The Comparison Culture and How I Tune It Out

We all know that social media can be…damaging.

Scroll through Facebook, Instagram, or any other social network and 99% of what you see is the idea of “perfection”: Beautifully dressed and made-up individuals showcasing their gorgeous homes or families or possessions. Usually, some sort of caption will accompany the post and it might say something like “so blessed to do life with my dream partner” or “we just bought our first home, can’t wait to fill it with joyous memories” or some other gushing, effusive language that is followed by a series of exclamation points and emojis.

There’s nothing wrong with this…except for the fact that, obviously, people’s lives aren’t as “perfect” as they seem.

Life is messy, but we don’t get to see that side for many people on social media.

This is true not just about life events, but something as specific as life with diabetes.

I think that our community has gotten a lot better about it, but I used to see so many posts that showed “perfect” blood sugar graphs and “perfect” A1c readings.

And I used to obsess over these posts.

I’d wonder why I wasn’t achieving the same levels of success as these other individuals. I’d convince myself there was something wrong with me, and that I’d never have blood sugar graphs or A1c levels that were “good enough” to share online.

Between diabetes perfectionism and real-life perfectionism (Why aren’t I married yet? When will it be my turn to start a family? What’s wrong with me that I haven’t met all the other adult goals that so many of my friends have met?), I was starting to drive myself insane.

Social media was breeding a culture of comparison for me.

I couldn’t log onto an account without immediately comparing myself to the images I saw and the stories they told.

It’s taken time, and I’m not always good about it, but I’m learning to tune out the noise on social media and how to stop comparing myself so much to others.

So how did I start to unsubscribe to that culture of comparison?

For starters, I came to terms with the fact that I didn’t want to leave social media altogether. I like how it keeps me connected with family and friends on top of connecting me with individuals all around the world. I like how it functions as a support system when I need to consult my diabetes online community for wisdom and guidance.

But I knew that I needed to take a step back. So I started slowly and gradually: I removed the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone, telling myself that if I really wanted to check the feeds for either, I could do so using my Internet browser. I also spent less and less time scrolling, a habit that was addicting to me because I wanted to see as much content as possible, but also one that I recognized as damaging because more content meant more comparisons to others.

The most important thing that I did, though (and continue to try to do) is repeat a few mantras to myself:

This is just one page of this person’s story.

You don’t know the whole picture.

You don’t want to be anyone other than yourself because you truly do love the people and things in your own life.

It might sound silly, but reminding myself that social media is designed to show off the “best” parts of our lives really did help me come to terms with the fact that I needed to stop comparing myself to everyone. Just like I have plenty of bad things that happen in my life, I have a hell of a lot more good, and just because I don’t choose to showcase everything on my feed doesn’t mitigate the good.

And one last thing that I’m trying to do? I’m simply trying to be happy for others who revel in their successes and choose to share them online. I’m also trying to pay closer attention to those who are brave enough to showcase their failures online, diabetes-related or not. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to open up my Instagram app, scroll through my feed, and see the most “perfect”, straight-lined Dexcom graph followed by an “imperfect” topsy-turvy Dexcom graph. I’m training myself to react to the former graph not by comparing myself, but by feeling good for the person who posted it. And in terms of the latter graph, I also don’t want to compare myself to it (I’m not proud of it, but I’ve taken a look at “bad” graphs before and said OMG, my numbers are sooo much better), but instead offer words of encouragement or commiseration – because we’ve all been there.

The comparison culture is toxic. It’s taken time for me to realize just how much it was affecting me, but now that I have, I’m glad because removing myself from it will help enrich the relationships I have online and in real life. When it comes to diabetes specifically, it’s difficult enough managing my own, and that much harder when I compare how I take care of it to how other people with diabetes live their lives. Learning to appreciate our diabetes differences instead of stressing over them makes it so much easier to support and uplift one another when we need it most.

My Speckled Fingertips

A lesser-known fact about me: I used to love writing poetry. I wrote tons of it when I was a middle schooler and sometimes used it to explore the emotions I associated with my diabetes. I even won a prize in a poetry competition once for a poem that was about my journey to accepting my diabetes. Today, I revisit my poetry roots in this short piece about the scars that years of fingerstick checks have left on my fingertips.

If you squint reeeeeeeal hard, then you can see the careful placement of fingertip scars that I put onto this graphic hand. (I tried to take a picture of my own with less-than-satisfactory results, so a cartoon representation will have to do.)

