We hear it all the time from doctors: “Well, we need to keep an eye on this because of your diabetes.” Yes, my diabetes, which affects every part of my health and can complicate things. When I was diagnosed in 2002, I remember researching diabetes and while I had expected an informative tool, I instead endured a foreshadowing of impending misery because of diabetes. It was a morbid warning at age 12 that the life ahead of me was a minefield of new diagnoses and complications due to diabetes. And not just any diabetes, but MY diabetes. I felt that this confusing condition was my burden alone to figure out so get used to the idea now. All of a sudden, my medical charts were marked with that little extra flag to double check my eyes, examine my toes, prod my gums, give a routine flu shot, and administer incessant cautions about walking through life on eggshells “because, you know, of your diabetes.” Thank goodness times have changed.
I can only imagine what life was in the past decades of Type 1 life, since in the last 16 years alone I’ve watched diabetes go from a tragic label to an empowering platform. I’ve personally experienced a leap from dark to light “because of diabetes.” The impression I’d had initially was to see MY diabetes as a hindrance to my health, but today I embrace it as a foundation for my self-care. I emphasize the term “embrace” because I don’t love it, I don’t glorify it… I accept MY diabetes as a factor in how I choose to go about my day. I move as a celebration of what my body can do because MY diabetes has not taken any physical capabilities away from me. I connect with others because MY diabetes has opened up a community that is stronger than people can fathom. We work to bring each other up because we’ve all been there and those that have gotten through it share their fortitude. I’ve been on an extraordinary adventure learning how to train diabetic alert dogs over the past six years because I want others to be able to take their management from good to great through the unique partnership of a canine companion. Do you see a pattern here?
I’m not saying diabetic lemons always make lemonade, you do have to respect that your health requires additional measures to maintain a high quality of life. And even if you do everything perfectly, the outcome may not correlate exactly to your efforts, which is an opportunity in its own way to exercise learn coping with frustration. Honestly, if you ended up reading this blog post, you’re on the right track and have found a tribe that will help you with as much as we possibly can. You’ve already left your comfort zones behind and taken on more challenges because you know you have to find your best level of management of life with diabetes. You are incredible.
I am so proud of you.
I’ve actually found it fascinating to use type 1 as an advantage. If I’m out to eat or at a party and junk foods abound, I know how miserable they’ll make me feel so I politely decline or take a smaller portion. People will generally say something along the lines of, “Oh, someone’s on a health kick, huh?” to which I reply, “Well I enjoy my life just as it is so better choices make MY diabetes much easier to manage.” In an instant, I can go from being slightly mocked for depriving myself to profoundly respected for proper self-care. Our eyes have been opened to self-awareness which most people take for granted because we feel new things that demand attention. Before diabetes, I hardly checked in with myself, but since my diagnosis I listen to my body and am much more responsive to correct problems. I went from passively dismissing my health to actively enhancing it because now my good days are even better than non-diabetic people’s best.
So write down something that you’ve accomplished because of YOUR diabetes. How have you changed for the better? How have you grown into a more focused, stronger, inspirational person? It can be anything from a new friend, more water, better coping skills, a few hours of good numbers that make you feel so proud, or a new fitness routine… some positive aspect that you recognize because of your diabetes. It can be anything from a new friend, more water, better coping skills, a few hours of good numbers that make you feel proud, or a new fitness routine… some positive aspect that you recognize, well, because of your diabetes.