been able to consume large quantities iof tacos without any issues. For example, my all-time taco record occurred when I was 17. I was at a get together where Taco Bell had been "catered" in (aka someone's mom but a butt load of tacos) and I was the last one to eat. So I ate every last taco that was on that table and when I was done, I had put down 18 tacos. I still maintain had they not run out of tacos I could've eaten several more. Even within the past year I have crushed a taco 12 pack no fewer than twice without any negative reprocussions. 

Unfortunately tonight was different. As methodically took out a dozen tacos, I felt fine. As I finished watching the game, I felt fine. As I drove home even, I felt fine.   However, shortly after I walked throughy front door, everything changed. My stomach cramped and my intestines quivered. Only later would I realize this was the pain of my youth forsaking me. 

As I lay here nearly two hours later with whatever industrial chemicals make up taco meat still churning in my stomach, I know that this is what adulthood feels like.  We had a good run taco 12 pack, but our time together has come to an end. I'm an adult now, and Chipotle and I have a pretty good thing. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Teach Me How To Dougie

When Creighton hired Greg McDermott to replace long-time coach Dana Altman there was mixed feelings amongst Bluejays fans. McDermott was leaving Iowa State after a somewhat rocky few years in Ames. While the new coach of the Jays had been successful in a previous stop at Northern Iowa, the Creighton faithful were left pondering one question; Do we really want to be like Northern Iowa?

Despite the uncertainty surrounding his hiring, a rumor surrounded Greg McDermott when he got to town. The word from those in the know was that the new coach had a son and the kid could play a little bit.  That kids name was Doug. 

Now Doug McDermott was tall, about 6'8", but he was skinny and hadn't been widely recruited, and certainly not by the major D1 programs.  He was overshadowed by a high school teammate named Harrison Barnes who just happened to be the most coveted player in the country. As the story went, Doug's own father didn't even recruit him at Iowa State. 

When Doug arrived at Creighton, the plan was to redshirt him, allow him to develop. An injury to a returner changed this plan and thrust the younger McDermott into the starting lineup.

As a freshman Doug proved those original rumors to be true. Averaging almost 15 points and 7 rebounds a game   The kid could indeed play a little bit. He even earned all-conference honors which was a rarity for a freshman in the Missouri Valley.  He by no means was dominant but a solid career like that of Dane Watts appeared well within the realm of possibilities.

Something funny happened though as Doug McDermott continued his career at Creighton. He kept getting better. Like a lot better. Like by leaps and bounds. He started as a post player with great footwork and a soft touch. Then he proved he was an absolute sniper from long range. Then he showed off a Dirk Nowitzki-esque wrong-footed fade away. Now he has improved his ball-handling enough to create his own shot, go coast-to-coast, or even occasionally break the press.

In the matter of three short years Doug McDermott had done the unthinkable. He had raised his ceiling from probay being the next Dane Watts to possibly becoming the closest thing we have seen to Larry Bird. 

And I know what you're thinking, here we go again. Everytime a tall white guy comes around who can knock down a jumper, someone has to compares him to Larry Bird.  But you have to look past the obvious to see where this comparison rings true. 

Like Bird, McDermott isn't just a shooter, he's a shot-maker. What I mean is that it's not just spot up 3s that he knocks down, it's off-balance shots, shots in traffic and through contact, and big shots when his team needs them most. Just like Larry Legend. McDermott certainly isn't the passer that Bird was but everything else matches up incredibly well, including the most important thing that Larry Bird and Doug McDermott have in common. They both seemingly do not care about anything in the world besides basketball. 

They say you don't appreciate what you have until it's gone, but that's not always true. Creighton fans know exactly what they've got. He may or may not end up resembling Larry Legend, but he's a legendary Bluejay already.