A Positive Spin on Diabetes

Amylia Grace Yeaman Health Guide

  • I do my best living with and managing my diabetes. I try to let that be enough. My best is far from perfect, but it's all I've got. Our best is all any of us has to give. And even if we don't ever fully tame the unruly beast of diabetes itself-- we can still work on recognizing and adjusting (if necessary) our perceptions, attitudes and response(s) to it.

    Though it's a heavy trade-off and a "gift" I'd gladly return it if I had the receipt, I do my best to remain open to the lessons diabetes has to teach me. To get over myself long enough to glean some valuable insight and wisdom from the unique challenges life with diabetes (and other chronic conditions) offers. Wisdom and insight I'd likely miss out on otherwise.

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    If we want to, we can learn just how much diabetes has to teach us. Frustrating as they can be, it is often the things (and people) we dislike the most that become our greatest teachers. The trick is being open and willing to receive the lessons--even when we don't love the source.

    Like many with Type 1 diabetes, I've grown up (and around) diabetes. Being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and managing a chronic illness as a child changes you. It just does. Having diabetes--especially as a little girl--has written on the slate of who I am.

    This isn't a bad thing, per say. But it matters, I'd argue, in ways it just doesn't for people diagnosed with diabetes late[r] in life. While I don't speak for anyone but myself, the diabetics in my life who grew up with diabetes tend to connect to their diabetes differently than diabetics who didn't grow up with it.  The distinction matters only insofar as we use it to understand one another better--to come together in unity instead of letting differences cause derision.

    To me, my diabetes is similar to how being an identical twin or an American (andCheesehead) and a woman influence my sense of identity. After all, just because I didn't choose to be a Type 1 diabetic or an identical twin or an American or born female doesn't mean these aspects of who I am don't count when considering who I (think) I am.

    Diabetes changes things. It just does. It changed me. If you have it, it's changed you in some ways, too. And while ultimately I agree with Kerri's Six Until Me tagline that "diabetes does not define me, but it helps explain me," it'd be a lie to say I am not a different version of myself because of it. Not better or worse. Just different. Having diabetes has affected the inner landscape of my life-and I'm ok with that. This was not always the case.

    But today I really like who I am. Diabetes is a part of that because it's a part of me. It just is. There's no shame in that.

    Of course, diabetes changes things on the outside, too. These are the more visible influences. For me, it changes not the "what" of daily life, but the "how." It hasn't changed the things that I have done (and not done), but how I approach aspects of my daily life.

    No doubt diabetes is difficult. It's a lot to carry. When feeling bad or down about how having diabetes impacts those around me, I remind myself of the 3 C's:1.) You didn't Cause it.2.) You can't Control it.*3.) You can't Cure it**

  • Accepting this doesn't make me feel disempowered or "off the hook," but does help me release the (unearned) guilt and shame that can creep up on me during frustrating "down" days--when I'm struggling to feel good, experiencing stubborn highs and exhausting lows, or riding the roller-coaster of bloodsugars in spite of my best efforts.

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    No, the "3 C's" don't absolve me of responsibility for caring for myself and my diabetes as best I can. What it does do is alleviate some of the heft of a life with diabetes-of never getting a day off or a "free pass" or a momentary reprieve. There's no vacation from diabetes. Diabetes is not just every day--it's every day, every hour, every minute.

    Something like the 3 C's may sound trite, but these little reminders come in handy. Our thoughts influence our moods and our moods and thoughts influence our behavior--and ultimately our lives--and so much of diabetes is emotional, internal, invisible. Because of this, I try to pay close attention to what I tell myself--and how I frame things--tweaking them as needed.

    Repeating a little mantra that I believe in helps produce more moments infused by that elusive gift of serenity that feels so good inside and out. Serenity from the release of the tyrant of fear when I just keep trucking along in spite of it.



    *I believe diabetes is managed, not "controlled." Diabetes is an unruly and feisty beast. And while we can learn good habits and embrace approaches to help "tame" diabetes, not even the best doctor in the world can fully control Type 1 diabetes at all times. That doesn't mean we stop trying to tip the odds in our favor-it just means absolute control is a misnomer.

    **Yet. We're working on it.

Published On: November 19, 2010