The Poetry of Life with Diabetes

Amylia Grace Yeaman Health Guide
  • a.k.a. WE ARE THE ONES!


    One of the things I love about online communities such as HealthCentral is the breadth of varied experiences and perspectives each member potentially brings to the table. It's easy to be overwhelmed by all the "To-Do's" and "Should-Do's" and "Don't-Do's" surrounding life with diabetes, and I, for one, need to know there are those of you out there who get that, who have bad days and crappy bloodsugars and out-of-control moods that threaten to overwhelm our world at times.

    While I value the medical professionals who are part of my health-care teams, the truth is that as patients and diabetics, WE ARE THE ONES forced to live with our diabetes and choices in each moment. WE ARE THE ONES making the decisions on a daily and hourly and moment-by-moment basis far from the Endocrine Clinic at the hospital or our CDE's.

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    Sure, after a while we know what to do most of the time, but that doesn't necessarily translate into prompt action unless WE ARE THE ONES deciding to do it. While quarterly doctor appointments and check-ups give us a sense of where we're at medically or A1C wise, chances are, we know a lot of this already. We know when we feel losuy and we know when we're spot-on.


    WE ARE THE ONES watching the glucose levels on our machines rise, fall or even out. WE ARE THE ONE who track how much we use the bolus wizard or need to make adjustments, or how often we take our injections and medication. WE ARE THE ONES who decide how much or how little to exercise and test our bloodsugar. WE ARE THE ONES deciding what and when to eat and how many carbs to ingest each day. Doctors and nurses help keep us ticking and give us a sense of accountability and they ensure proper attention is paid to potentialities we may not otherwise notice.

    On a day-to-day basis, however, the bigger issue (for me anyway) is creating and then maintaining a healthy emotional relationship with an imperfect body and the persistent trail of rising and falling bloodsugars, not to mention the subsequent rise and fall of mood/energy level/sense of well-being) that can feel more like an indictment than simply informative. Yes, WE ARE THE ONES who must navigate and understand the ever-changing emotional landscape that is very much a part of living life with a chronic, incurable illness such as type one diabetes (or any other auto-immune disorder/chronic, incurable disease millions of us live with in addition to diabetes (i.e. celiac, arthritis, psoriasis, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.).

    I don't know about you, but when I feel overwhelmed or burnt out, one healthy outlet is to turn to something creative. For me, it's often writing. Other times I'll do something physical-- but to be frank, exercise is not always first choice when I'm feeling depleted or frustrated. Writing in my journal or jotting down nuggets of thoughts to turn to poem? More likely.


    Most days, just acknowledging the emotional piece is paramount to my sense of well-being. Secondly, finding something that helps channel the frustration or wave of emotions during difficult or unmanageable times comes next. In my experience, doctors don't talk much about this, and sadly, it's an oft overlooked imperative for most diabetics on the ever-winding road to true health and happiness in a life shared with chronic/incurable/difficult to manage disease(s).

  • Like me, my guess is that many of you appreciate the sentiments of those among us who are open enough and unafraid to offer frank opinions and even unpopular/rarely voiced perspectives on chronic illnesses like diabetes; sentiments peppered not only with harsh realities, but with healthy doses of encouragement and empathy, as well...which is why I'm going to strongly encourage each of you to take a peek at the more poetic and emotional side of diabetes by downloading or ordering the highly anticipated No-Sugar Added Poetry Book published by DHF.


    The result? A powerful collection of thirty-five lyric poems and four haiku which take readers on a journey "from words,  carefully chosen and purposefully arranged" into "a shared experience and mutual understanding," as Lee Ann Thill of The Butter Compartment writes in the book's introduction. Interest piqued? Download a FREE copy of the TOC and first few pages by clicking here.

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    DISCLAIMER: I'm tickled to have my poem included (first featured here at HC), so I admit I am bised. Still, I'm making an exception to my anti-self-promotion clause, just in case you, too, are inspired by poetry, candor and the beauty of a well-turned phrase or hard-won truths which, like all things that matter most, are simply beyond paraphrase.

    SYNOPSIS: The poems which make up No-Sugar Added were carefully selected from a pool of 100+ poems submitted for the 2009 Poetry Contest on Tudiabetes. As Dr. Bill Polonsky, CEO of the BDI, writes in the foreword, these poems "speak to the emotional effort of trying to figure out how to fit the uninvited guest of diabetes into [one's] life." DHF President Manny Hernandez had to admit "how difficult [it was] to choose from so many beautiful poems [...] all describing various stages of life with diabetes,  from diagnosis all the way to acceptance."


    THE SKINNY:  A $15 donation entitles you to a beautiful hardcover copy of the book;  $25 gets you get a cool book/mug/postcard combo (the mug will rock your morning latte--seriously.) If interested, details can be found here:


    And alas, since this is a health-forum/community and not a lit review forum, I'll simply saying this: the poems here are as diverse as the diabetes community, and are chocked full of candid, inspiring verse, written from the heart, from myriad experiences of diabetics worldwide. At times the poems are tinged with sadness and are sure to tug at your heartstrings. Other times, they're heart-warming and charmingly funny.


    If you're at all like me, you're bound to find poems or stanzas that seem to speak to you alone--words or metaphors resonant in ways that are so rarely touched upon in everyday life, in everyday language. These are poignant and well-written poems, and like our online community of members, a gem of a collection. Much like the Shareposts here on HealthCentral, the No-Sugar Added Poetry Book provides profound insight into the challenges, hopes, fears and successes of those affected by diabetes. And besides giving readers a unique understanding of the emotional, physical and personal ramifications of life with diabetes, the collection is sure to remain an intrepid example of the cathartic power of poetic expression.


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    Do check it out if you have a chance and let me know what you think. And if you missed your first chance at having your poetry included, fear not. I have a sneaking suspicion there will be a demand for a volume two.


Published On: July 30, 2010