Okay. I think I may have finally digested and decompressed from my camp experience.
It has taken me a lot longer than I thought it would to process this year’s Slipstream. And I’m not sure I even have a solid reason why.
My approach to camp was much different than last year (as in I had one). I had a better understanding of what to expect so, perhaps, that gave me a bit more confidence to veer from the path. Yet still, all of my usual anxieties were present. I’m not sure why I assumed they would be absent. But still there they were. And in full force.
I also had the expectation that this year’s camp experience would alleviate a boat load (and then some) of existing anxieties. But it didn’t. And I was disappointed.
And I think that disappointment, in myself, the experience, has been stopping me from processing everything. Or at least it is causing me to procrastinate. Which in turn has simply caused everything to compound.
Every anxiety. Every worry. Every fear, diminished hope. Every question, every answer. Every emotion, every dream. Every nerve, choice, decision. Every life event. Every EVERYTHING!
I think part of my failures began with my preparations.
I attempted to abate my anxiety by adopting a somewhat cavalier attitude to the weekend. I had this feeling that I had come so far and that journey entitled me to not be worried, it entitled me to confidence.
When in fact it fucking didn’t, and I felt even more fucking fearful than the year before…
Along with the adoption of a new attitude (one I actually sucked at living up to), I obligated myself in so many ways as a means of insuring my arrival to camp. Not only did I carpool with a pal (obligation #1), but I was bringing a whole bunch of stuff up there too…for other people.
I had made a “dead pancreas cake” for mine and another pal’s Diaversary earlier in the year, and they were kind of a hit among my group of Diabuddies. So much so, folks requested I bring a cake up to camp (obligation #2). But I couldn’t just bring one cake. Not everyone likes the same flavour of cake, so I had to make two: one chocolate, one vanilla (obligation #2a). But there are also a whack of people who are vegan attending, including my Diababe Co-Conspirator and road trip pal, so I opted to make some vegan cupcakes too (obligation #2b).
And before anyone jumps in, I know, as diabetics our pancreases are not dead. They still have several functions and perform numerous tasks outside of their inability to produce insulin. The whole “dead pancreas” thing is a tongue-in-cheek joke among friends. So…
Along with the baked goods were the shirts. A large group of folks really enjoyed the cakes and asked about shirts, so I took that task on too (obligation #3). Which made sense since the artwork was mine and I do love to organize things.
My plate was pretty full leading up to camp. And I had hoped that would deter any negative feelings I was likely to feel. I hoped it would ease my worries and eliminate my fears. But things intensified. And all of it was exacerbated by the fact that I had to also communicate with the camp coordinators about the distribution of all the goods.
That part went fairly well. The camp folks were kind enough to afford me space to leave the GIANT boxes of hoodies and shirts, as well as, a safe (enough) spot to rest the cakes and cupcakes for a spell. However, there was some awkwardness (likely on my part) and query about why the baked goods were even there and the intention behind their distribution.
Here’s where my anxiety goes full-tilt boogie and I would rather hid under a fucking rock at the bottom of the lake I can so clearly see through the windows of the main lodge.
So, I explain that I don’t want any part of any grand ceremony and simply brought the goodies up due to the 50+ messages my inbox received asking, “will there be Dead Pancreas Cake at camp?!?” And then there’s an announcement after dinner asking me to come up and present the cakes…which throws me for a loop. I can handle public speaking, when prepared. But on the spot is not where I typically shine.
So there’s a bit of a mumbled ramble about the cakes, my cousin Banting, some baked goods photography…then they are cut (I was fortunate enough to have a lovely Diabuddy of mine help with distribution!) and mostly everyone is happy, except the Gluten-free folks.
Because I fucking forgot. Because…I don’t know. Just didn’t even think about that, during my hours in the kitchen that week. And I feel like a jerk, I’m embarrassed and guilt ridden…and I’m now internalizing and trying not to run and hide under that rock at the bottom of the lake.
The next morning the cakes and cupcakes are mostly forgotten and, thankfully, most of the wearables have been distributed. There is now a sea of blue hoodies spreading across the camp grounds.
I will say, those shirts brought a whole bunch of folks together – both here in Canada and down in the US – and introduced me to a collection of new people. I am truly humbled that folks enjoy them so much.
The night before my pal and I double-checked the activities and sessions we had signed up for and made necessary adjustments. I had high hopes of some physical adventures but my shoulder wasn’t having it, and the two of us agreed we both needed a bona fide break from life so we planned to take things at a pace determined by us in the moment.
That morning my anxiety was relatively low. Low enough to allow for some mildly rebellious shenanigans. A few of us early risers quietly entered the kitchen and made coffee before the camp staff arrived to properly start up the show.
There’s a slight drizzle to start the day, and after breakfast we all venture off to our various first activities/sessions, including my pal and I. Who wandered over, under the cover of an umbrella, to a session in a room jam packed full of campers.
Bit of back story: we may have appeared attached at the hip, and arguably anti-social, but do not judge people’s coping mechanisms. We both had a lot going on in our respective lives right before camp and neither was feeling overtly social. We were proud that we made it to camp and were determined to keep our spirits up, however that was to happen.
We found our seats. Then, technical difficulties arose delaying the presentation which, to be honest, was building to be way more rigid than we had anticipated, so we quietly took our leave. And returned to the main lodge. And loaded up our coffee mugs, before we plunked down in a couple of chairs on the porch and took in sights. Through the rain and the mist.
And we sat there for quite some time. We had various people drop in to join us at our table; The Hecklers, they called us. Even though no real heckling went on, though lots of laughs were had. And for a short while, my anxiety lifted, much like the mist on the lake.
