Happy Diabetes Awareness Day!
Every year I reflect on another journey around the sun with my trusty T1D and share them on Facebook, but given that this blog exists, I have another platform! Here are links to my past reflections: 2016, 2015. Without further ado, here we go!
Dear friends I haven’t made yet,
There is something you should know, I live with something that has shaped every step that I have ever taken. It inspires me, it debilitates me, it is a crucial part of my identity.
I have Type 1 Diabetes.
It is not the same as your grandma, it is probably not the same as your cat, and I did not eat too much sugar as a kid. Insulin is a treatment, not a cure. I was diagnosed 20 years ago so please don’t try to tell me that I must have been really fat. My diabetes is a significant portion of my identity though, so it is important that you know how it has shaped me and may affect our future friendship.
I’m going to talk about my diabetes. Maybe other people you know don’t and that’s okay. I am going to talk about it though because it is important for my health acutely and chronically. Acutely, I want you to know just in case. If something goes wrong, it is important that the people around me know and can tell medical personnel. Chronically, I want to spread my pride. My pride keeps me taking care of my diabetes with no days off. I am proud of the people that I share diabetes with, they are the most resilient people I know.
I will be thoughtful. There are so many variables that affect my diabetes: exercise, hydration, food, caffeine, alcohol, sleep, waking up, stress, and altitude. I have gotten really good at understanding and keeping track of variables and I promise that this skill is not exclusive to diabetes. Life is rarely black or white, and I promise not to oversimplify your circumstances. You can always find me in the grey zone.
I won’t always be the best friend. Diabetes is mental, physical, and emotional. I don’t mean this as an excuse, but if you catch me at midnight with a low blood glucose all bets are off. It is what I call bear mode. I get a tax credit for spending more than 14 hours a week managing it, so some days I will be mentally exhausted from living life and chasing a rollercoaster blood glucose. Feeling physically unwell, while it doesn’t happen every day, can feel like a failure. Please understand that some days are more emotionally taxing than others.
I will always be empathetic. I have a treasure trove of less than ideal experiences that will probably get me on your level, and if I don’t, I have plenty of experience going through something that no one around me seems to understand. I promise that I have experienced a time when it felt like the world was against me. I promise that I have experienced an invisible and incomprehensible victory.
I will be frank. I believe that something unique happens to a person when they are consistently told that their quality of life doesn’t look good down the road, even if it is not necessarily true. I believe that something unique happens to a person when they become scared to go to sleep in case they don’t wake up. I believe that something unique happens to a person when they inherit a full time, invisible job. There is a frankness that I express. We aren’t on this planet for very long and the amount of time that we have to be impactful decreases significantly if we have to do the job of our pancreases as well. I promise to give it to you straight because it is the most efficient way to get anything done. Side note: I also believe that these things have made me resourceful.
I will be patient. Insulin is a slow mover. It has an action time that starts 10-20 minutes after dosing, peaks 1-2 hours after dosing, and ends 4-6 hours after dosing. More significant than this though is the diabetes lifestyle problem. I’m not talking about a lifestyle that gave me diabetes. That’s not a thing. Due to the number of variables that impact my diabetes management, I have designed a lifestyle that helps me be as successful as possible in my diabetes management. Seeing the impact of these changes takes time, I’m talking weeks-months. I have become extremely accustomed and okay with things taking time.
I will be human. There are very few experiences that are a humbling as having some unknown, freak variable completely debilitate you. Some things are out of your control. Sometimes you don’t have a clue what is going on. I treat my life like a never-ending science experiment, always seeking to understand why my body works the way that it does and sometimes I try something and it fails miserably. Mistakes happen. It is okay to not be okay. Trying your best isn’t always running at 110%, sometimes running at 50% is the best you can do. I promise to be vulnerable in our friendship.
I will be in it for the long haul. There is currently no cure for Type 1 Diabetes. I have been in my relationship with diabetes for 20 years. It has been persistent and perseverant, and I haven’t had the choice of giving up. I promise that if our friendship is worth fighting for (which it definitely will be), I will.
My dear friends I haven’t made yet, I hope I haven’t scared you off yet. I can tell you from experience that my friendships are fierce and that my struggles and successes with diabetes contribute to their strength. I can’t wait to spend time together and become friends with you!
Until then, your future friend,