Tiny black dots
Littered across my fingertips
These fingertip freckles are
Constant reminders of
Decades of life with type 1 diabetes
My speckled fingertips
Rough from the scars
Worn from thousands of pricks
Poked and prodded and pinched
Countless times
As part of the process to
Help keep me alive
Blood droplets
Flood scarlet, startlingly red
In contrast to my fair skin
Temporarily masking the marks
When wiped clean
They reveal themselves
Unashamedly
Loudly
Proudly
Maybe I should be
Proud of them, too.


4 Ways Diabetes Motivates Me

Life with diabetes can be inconvenient, unpredictable, and downright frustrating. But it’s not all bad. In fact, after living with it for more than 23 years now, I’ve actually identified a few different ways in which it helps motivate me.

And what, exactly, are those ways? Well…

#1: It’s constantly challenging me to strive for the better: Better “control” over my blood sugar levels, better management of my diet and exercise regimen, and better care of my entire body, in general. While it involves a lot of work, it’s extremely motivating because I know that anything I do for the better of my diabetes and my body now will pay dividends in the future.

#2: Diabetes encourages me to ask questions. I think that my diabetes is the reason why I’ve learned to be curious. It pushes me to want to know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of various scenarios, both relating to and not relating to diabetes. It’s natural for human beings to be inquisitive, but they don’t always do something to pursue answers to questions. My diabetes pushes me to do that, with varying degrees of success, and that’s something I’m grateful for.

After having diabetes for more than 23 years, I’ve realized that it can be highly motivating.

#3: It pushes me to prove people wrong. There’s so much stigma surrounding diabetes…”You can’t eat that! You can’t do this! You can’t do that!” are exclamations that I’ve heard my entire life from different people. Rather than nodding and smiling politely at these poor, misinformed individuals, I strive to show them exactly why they’re wrong. Whether it’s explaining the facts or going out and doing the very thing they said I wouldn’t be able to do because of diabetes, it’s empowering for me to smash down diabetes misconceptions.

#4: Diabetes inspires me to seek more out of life. This goes hand-in-hand with point number 3, but it counts as a separate notion because this is all about how I view my life with diabetes. I didn’t fully accept my diabetes until I was a teenager. That acceptance represented a turning point for me during which I realized that just because I was dealt this card in life, it doesn’t mean that it should stop me from accomplishing my hopes and dreams. Over the years, my diabetes has made me want more: opportunities, experiences, relationships…you name it and I’m hungry for it.

Sure, diabetes can be my biggest headache…but it can also be my greatest motivator, and I think it’s important for me to embrace the beauty of that.

The Days that Diabetes Bothers Me

The vast majority of the time, I’m relatively unbothered by my diabetes.

I accepted long ago that it’s not going away any time soon. While that acceptance has made it easier to live a full life in spite of diabetes, I definitely still experience the occasional day that diabetes bothers me more compared to other days.

The days that I’m unbothered by diabetes are enriched by the ones when it bothers me.

It’s the days that I’m trying to enjoy time spent with loved ones.

It’s the days that I want to eat whatever I want without any consequences.

Heck, it’s the days that I want to eat, period – I’ve had days in which diabetes has restricted me from eating much of anything at all.

It’s the days that I need a really solid night of sleep the night before, but don’t get it because diabetes interfered.

It’s the days that I’m feeling so burnt out from it all that I just want to be normal.

Obviously, I’ve learned how to power through these days that I’m truly bothered by diabetes. But the ones that I simply can’t find the strength to do so are the hardest, and that’s when diabetes really gets to me.

I think that after 23 years with it, I’m allowed to be bothered by my diabetes every now and then. I don’t have to radiate sunshine and positivity about life with diabetes 24/7.

However, I think it makes the times that I’m unbothered by my diabetes that much richer because that’s when I get to stick it to diabetes.

Take that.

My Thoughts on an Entire Year of Working from Home

One year ago today was my first day working from home due to the pandemic.

I remember my final day in the office like it happened yesterday. There were hushed conversations in conference rooms, cubicles, and the office kitchen in which we all wondered how serious things were – and how serious they might become.

We had no idea what we were in store for.

One by one, as individuals who tended to work earlier in the day left for home, I said hopeful, “see you in a month” farewells, as we were all under the impression that we could come back to the office in a month. I remarked to one colleague, who is a close friend outside of work, that I had a feeling we’d all be grateful to come back and that we’d marvel in being able to be in close proximity to one another again.

I knew then that this was the start of something unlike anything most of the world had faced before, and I even documented the strangeness of it all by taking one last selfie at my cubicle (to be fair, I’d spent my lunch break at the hairdresser’s, so my hair was on point and IMHO warranted a selfie).

