I’m stoked to take part in Diabetes Blog Week for the first time this year! Thank you Karen (@KarenBittrSweet) of the Bitter Sweet Diabetes blog for doing all the work to make this a wonderful week to learn from each other and discover new D voices! Read them here.
I set up this blog in 2014 because I had known for a long time that going it alone wasn’t working anymore. I’ve lived with diabetes for 16 years—most of them poorly controlled, the last few well managed, and all of them alone. I could count the people who knew about my diabetes with two hands and the people I’d personally told on one.
When I emerged from my “dark ages” of diabetes and got back on track I realized my numbers were fine, but mentally the disease was still wreaking havoc. My A1Cs were the best they’d ever been, but I still couldn’t talk about it. I had neglected a key part of diabetes management: the psychological need for support.
So I went where the experts, my diabetes peers, were: online.
Finding the online community was invaluable. I found people I immensely respected who were following their dreams, having families, and advocating to make things better for people with diabetes.
Why online? For one, you get to connect with, learn from, laugh and cry with people. Two, you don’t have to wear pants or makeup while doing it.
When I moved to a smaller town from the metro area I sadly had to say goodbye to my local diabetes support group and hadn’t been able (read: hadn’t tried) to round up people to start a group in my new area, so I went online. Like in the support group I sat back, listened to some stories, and slowly joined in, ever appreciating the courage and resiliency of the people who made me proud instead of ashamed what made us different.
I also hoped to add my voice, because so many times while reading a book or a blog by an author with diabetes I got that feeling that screamed, “ME TOO!” I wanted to share the hard-won lessons I’d learned from my mistakes, the facts that changed everything I felt about diabetes and still rely on daily, in hopes they are of any use to others. They are:
- You Can Do It
People living with diabetes are incredibly strong. We practice many skills throughout the day: constant math for carb calculations and insulin doses, medical equipment troubleshooting, coping skills to deal with constant strain and unpredictability, and on and on. We’re awesome, and we need to acknowledge that.
We’re often reminded by well-intended people, organizations, and media that dangers and dire side effects are possible with diabetes, but only in the diabetes community is it made clear that your life is more full of possibilities than it is of limitations. When I diagnosed I thought I had to give up my dreams for the future. Now I realize that that misconception, not diabetes, was what stood in my way.
You can do it!
- It’s Easier with Gratitude
Everyone with diabetes knows it’s no cake walk. While the numbers go up and down they sometimes take your moods with them, and either one can go off the rails without provocation. Diabetes is a party that never ends, even when you get tired.
It’s expensive too. I’ve left the pharmacy a number of times with tears in my eyes. After indulging in self-pity for a while I try to remember that I’m incredibly blessed to have access to life-saving medicine, even if it costs me dearly.
On days when I’m mentally stuck in muck, when I’m ready I remind myself I’m lucky to have made it this far and to have today. I’ve found blessings are way more fun to count than carbs.
- ...And People
It’s also easier with people in your lives who support and accept you. I used to fervently defend the belief that you could do it by yourself and didn’t need anyone to be successful at diabetes management. I suppose in some ways that’s true, but it’s lonely, and for me at least, emotionally damaging. I still love me some independence, but engaging with people about diabetes is empowering, educational, and inspiring. I’m encouraged to challenge myself and do better. It’s gotten easier to talk about it with other people in my life and support those I know who live with diabetes, which is a wonderful feeling.
Thank you for that.