First, don’t give me any flack about the title. I know many diabetics refuse to be labeled as “diseased”. I personally don’t care how I am labeled; diseased, conditioned, chronic-ed, mellitused, special, unique, insulin challenged, defective… just don’t call me disabled (and don’t frickin’ pronounce it “diabetus”). I am perfectly able of doing anything any non-diabetic can do, except produce my own insulin. I simply chose this title because I thought it would spike some interest.
This title also helps me to bring up the first lesson I want to discuss that I’ve learned from a lifetime of being diabetic. I have learned that just because I am a part of a minority group doesn’t mean all those who share the group with me think the same about our condition. Not just in how we are labeled, or the fact that many of us don’t care about labels or prefer not to be labeled; but on many other topics as well. Even down to treatments. This, I believe lies in the fact that although we are all diabetics, we all need slightly different treatments. Every diabetic is the same in the fact that they are diabetic, but we are each unique in how our diabetes affects us and how our lives affect it.
In or out. I spent my childhood hiding my diabetes. I hated when someone found out I was diabetic. I was ashamed of it, resented it, hated it. I hated even more how people changed when they found out I was diabetic. Suddenly I was treated either like I was so fragile, scary, or had the plague. As I grew older things changed. I became stronger, more bold, and cared much less about what people thought. If they couldn’t accept me the diabetic, then I didn’t need them in my life. Also, diabetes (at least type 2) became more prevalent and the disease more widely known and understood (even if much of the “understanding” has been misinformation) so people stopped being afraid of me or treating me like a china doll when they found out I am diabetic.
It’s all on me. I was raised in a family of type I’s so it was never a secret that if you want to be healthy and control your diabetes, you have to do it yourself. Your doctors can guide you and help you to know where you stand, your family and friends can support you. But all the work is on you. Every choice is yours and yours alone. Every action or inaction is yours to make. This knowledge helped to make me a very independent individual. If something needs to be done, then I’ll do it myself. I have a very hard time relying on others. This lesson also has a down side; I am very hard on myself and I tend to take every mistake or failure as cause to think myself profoundly inferior.
Everything comes with consequences. There are good consequences and bad. For a diabetic it’s mostly black and white which makes things a lot easier, even though they are NEVER easy. Eat too much or the wrong things, be sick with a high later. Forget to take your insulin or take the wrong dose or type, suffer for it later. Choose to not check your blood sugar as often as you should, end up out of control and having to work a million times harder to get under control. This lesson has not only helped me with diabetes but has made me much more thoughtful with every decision in life.
Life isn’t fair. Well, duh, being diagnosed with an incurable and devastating disease at a tender age, how fair is that?! Things don’t always go as planned, better yet, things rarely go as planned. You must be ready and willing to accept that fact and be flexible. I’m still learning to “go with the flow”.
No matter what, happiness is in your hands. I have suffered a lot in my life, most people have. If you can’t see the good behind the darkness, then you are only going to end up suffering more than necessary. The harder you work for what you want and need, the greater the reward. Yes, sometimes your hard work wont pay off and that is devastating. But the point is to never give up and to never let it break your heart. Take a moment to cry and let the frustration out, then get back up and get back to work!
Sacrifice and self control. I spent my childhood giving in to temptation. If I was told “no”, that only made me more determined to have it. I felt the symptoms of high blood sugar so often that I eventually became accustomed to them and stopped being able to feel them. In my mid twenties I began to develop serious complications of diabetes due to my chronically high blood sugars. By time I was 34 I had triple bypass heart surgery and four surgeries on my right eye the following year for retinopathy. I have a lot of other complications of diabetes as well. So you can see, this lesson of self control and sacrificing desires is a lesson that took me a very long time to get through my thick skull.
There are many other lessons I have learned through being diabetic, but these are the most important ones I could think of. I would love to hear some life lessons others have learned from their diseases, chronic illnesses, conditions, etc.