And here’s the aforementioned selfie, taken on March 12, 2020 at 5:38 P.M…during my last few minutes in the office.

That would be my final selfie, for certain, in that office. Because just five months later we’d all return to it one last time in small groups to pack up our desks, as our company decided to break the lease and save money on office space.

So I’ve worked from home for a year, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I’ve got so many emotions tied to that: gratitude, sadness, loneliness, anger, resentment, wistfulness…

Let me go over the positives of working from home: I’m so grateful for my job and for how deftly my colleagues and I got used to full-time remote work. Several aspects of life are made easier by working from home, such as managing my diabetes (for example, if I ever experience a pod failure, I have every and any back-up supplies I could need at home as opposed to my desk drawers, which weren’t always stocked up all the way). I save time on a commute which allows me to fit in more tasks at the start and end of my day, and honestly, working from home full-time gave me the ability to get a puppy and feel confident knowing that I would be around to take care of her.

But there are some negatives; mainly, I miss the office camaraderie like crazy. I’m lucky enough to work with a group of people that I truly enjoy being around, so it’s been tough to maintain my connections with them virtually. And truthfully, I get lonely in my condo. Going into the office five days a week not only ensured I had contact with other humans, but it also guaranteed that I’d actually leave my home during the week. I’ve never felt so sheltered in my life, and it’s a weird feeling.

I guess that if I’ve learned anything in the last 365 days, it’s how to be adaptable. Honestly, not to connect it back to diabetes – okay but this is what my blog’s about so that’s to be expected – but it’s a lot like figuring out how to deal with change as it inevitably happens. Over the years, I’ve taught myself what to do when lows and highs happen, and how to manage certain situations if and when they occur in my diabetes life. And that’s what’s happened in this last year: a whole lot of learning how to handle life’s curveballs, in general, along with the ones that diabetes tosses my way.

This Time Last Year…

This time last year, I was under the impression that I’d be heading to the Friends for Life Orlando conference that is held each July.

It was supposed to be my “triumphant return” to in-real-life diabetes meet-ups. There were so many individuals I’d hoped to either reunite with or meet for the first time.

Obviously, the pandemic totally changed my plans – as well as everyone else’s.

I was upset for awhile, but took consolation in the fact that the FFL team worked hard to turn it into a virtual conference. IMHO, I think they did an excellent job, and I remember signing off from that one feeling hopeful to attend it in-person in 2021…

This time last year was supposed to go a little differently.

…except I just don’t think that’s going to happen for me this year.

As far as I’m aware, the CWD FFL Orlando conference is on and in-person for 2021. But I, personally, am not comfortable attending. I know this won’t be the case for everyone and that’s okay. Yet I still feel compelled to explain why I’m not going to attend and how this makes me feel.

I don’t feel good about traveling, well, anywhere these days. I have a lot of anxiety about it, so much that any type of getaway, as nice as it sounds right now, just wouldn’t be worth it in the end because of how much worry I’d have about the trip.

And of course I’m sad about this. Of course I want to escape somewhere, and OF COURSE I’d love the chance to see my diabetes community in person. I find that in-person interactions are so much richer and fill me with a sense of gratitude and camaraderie that just can’t be matched online. Plus, I feel that it’s much easier to forge genuine connections when interacting with others face-to-face…I struggle to keep up with all the tweets, Instagram posts/stories, and Facebook threads, so instead of trying to weed my way through them all, I typically just don’t engage whatsoever. I simply can’t find enough time to comment as much as I’d like, which means that I miss out on some great opportunities to satisfy my need for conversation with the diabetes community.

As much as my decision not to attend bums me out, I do take some solace in knowing that there are others in the same boat as me. And I also feel reassured thinking about how hopefully, this time next year, I will be planning my true comeback to the wonderful world of diabetes conferences (in the wonderful world of Walt Disney, to boot).

Why I Wouldn’t Change the Age at which I Was Diagnosed with Diabetes

If I could cure diabetes for myself, my mom, my aunt, and all other people living with it, I would in a heartbeat, no question.

Unfortunately, I don’t have that capability, so I can’t change the fact that diabetes exists. Another thing I can’t change is that I was only four years old when I was diagnosed with it.

But let’s talk in hypotheticals here for a moment: If I could change the age that I was diagnosed, would I? Why or why not?

The answer is a resounding no, and here’s why.

I grew up with my diabetes. I don’t remember life before it. I don’t recall a time in my life in which I was finger-prick free or able to eat whichever foods whenever I wanted.

That might sound sort of depressing, but for me, it’s better that way.

See, little Molly clearly didn’t care about having diabetes – I was way too into my horsey to care about that!

