The Old Ball and Chain

No, I don't mean a spouse or significant other. Technically you can do without those for a few hours. I hope. But there are things we schlep with us all the time, that would literally make us sick if we went without them.

Recently, we’ve been talking about the hassles of big trips for people with chronic and autoimmune conditions, but what about every day? I absolutely hate feeling encumbered. Since high school, when I shamelessly copied my best friend, I go as many places as possible with just my phone/wallet shoved into the back pocket of my jeans. That’s hard to do most days.

I was talking to another autoimmune patient last week about having to drag a lot of crap with us everywhere we go. When I travel out of town, I usually take a backpack. It doesn’t fit much: laptop, phone (and associated cords), a couple small snacks, a sweatshirt, and . . . a giant drug carrier. Not the one with the little squares for each day, but something that holds the big bottles. I tried the other thing, but got stranded beyond my supplies a few times, so not anymore. And it’s not just when you travel. It’s every day.

The daily bare minimum for me is phone and blood sugar machine, just for trips to the grocery store or out to dinner. If I am heading out for a while, water, juice, inhaler, extra strips for the machine. An entire day hanging out in downtown DC or at the beach, insulin and needles for an emergency. Oh, and if it’s hot, a cold pack so the insulin doesn’t go bad. Maybe some paper towels so the sweating cold pack doesn’t make everything else soggy.

I worked hard to move away from a backpack after I finished graduate school. My sister-in-law even conned me into buying a “girl bag,” a.k.a. purse. I use it very occasionally. And a clutch for a formal event? Never. They are not big enough for my machine. And what about the guys, who often don’t have any kind of bag, or people who have to drag oxygen tanks behind them?

I can’t do anything without that machine. I’m one of those strange diabetics who has never been able to establish a steady biorhythmic pattern, so my insulin dosages are a weird combination of instinct and guessing. Being caught out without one has caused trouble often enough that I have five of them. One in my car, one at the two places I travel most often, one at home on the days I forget it at work, and the one I take everywhere.

Then there is the issue of insulin. I’ve miscalculated and run out a couple of times at work, which results in nothing good. I am reluctant to take it to work because I might forget to cycle them out once I open them, and they run the risk of going bad if not used in time. I can’t afford to not use even part of a vial of insulin.

Gives new meaning to the phrase “ball and chain”, doesn’t it? What’s yours? What is the one (or two or five) thing that you can absolutely not leave the house without? You carry an extra prescription in case you run out far from home and would cut a long weekend short if you forgot it. So what's your ball and chain? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments section.