How Is This My Fault?
The difficulties of explaining Type 2 diabetes complications
I was binge watching the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when diabetes reared its ugly head.
There's a scene where Susie mentions that she has a pain in her leg. Miriam responds by asking "What did you do?"
To Miriam this probably seemed like an innocent question. She might even consider it a question filled with concern. To Miriam it sounded like something along the lines of “Oh, no. How did you hurt yourself?”
But that’s not how Susie heard it.
How is this my fault?
When you live with chronic illness, especially one that is referred to as a "lifestyle disease” like diabetes, the question of “What did you do?” can be highly charged. It raises feelings and reactions rooted in your very core.
Depending on how it’s heard, “What did you do?” can be interpreted several different ways. Depending on how it’s interpreted, it can lead you down a dangerous path.
At one end of the spectrum “What did you do?” becomes “How did you cause this?”
“How did you cause this?” leads to “Why didn’t you prevent this?”
And once blaming thoughts show up, self-reproach isn’t far behind. “Don’t you want to have a good blood sugar level and avoid complications?”
I imagine for Susie these are the kinds of thoughts and feelings that swirled throughout her at that moment. A seemingly innocent question perturbed her and lead her to irritation.
Susie responded incredulously, “How is this my fault?”
In her response, Susie pushes back, rejecting Miriam’s suggestion that she “did something” to cause her pain. At best, Susie protects herself from destructive thinking. At worst, Susie is in denial.
Sometimes a pain is just a pain
Sometimes you have a pain, an extreme blood glucose (BG) reading, feel incredibly thirsty, or have to go to the bathroom repeatedly. But you can’t necessarily draw a direct line from between a cause and the symptom or result.
Sometimes a pain in the leg is just a pain in the leg, and you have to live with it.
If you have it in you to push back when asked “What did you do?” then you have it in you to reject the idea that you somehow brought this on yourself.
But you won’t necessarily always have it in you.
Sometimes “How is this my fault?” is a response said with despair.
In this moment the anguish of failure takes over, pushing you down the rabbit hole of self-reproach and self-doubt.
Guilty feelings take over, leaving you feeling responsible but without the power to make a change or improvement.
Somewhere in the middle there is a better path.
There can be a better response
There is a response that balances the recognition that what you do contributes to your state of health and the knowledge that many things beyond your control also influence your health.
When you take this path the question changes. Instead of “What did you do?” it becomes “What can I do?”
This shift makes it possible to look forward, make choices, and take conscious action. You can call on your inner strength. You can reject the idea that you are at fault. You can persevere in the face of diabetes.
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