Our bellies worn from the morning laughter, we took a few strolls around the camp and (unexpectedly) participated in a cookie bake-off challenge, which ended up being really fun. The team we participated with was a wonderfully unique collection of folks. And we were are really proud of our creation.
There were a lot of things going on throughout the camp. It was quite a diverse collection of people. Personally, I appreciated all the human watching opportunities. It was wonderful to see all the smiley people. The new ones coming in to their own, while others were mingling and socializing. Even if I had no interest in doing any of that on a large scale myself, I did manage to steal a few quiet moments to catch up (or acquaint myself in-person) with several folks.
I’m not a total asshole. I do enjoy watching people find happiness, interact and get along. Typically I prefer to do it from the sidelines. Where it doesn’t really involve me.
In all honesty, I was trying to take it all in and, perhaps unfairly, compare it to last year.
A whole bunch of these lovely people had been there, and they had taken me in, showing me the ropes in this community I had gone so long (too fucking long) without. And here they all were, doing it again for a whole new group of first-timers.
In fact, were it not for all of those folks I would likely have continued to stall my road to Pumpdom and almost certainly never returned to camp. Those folks encourage me and pushed me (so many times) outside of my comfort zone. Never ceasing in their friendship, and always embracing every weird, awkward, anxiety-filled part of me.
And I am truly grateful to them all. Last year’s camp experience was so life-changing there was no way this year would ever live up to that. And I think I realized that mid-afternoon. And that was both wonderful and defeating all at once.
End of Day Enrichment
The advice and encouragement I received last year really guided my decision to leave MDI behind and (finally) go on an insulin pump. So I was really pleased and honoured to have the opportunity to help the rep for the company share the benefits of, and my experiences with, our pump with others looking down that road.
As a side note, I really do love my pump. As someone who suffered with a very severe needle phobia my mental health was greatly effected by having to inject myself with insulin several times a day. Switching to a pump has alleviated a lot of those anxieties and, while freeing my mind, has freed up time. The system I am on really works for me. And I am proud to be able to share that with others.
Throughout the day the weather improved (it was a lot warmer than last year, I can tell you that!) which meant the night sky was setting up to be incredibly clear. Wine in hand, my pal at I made a night of it, popping in and out of the lodge to chat with friends, then down by the lake. At a picnic table. Where we may have been too loudly laughing for those over by the camp fire.
But it didn’t stop us.
We were happy, content.
And enjoying ourselves.
Another side note, nature is a fucking wondrous, magical thing. A drug even. I swear it can alter one’s chemistry. Sitting under those stars, looking up at the milky way…and holy fuck, a shooting star…always brings a balance to my soul like nothing else can.
Our little group of laughter lingered in the main lodge well after everyone else had retired for the night. It had been a really long time since I had let loose the cackle quite like I did that night. And it felt really good.
Summarizing on Sunday
The weekend comes to a close quicker than you expect.
I often wonder if it has more to do with the emotional nature of those 48-hours than it does the schedule. You show up on a Friday evening, fully submerge yourself and then pop up for air mid-day Sunday to prepare for re-entry in to regular life.
One thing to note about Type 1 Diabetes is its invisibility. While the world may not see our diabetes we feel it. Every minute of every hour of every day. While we may look normal we are actually physically flawed, our bodies do not perform normal functions (i.e. we ourselves must perform pancreatic duties in order to survive).
Being at camp offers us T1Ds the opportunity to be normal. We are surrounded by others with the same broken parts, who trying to figure out equally complicated math equations to eat. And it allows us to share similar experiences, like dealing with the ignorant comments made sometimes by those other “normal” people (not allowed at camp due to their functioning pancreases).
To be honest, it’s really nice to be in a room of people who also beep and feel no way about whipping out a syringe before a meal. It feels comforting to be surrounded by people who will understand if you need to inhale a juice box in 0.3 seconds because your life quite literally depends on it. Or who can share your sentiments when you have a hypo right after brushing your teeth and have to *shudder* eat a handful of Dextabs.
It offers the chance to physically be in the community and among those we have friended over the web. It provides an environment of understanding and comradery that some of us only get once a year. It highlights the importance of support and understanding when dealing with chronic illness(es).
There was a group of us who lingered to the very (very) end. Literally a handful of cars in the parking lot. Last year I slipped away before lunch. I was desperate to get home, and anxious about saying good-bye. This year, the good-bye was long.
I think I unfairly judged this year’s Slipstream. Not the organization of it (those Connected in Motion folks do a fabulous job!), but my own experience. I think I was expecting to replicate something that simply cannot be recreated.
Right? A first time is just that, first. It won’t happen again.
And that, left me in an odd place. Mentally.
Because I wasn’t able to get that overwhelming feeling, that high (if you will) off the newness of it, I somehow disallowed myself to take anything from it. And that is wrong. I have every right to take from that weekend whatever I want. It is, after all, my experience.
Too often we enter situations with expectations. Not only does that set up the potential for failure but it also potentially robs us from gaining anything. Whether that is because we assume there is nothing more to take or we shut ourselves out from the true experience, and so cannot see what is really there to be learned, remains unclear to me.
But I’m pretty sure that almost happened to me. I expected experience would ease my anxieties and allow me to reign in my fears. I had hoped that knowing what I was going in to would mean my eyes would be wide open, but instead it enabled panic to settle in and that lead to blindness. Until now.
This year my takeaway is hope.
I hope to foster the friendships I already have, and encourage the new ones made.
I hope to continue to be an active participant within the community.
I hope to pursue kindness as a currency with myself.