Diabetes

What My Amazon Order History Says About My Life With Chronic Illness

My Amazon history shows me that you don't just get a diagnosis and then follow doctors’ orders until you die. It's a journey.

Since my diagnosis with type 2 diabetes 14 years ago, my life managing this illness has been chronicled in an unexpected way– through my Amazon order history. The books, supplements, running shoes, and miscellany I’ve ordered over the years paint a unique picture of how I’ve lived with diabetes. 

The journey began with an order for American Diabetes Association Diabetes Cookbook in summer 2005. It was my first post-diagnosis order, and I remember at the time, I was disappointed to learn I had type 2, but not entirely surprised. I already had insulin resistance due to PCOS and knew the Big “D” was looming. Those early days were filled with soul searching, self-blame, and intense research.

By 2006, I had adopted a “Get on with it!” attitude and started running. I remember reading Sole Sisters: Stories of Women and Running that summer, and it inspired me to keep moving for months, although this eventually fadedWith the book, we also received a pair of size 13 men’s Adidas running shoes. My husband is a real runner. A former cross-country competitor, his running practice was remarkably consistent. Every three months, another pair of men’s running shoes, size 13, pops up in our order history. How did it come so naturally to him when I would spend over a decade trying to trick myself into exercise?

I went through periods of enthusiasm and saying “yes” to life with renewed plans for beating diabetes. When commitment flagged, the big picture became blurry, and my momentum weakened. That cycle, too, I can trace in my Amazon orders. 

I went through periods of enthusiasm and saying “yes” to life with renewed plans for beating diabetes. When commitment flagged, the big picture became blurry, and my momentum weakened.

At the end of 2008, I ordered Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred DVD. The box screamed at me, “Lose up to 20 pounds in 30 days!” Then for Christmas 2009, I ordered myself a case of Toffifay, a German hazelnut chocolate treat from my childhood. The box of candy was a subtle clue that I was headed into a “screw diabetes” spiral.

For two whole years after that, there was nothing health-related in my order history. I was burned out on dieting, carb-counting, gym memberships, and medications. Until January 2012 — maybe it was a New Year’s resolution — when I received a juice machine. At the time, I was preoccupied with the legend of fitness legend Jack LaLanne:his black and white calisthenics shows from the 1950s, his longevity (he lived to 96 years old), and his devotion to juicing. I would be tight as a drum and live forever too!

But no amount of juicing, jumping jacks, or following doctor’s orders could have held back the tide of change coming to my life, let alone my diabetes management plan.

In 2013, my Amazon activity swelled alongside my belly as a direct response to y first pregnancy. Among the tiny footie pajamas and diapers were comfort items for myself — cozy slippers and French soaps. Copies of Diabetes and Pregnancy: A Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy for Women with Type 1, Type 2, or Gestational Diabetes and The Intrinsic Exerciser: Discovering the Joy of Exercise came with a new sense of commitment to living well with diabetes… if not for my sake, then for the sake of my unborn child.

But no amount of juicing, jumping jacks, or following doctor’s orders could have held back the tide of change coming to my life, let alone my diabetes management plan.

But the chaos of new motherhood left me feeling lost among so many unfamiliar responsibilities. In desperation, I ordered a 21 Days Guided Journal: Make or Break a Habit. Every evening I sat at my desk with the journal, trying to squeeze good diabetes management habits into my overflowing life.

I only felt more helpless at the start of 2015. That year, I decided to get pregnant again, but my doctors insisted I meet a lower blood sugar goal first. I ordered The Strength and Toning Deck: 50 Exercises to Shape Your Body, The Mayo Clinic Diabetes Diet, and a Blood Sugar Logbook. I bought a pair of pink and purple Merrell trail shoes, and I ran them smooth.

By 2016, I was drowning in deliveries of baby gear again. I had a newborn and a toddler at the age of 41, and I could feel my mortality pressing down on me, so  I ordered Older, Faster, Stronger: What Women Runners Can Teach Us All About Living Younger, Longer, How to run with a baby, and a Fitbit.

In 2017, I was still exploring options for thriving with diabetes. I read The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative and The Blood Sugar Solution 10-day Detox Diet (“Activate your body’s natural ability to burn fat and lose up to 10 pounds in 10 days!”). The former taught me why I needed to get outside to heal both my body and my mind; the latter was a last ditch attempt at dieting diabetes away before I started to reject dieting all together.

There was a subtle shift happening in the health resources I turned to. Along with another Fitbit in 2018, I bought Love It!: 234 Inspirations and Activities to Help You Love Your Body and Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey. I was finding new, more compassionate ways to care for myself.

This year, I haven’t bought many diabetes management tools. I’m exploring the impact of stress reduction on my blood sugar. A recent Amazon order included supplements for “blood sugar health” and of course, my husband’s running shoes.

Looking over my Amazon history is like a diary of my life with diabetes, and studying that diary shows me that you don’t just get a diagnosis and then follow doctors’ orders until you die.

What does this all mean? Looking over my Amazon history is like a diary of my life with diabetes, and studying that diary shows me that you don’t just get a diagnosis and then follow doctors’ orders until you die. Living with a chronic condition like diabetes has its rhythm and cycles, and my cycles have included empowerment, motivation, skepticism, and burnout. 

That’s okay. That’s part of life too. And because I know I will be managing this disease for several more decades, accepting these cycles has made it easier to not be obsessive or self-critical about every little reading on my glucose meter. 

Because managing diabetes successfully isn’t like clicking a “buy” button on Amazon. It’s not a binary state. It’s a cycle, and a healthy cycle–like a healthy ordering history–can encompass many different states at once.