Thursday, February 14, 2013

Building a good foundation for Truck Driving and living with Diabetes.

Thinking back to the very beginning of my career as a truck driver I remembered how much I had to learn, how terrified I was and the many changes that came about.   Learning to drive a car was a little intimidating at first but the skills came quickly.  Growing up in Santa Barbara, California we had great weather, sunny most of the time with occasional fog and rain.  The traffic was pretty light compared to the Los Angeles area.  This made driving for the teenager much easier than those who have winters riddled with snow and ice.  When I moved to Arkansas I did have to learn to drive in winter weather but it was pretty mild for the most part compared to other parts of the country.

Surprisingly when I went to truck driver training school I felt pretty comfortable learning to drive that big thing.  Partly due to the fact that it was in my hometown so I new the surroundings.  I felt pretty confident after getting out of school and going on the truck with my husband.

Wow, how different the open road was. 

I will not lie, I was over confident as a rookie and the first couple weeks out on the road was a breeze.  Yep, until that confidence was stifled by the real world of traffic, weather, exits, truck stops, shippers, receivers, fuel stops, wrong directions, two lane mountain roads and just about everything else.

That is when I became scared to death.  My first experience I can remember was getting into Atlanta at rush hour, it was dark and raining.  I had to find somewhere to pull over and give it to the better half --- I was shaking so bad I couldn't see straight.

As time went on, I found that with each home time I was able to relax and recoup.  The next time out it became a little less stressful.  I learned to watch and listen --- A LOT.  Listening to the "old timers" on the C.B. and talking with them helped build my confidence.  There were many along the way that I took advice from, building a strong foundation for years to come.  I was fortunate and very thankful that whenever I was in an area that I was unfamiliar with or on a two lane road somewhere, there always seemed to be an old timer coaching me along and keeping me company on the C.B.

It took time to learn to make changes in driving habits from driving a four wheeler to an eighteen wheeler.  In the beginning it was scarey getting into bad weather not knowing how the truck would handle.  Driving when it was windy not knowing if we were going over would scare the dickens out of me.  Feeling the trailer slide or the tractor lose traction was enough for me to call it quits many times.  Seriously I can not tell you how many times in Wyoming I told hubby I was done and going home.  Yeah, I'm still out here.

Getting the truck legs took awhile....maneuvering in the truck while it was moving.  Learning new sleep habits, sleeping while the truck was moving, ignoring the bouncing off of the bed, learning to automatically hold on to the bed when the truck quickly stopped and learning to make good use of time for rest and sleep. There were so many changes, so many things I had to become accustomed to that people who do not drive a truck have no clue about.  Taking a shower, when and where, finding a restroom, thank goodness for Porta Potties for the truck.  Laundry, having the time and finding a truck stop to do it at, and ugh...the hike with all that laundry across that huge parking lot.  Driving a truck consumes your life, and I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way, but being out here on the road it is your life.

Early on my husband and I got into a routine, trying to keep the same shifts, always helping one another in the areas we were not familiar with, giving the other directions and looking for street signs, and supporting each other in anyway we could to make life easier for each other on the road.  I would like to say it was always easy but it was not.  It was very stressful for both of us.  And you can only slam the curtain so hard.

It was learning so many new things and trying to adjust lifestyle on the road at the same time coupled with the fact that not only was I adjusting to all of that I had to develop a new "lifestyle" for managing my Diabetes.  In the beginning I did not do well with managing my diabetes.  I did well as a truck driver and building good skills but let the diabetes and my care get put to the wayside.

We didn't have a refrigerator for the first couple of years, just a plug in cooler.  I learned to adapt.  You just don't get a good variety of food this way but it's doable.  In the beginning we did eat out of the truck stops, but back then most had sit down restaurants and the food was not that bad.  But even that took planning because we didn't get to stop everyday.  I learned to eat very plain because it worked.  In 1998 when we bought our first truck we had a refrigerator and microwave in the truck.  Even then I chose not to cook much in the microwave, it took too much time and would wake up hubby.  So I had to develop habits that would work for me in our situation.  I had to build a strong foundation like I did when I started driving.

Unfortunately there was no internet, we didn't have cellphones or XM radio, wow, how did we do it ? There was no one to help me or guide me, there was no one I knew that drove a truck and had Diabetes.  I was virtually on my own.  A couple years into driving we were able to get a dedicated run.  That helped immensely.  I was able to do my grocery shopping at home and prepare my food for the week, have a safe place to walk, and a pretty good driving schedule that was routine.

When I was diagnosed with Diabetes I was overly confident, just like when I started driving a truck.  Then I became lost and scared.  I went from familiar surroundings, managing my Diabetes at home, to managing it on the road.  Honestly it was as if I was diagnosed all over again.  It was stressful and I had no one to share those struggles with or to help coach me forward.  I was on my own.

Diabetes becomes your life just like truck driving does.  What most people don't think about we have to.  The food choices, the amount of food, the time we eat, what we eat.  Everything we do is determined by our Diabetes.  Driving a truck forces you to become more aware of your surroundings and the choices you make while driving that truck can have serious consequences if the right choices are not made.  We do our best to be safe and make those right choices.  The same is true with Diabetes, the choices we make while living with Diabetes can have serious consequences if the right choices are not made.  We learn to build a good solid foundation for both so we can become proactive and think ahead.  We have to, I have to.

I am glad that those rookie days are behind me, but I will say there are days that with both truck driving and living with diabetes I still have room for learning.  I have built a good foundation for both but have left room to grow.

The "old timers" used to say that "the day you know everything there is to know about truck driving, is the day you need to hang it up, that is when you become a danger,  because you can never know enough."  I believe the same is true about living with Diabetes as well.

For you rookies out there just learning to drive a truck, and the newbies just learning about living with diabetes, there are many of us "old timers" out here that want to help you succeed in both areas of your life. Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for help.

Be safe on the road out there.  Safety and good health bring you home.

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