My Apartment

by Jennifer Nickerson

It’s my secret shame: the pandemic has been great for me. Shut away from the world in my apartment, away from my friends and family, I’m the healthiest I’ve been in decades.

I have Type 1 diabetes, and every day for the past twenty years I’ve had to balance the consequences of following the rules or enjoying my life: the tedium of weighing every ounce of food versus the joy of savoring a drawn-out meal; the risk of blindness versus the illicit thrill of eating as much as I want; the spontaneous pleasure of ordering two scoops on a surprise ice cream shop date versus the prospect of losing a couple of toes down the road. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, I’ve stopped weighing my choices—because they’re gone—and started weighing my food.

At home, alone, nobody is waiting for me to measure all the pieces of the meal while their own plate goes cold. So I take the time to measure mine out. There is no delicious forbidden lasagna with short ribs that will stubbornly resist as much insulin as I can throw at it, because I am not out at a restaurant. I am merely an adequate and not especially exciting cook, so it’s no great hardship to eat small, diabetes-friendly portions of whole wheat pasta with roasted chicken and broccoli.

After a life spent aggressively avoiding anything that would make me sweat, even when my doctors begged me to exercise regularly, I am now a religious attendee of twice-weekly Zoom strength-training classes because the face of the trainer over the screen is the most regular human contact I have. Because I have nowhere else to go, I take long walks in ever-widening circles from my home, driving my blood sugar levels lower—and any long-term complications farther off—with every step.

I am bored and I am lonely, but my physical strength is waxing, and with it my body’s ability to process insulin. Add that to my newly near-perfect compliance with my care regimen, with its dozen finger lancings a day and micromanaged insulin doses, recalibrated every 48 hours, and my doctor (a warm if slightly stuttering presence, thanks to poor Wi-Fi) has taken to using words like “thrilled” and “wonderful” when discussing my glucometer reports. They are nearly normal, one hundredth of a point away from someone without diabetes. We agree that being locked in my apartment is good for me, that I haven’t been healthier since I was first diagnosed.

This is the closest I will ever come to being cured, and all it took was millions of people getting sick. I am thriving, and I don’t know how to unravel the pride and the joy and the hope and the guilt in that.

Published on December 11, 2020