I never have to long for the “before times”. I never have to look back on a time in my life that was hard because diabetes rudely interrupted it, causing a swift, drastic change to my daily routine. By the time I was old enough to start really recalling specific events, I already had diabetes. As far as I’m concerned, it’s always just been a part of me.

Some might argue that it’s “better” (imagine that I’m air-quoting that because it’s never better to have diabetes) to be diagnosed with something as life-altering as diabetes in adulthood, or at least in the teenage years, because comprehension of what it is, exactly, is stronger. I’d imagine that the adaptation of new technologies is easier, too, seeing as teenagers/older individuals tend to pick up on these things faster than, say, a toddler that is needing to learn how to safely use an insulin pump.

But for me, it’s been good to learn about diabetes as I’ve matured. As a kid, I just knew it was the thing that prevented me from eating certain foods at certain times, and that I needed my parents’ help at mealtimes in order to calculate carb intake and bolus amounts. As a teen, I started to actually learn the science behind diabetes in various classes I took throughout high school, and expanded on that knowledge in college by taking a nutrition course that taught me all about the glycemic index and how that impacts blood sugar. And as an adult, I’ve been able to make informed choices regarding the use of insulin pumps, CGMs, and other matters of that nature that require some research and understanding.

And more important than anything else…being diagnosed with diabetes at 4 years old had zero impact on my quality of life. I had a wonderful childhood and all the credit goes to my parents, who made sure that I was raised knowing that diabetes couldn’t stop me from doing anything. I know they would’ve handled a potential diabetes diagnosis later on in my life with an equal amount of grace and strength, but the fact that I grew up with it meant that we all, as a family, grew up with it as a normal part of our lives.

So even though I’ll never be okay in the traditional sense of the word that I have diabetes, I am okay with getting diagnosed as a little kid.

Meet Violet

Cactus Huggers, I have someone I would like for you to meet.

This is Violet:

Violet enjoys playing with her many toys as well as using them as pillows. Here she is laying on top of a puppy of her own.

Violet is a 10-week-old tri-color Shetland Sheepdog puppy. And for those of you who are familiar with my parents’ dog, Clarence (I’ve written about him on the blog before), Violet is actually Clarence’s niece by blood – his sister is Violet’s mommy.

And I’m Violet’s human mommy.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a dog of my own. I considered Clarence to be “my” dog in the last few years because we lived under the same roof most of that time, but I knew that when I eventually moved out, Clarence wouldn’t be coming with me. I also knew that my desire for a dog would only increase if I ever found myself living on my own. So I felt that the stars aligned when I discovered – soon after I moved out towards the end of 2020 – that Clarence’s sister was expecting a litter of puppies, and that one of those puppies would be mine.

This isn’t how I expected it to happen. I never wanted to raise a puppy on my own; after all, puppies are a lot of work. Clarence was a tough puppy to deal with and he had three humans taking care of him!

But I feel as though maybe this is how it was supposed to happen. This tiny creature relies on me for everything. I have quickly become her whole world, and she has become mine. That’s a privilege that I don’t take lightly, and though I know we will have our highs and lows – much like the ones I have with my diabetes – I know that we will live and thrive together happily.

Just like I do with my diabetes.

Happy New Year!

It is officially January 1, 2021.

When I think of January, the color gray comes to mind. This time of year is notorious for being a bit of a dull lull – a period in which everything abruptly slows down. The cold weather feels even colder and it can feel a bit like being trapped inside sometimes.

But we’re all pretty familiar with how that feels by now…

Anyways, that’s what I used to think of January. Now, I’m trying to shift my thinking and find the color and vibrancy in this month. After all, a new mindset – sort of like the one I touched on in Wednesday’s blog post but am still struggling to identify clearly – seems like it should just go together with a new year. If I keep the old mindset, I’ll get old results, and I don’t think I necessarily want old results (unless they pertain to the stretches of time in which my blood sugar levels have been spot-on, then I definitely want those results).

I’m rambling, I know. But this is my way of encouraging myself – and you – to do something that makes you happy today. Need some inspiration? I’ll share my plans: I’ll have a lovely homemade lasagna made by my mother, hang out at my parents’ house with our dogs, and text all of my loved ones to wish them a happy new year. If the weather cooperates, I’ll take a walk at some point to get some fresh air and a change of scenery. Maybe I’ll even get to totally veg out for a few hours and shirk the responsibilities of adulthood, pretending that a new workweek isn’t just around the corner.

All that sounds like a pretty great way to ring in a new year, don’t you think?

Here’s to a new year, your good health, hope, and of course, fabulous blood sugar levels.