By: Katherine Marple
Songs can mean different things to different people; it’s all a matter of perspective. Sometimes hearing a song can remind me of my relationships, my goals, daily life, and even my health. Lyrics have shown me examples of how to deal, how to grieve and how to overcome, offering a different view of a similar situation.
Add in some emotional chords with decent vocals and you’ve got a hit song in my eyes. Some songs have really resonated with me in terms of my diabetes life in particular. Maybe the songwriters weren’t aiming to reach me as their audience, but at times that’s exactly what they’ve done.
“Bigger Than My Body” by John Mayer is one of my diabetes songs. He sings “I’m bigger than my body gives me credit for” and I think “Yes. Yes, I am.” My body, over the years, has limited me. Sometimes the limitations were in my mind alone, but I can do this. I can be strong and do anything I set my mind to. I am much bigger as a person, than my body sometimes allows me to be.
“Hallowed Be Thy Name” by Iron Maiden is another song that reminds me of my struggle with diabetes. He sings, “I’m waiting in my cold cell when the bell begins to chime. Reflecting on my past life and it doesn’t have much time.” This song, though likely written from a much different view, allows me to grieve for a life filled with so much failure and heartbreak. The issue of dying is always on my mind at some level due to all the terrible situations I’ve found myself in. The “cold cell” I relate to my body, feeling at times like a prisoner inside of it. I know that I’m going to die, but please don’t let it be right now.
“Never is a Promise” by Fiona Apple is another song that I related to my disease and trying to communicate. She sings, “You’ll never live this life that I live. I’ll never live the life that wakes me in the night.” There were many nights where I cried myself to sleep thinking I would go into insulin shock yet again, and die. I didn’t have the wherewithal to find alternatives to the medication which caused several insulin shocks in the middle of the night, leaving me feeling terrified.
I also didn’t have any diabetic friends and hadn’t yet learned how to express myself in an articulate way. I didn’t think others could understand what I was going through and was emotionally lonely for a long time. I don’t so much feel the same now that I’ve matured, but it was relevant to me for several years while I tried to make sense of this new life after diagnosis.
In “Believe in Dreams” by Flyleaf, she sings, “As I look around this room, seeing worried eyes that know it’s time we cannot buy; was this worth the time to write?” This song made me cry the first time I heard it because I started to come to terms with the traumas in my past and decided that no one has control over what happens, of when we die; but we can certainly continue to be positive and work toward being amazing.
I actually mentioned this to my husband a few days ago: I can absolutely aim to live happily forever, because if I don’t, well, I’ll be dead and won’t have the ability to be disappointed then. What’s there to lose in terms of my mindset?
I’ve written a few poems of my own, hoping to some day turn them into songs to document and share my life with others. One that I wrote while I was in the midst of discovering how strong I am was written in 2009 and still resonates with me today:
Halfway there, I watch my tattered steps
Reaching over the mess to grasp at the ledge
I can pull myself up, but am gonna need a little time
Tripping on my past, these crumbles escape my touch
Not yet the monster that I see, not quite bad enough
I’m a master at mockery because I don’t yet know myself
But I’m halfway there
Halfway there, my bruises near repaired
I can sense the shift that tells me I’m okay
Not yet broken beyond your drugs
Tripping on my hopes, these tendrils reach my view
Not yet the hero that you see, not yet strong enough
I’m a master at mockery because I’ve yet to learn myself
But I’m halfway there
Halfway there, my blindness almost gone
Stretching my skin to break until it’s raw
Writing these words to record the struggle
Tripping on my past, it keeps reaching for me
Not yet the angel that you see, not yet done enough
I’m a master at mockery because I’ve yet to trust myself
But I’m halfway there
Tripping on your judgments, but ignoring all your words
Not running from your thoughts, but push to observe
I’m a master of myself, no one knows better than me
And I’m halfway there.
Finding emotional connections through art is one way that I keep myself centered–especially for a person like me, who found it easier to write than to speak. My thoughts would get jumbled in my head and I often wondered if those listening could even make sense of what I was saying.
It took having kids for me to stop worrying about what others around me thought and to just be comfortable with myself no matter who is around. So, listening to other viewpoints and experiences through art helps me to feel less alone and provides me an outlet for all the emotions that are sometimes pent up.
Diabetes can be very lonely because we are the only ones who can ultimately care for our health. Diabetes is a very personal condition. It’s a tedious disease with lots of nuances that each person needs to handle in many different ways. Any way we can help ease the burden is positive in my view.
Are there any songs you’ve heard that reminded you or helped you cope with your diabetes life?
Katherine Marple was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 14 in 1998. She is the mother of two small children, has battled insulin resistance, pre-eclampsia, and CGM and pump failures, leading to insulin therapy via MDI using Levemir and Apidra, and sometimes metformin. She is the author of two diabetes-related novels, “Wretched (this is my sorry)” and “Deathly Sweet.”