That is when – for the thousandth time, a little bit of my heart broke.
The restaurant, 18 Seaboard, is a popular one renowned for a great atmosphere and a fantastic menu. And the menu is indeed impressive. Some items include “Sneads Ferry She-Crab Soup with sherry reduction,” “Hopkins Farms Chicken Salad with blackberries, asparagus, Holly Grove goat cheese and herb vinaigrette,” “Sea Island Red Pea Cake with oyster mushrooms, patty pan squash, sautéed baby kale and spring onion chimichurri,” etc. You get the idea.
To successfully live with diabetes, every time before you eat you have to figure out how much insulin to inject. To do that, you have to know how many carbohydrates are in the meal you are about to enjoy. Oh, and you have to test your blood glucose and with that data calculate how much insulin you need (or don’t) to get to your target blood glucose.
So as I look through any menu, my first instinct is to see what they have that I might be able to count how many grams of carbohydrates the dish has. I’ll latch onto that and find everything they have that fits that category. Only then will I start picking and choosing which sounds tastiest while staying below my customary 100 grams per meal limit. Sometimes, there isn’t anything at all appealing. With diabetes, manageable nutritional data and social necessity will often trump taste.
This time, I had no clue about what the ‘carb count’ as we call it might be. Some things I know based on experience. When you like certain foods and eat them often, you memorize the carb count.
Other times, I’ll use an app called “Calorie King” and will find something either identical (best) or similar (might work) and that data will guide my insulin dosing. Some chain restaurants publish the nutritional content of their dishes, but local establishments never do.
If none of that information is available, I might gamble. I’ll wait until I get my plate and I’ll take a stab at it. But what if it is a multi-course meal? When a person with diabetes has a meal, they take one insulin shot or one insulin pump bolus. That’s it.
But what about this particular menu? All of these exotic dishes are foreign to me. Nutritional info is nowhere to be found. Would I gamble to be with my friends, at a ‘need to be there’ event? No way. This time, as with many, I was baffled. Flummoxed. Clueless.
Quick: how many carbs are in ‘sherry reduction?’ What about ‘patty pan squash?” Will “Hopkins Farms Chicken Salad” send have 10 grams or 40 grams of carbs?
There isn’t anything I could eat without running the risk of becoming ill if my blood glucose when too high or too low.
I couldn’t attend and just sit there for a couple of hours nursing a glass of ice water while friends reveled in the meal – me trying to explain why I went to lunch and didn’t eat anything.
Nor could I ask the server for a carb count for the various dishes. Chances are they don’t have a clue what that means. Likewise, the chef likely wouldn’t give a tinker’s damn about carbs at all. They are into taste subtleties and complexities, presentation and creative concept. Some might care about nutritional conceptually, but how many carbs are in “spring onion chimichurri?” Good luck with that.
So as I have done countless times, I graciously declined the invitation. I did it to avoid fear, anxiety, and numerous multi-variable pharmaco-nutritional calculations done in my head while feigning interest at the conversation around me. It is a socially awkward situation for me, but one that is supposed to be socially enjoyable – the reason for the luncheon in the first place.
With diabetes, I don’t go to things like this more often than I’d like. I want to fit in, share a plasant time like everybody else. I do this more than I want. And I’ll continue to segregate myself from my colleagues, friends and family when events like this come up.
I’ll gently decline, saying “Sorry, but I can’t make it.” If they press, I might tell a lie, and that will make me feel guilty. I could be honest, but that would make them feel bad, in addition to me. That is one unhappy person too many, so I’ll try to avoid that. So I’ll fib so as to not make somebody else feel bad. All because of this disease.
But I’m pissed. Already I feel guilty for fibbing my way out of it. I’m mad because before diabetes none of this was a consideration. Before diabetes, the company, the setting and perhaps my willingness to have a culinary adventure were all that mattered.
After Type 1 Diabetes, it is more complicated. Simple things are hard, social interactions are sometimes harder. I miss things I used to enjoy without thinking, when before none of these thoughts ever occurred to me.
I hate diabetes.