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The Pain I Feel in a Day With Diabetic Neuropathy

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According to the American Chronic Pain Association, there are at least 26 million Americans living with diabetes. And more than one in five of those have diabetic nerve pain, also known as diabetic neuropathy. I am one of them.

As much as I try to correct my diabetes, the damage it’s done to my nerves is irreversible. It has forever impacted my ability to sleep, exercise, walk, work and engage in everyday activities.

Throughout the course of a day I can experience everything from burning, stabbing, stinging, jabbing, numbness or tingling, prickling or pins and needles, electric shock-like or shooting pain, and extreme tenderness and sensitivity to touch. And this is with pain medication. Can you imagine the descriptions I would use if I didn’t take pain medication?

I have to be careful with what materials I put on my feet. Some days I can wear shoes, other days there is no way in hell. As for socks, the insides of them must feel like rayon. When I shop for socks, I have to put my hand inside them to feel if they are soft enough. If they don’t feel like silk or rayon, then I don’t get them.

The same can be said of my bed sheets. I’ve definitely had to pay attention to thread count as well as the choice of material. Anything too rough can aggravate my feet and interrupt my sleep.

The neuropathy in my feet has gotten so bad that I recently discovered that I broke my big toe and the bridge that goes across my toes. And I have no idea how. What I find funny about this is that people without neuropathy can’t fathom the idea of breaking your foot that bad and not remembering how. For me, it took two weeks before I sought medical attention because I was used to my feet aching. And occasionally they swell. So I was as surprised when the doctor said that I had broken my foot. This is just one of the downfalls of having diabetic nerve pain.

And since the sensation in my feet has disappeared quite a bit, I also have trouble walking. Sometimes I can’t feel when I place my feet on the ground. This becomes scary when I am walking down stairs. It’s also one of the reasons why I will forever wear flat shoes. I can’t even wear clogs because I can’t feel my toes enough to be able to keep them on. They just flap right off my feet. My gait has changed, and my adult children say that I walk funny. Especially when I try to walk fast. I can’t walk fast. My feet won’t let me. Between the neuropathy in my feet and the fibromyalgia in my legs, there will be no more running or power walking for me. Not without me falling flat on my face.

I often lay awake at night and wonder where it all went wrong. Was it because I had gestational diabetes during my two pregnancies? If so, then why didn’t the doctors drill into my head that I needed to watch out for diabetes immediately? Then again, maybe they did. Maybe I didn’t listen because people in their 20s tend to think that they’ll live forever without a scratch or a bump. And maybe it was just meant to be. Whatever the reason, I’m doing my best to try and keep my diabetes under control. As for the neuropathy, I will continue to listen to what my body tells me and act accordingly. But if you’re reading this and you’re newly diagnosed with diabetes, then I beg you to take it seriously. You don’t want to wake up 20 years from now and realize you have difficulty walking. It’s not a good feeling.

Originally published: August 16, 2016
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