Diabetes Made Me

A thought occurred to me the other day: While diabetes doesn’t define who I am, it has unquestionably majorly impacted my life. I started thinking about and writing down how it has done so.

My diabetes has made me…

  • Worry endlessly about my daily choices
  • Angry, sad, confused (sometimes, all at once)
  • Become a control freak
  • Sleep fewer hours at night
  • Afraid about what could go wrong, and when
  • Wonder whether or not I’ll have trouble affording my medications in the future (not just my necessary diabetes prescriptions)
  • Believe that there are just some things in life I can’t do because of it

What sticks out to me about that list is that all of it is negative. So I tried thinking about all of the positive ways that diabetes has affected me, and I’m happy to say that I came up with a longer, happier list:

My diabetes has also made me…

  • Knowledgeable about nutrition
  • Unafraid of needles
  • Understand my own body better
  • Meet and connect with people I might not have otherwise
  • Comfortable with speaking in front of large groups about it
  • Become more philanthropic by volunteering my time and energy for certain groups
  • Self-sufficient (well, slightly self-sufficient)
  • Pack smartly when traveling
  • Prepared at practically all times for any diabetes-related scenario
  • Motivated to exercise on a daily basis to achieve better blood sugars
  • Mentally and physically stronger
Diabetes Made Me
Guess what else diabetes made me do? …It made me take this photo!!!

Diabetes makes me think about and do so many things that I would never dream of if I didn’t have it. A lot of those things are a pain in the neck and I truly wish I could have a break from them, but more of those things have shaped me into a well-rounded individual.

The good outweighs the bad, and diabetes has made me glad to have that perspective.

I Don’t Care Why I Have Diabetes

I saw a post on Instagram recently that infuriated me (I hope you can get a sense of the vitriol I’m about to spew out).

An Instagram user (who shall remain nameless because it’s not cool to put people on blast) was exploring the reasons why they thought they developed diabetes in a series of Insta stories. Several questions were asked:

Was it because of an sedentary lifestyle?

Did it have something to do with being breastfed versus bottle-fed?

Does it have to do with diet?

Was it because of exposure to a certain set of germs?

Did it have something to do with a family history of diabetes?

And the list goes on…and on.

Why did it make me angry?

It’s because, well, personally, I don’t care WHY I have diabetes. I don’t think that exploring the reason(s) why I have it is a healthy way to spend my time.

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*Shrug emoji* I just think there are more important conversations to be had when it comes to life with diabetes.

All I know is that my pancreas doesn’t produce insulin – rather than trying to narrow down the reason why that is, I’d much rather put that energy into taking the best possible care of my diabetes.

Am I crazy? Doesn’t that make sense? It’s just that wondering about the why won’t do a damn thing to change the fact that I have diabetes.

I don’t want to make anyone feel badly if they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the “why” – I’m sure that when I was younger, I asked myself that question a lot – but I’m merely just trying to change the direction and the focus of the conversation.

Let’s not talk about why – let’s talk about how.

How we can live incredible, full lives with diabetes.

How fortunate we are to have access to tools and technology that help us manage it.

How, despite diabetes sucking a lot of the time, it’s actually brought about a lot of positive change and influence in many peoples’ lives.

Now that’s the kind of productive discussions I’d like to see on social media…not the ones that are all doom, gloom, and pure speculation.

5 Things That I Don’t Mind About Having Diabetes

I thought about how I should title this blog post many, many times. It didn’t feel right to say “5 Things I Like About Having Diabetes” or “5 Things That Make Diabetes Okay”…because I will never like having diabetes, and I will never be okay with it.

But that being said, after living with it for 21 years, there are some “perks” to it that have made it somewhat more bearable. Okay, a LOT more bearable. Besides insulin, diabetes technology, and the like, there are five things that I came up with that make diabetes suck less for me.

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First, and most obviously…diabetes has brought wonderful friendships into my life. I’ve written about these friendships many times before and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so in the future, because they’re invaluable to me. I have some regrets about not realizing the importance of peer support when it comes to diabetes when I was younger, but maybe I figured it out in adulthood because some part of me knew that was when I would need it the most.

Second, diabetes has made me stronger. I won’t downplay the fact that it increases my anxiety and stress levels…but I also can’t deny that the trials and tribulations of life with type 1 diabetes has made me a tougher person.

Third, diabetes has forced me to be an obsessive planner. I do wish that I could live a bit more spontaneously sometimes, but honestly, I’m pretty proud of my ability to think ahead and plan well in advance of things. These planning skills have translated to other aspects of my life, too – I wasn’t on the party planning committee at work just for the heck of it!

Fourth, diabetes has taught me so much about nutrition. I’ve been reading nutrition labels before I could read actual books. I’ve met with nutritionists at various points in my life to learn how to eat a balanced, healthy diet that consists of the right amount of carbohydrates for me. I’ve educated myself on the power of the glycemic index and how it impacts blood sugar. Without diabetes, I’m not so certain that I’d have such a clear understanding of how different foods affect my entire body. I’m grateful to know so much about nutrition, because I think it makes me a healthier person, overall.

And fifth, diabetes has lead me to several interesting (and in some cases, compensated) research opportunities. Yes, you’ve read that correctly – my diabetes has allowed me to be a research study participant in a handful of studies and I’ve gotten paid for my involvement. The amounts have varied over the years – anything from a $5 Amazon gift card to a $200 stipend – but it’s not just getting paid that makes research participation worth it to me. It’s also knowing that I could be making a difference to the larger diabetes community. For instance, offering detailed feedback on a diabetes device or product might help make it better in the future, and if that means I spend an hour on the phone answering questions, then of course I’ll do it.

In times of diabetes hardship, it’s important for me to remember these five things. Diabetes was a shit card in life that I was dealt, but it’s not the worst thing that could happen to me. Reminding myself of these bright spots help to make life with diabetes a little bit better.

A Good Diabetes Day

I’ve blogged plenty of times about my “bad” diabetes days – you know, those posts that I talk about stubborn blood sugar that won’t come down/up, or how technology refuses to cooperate, or how I’m feeling intense diabetes burnout.

This made me wonder about the “good” days. Besides my blood sugars looking so perfect that I question whether my pancreas has magically started to produce insulin again, what sets those days apart from the “bad” (and plain, old, ordinary days)?

 

The answer likely varies among people with diabetes, but let me describe my version of a darn good diabetes day:

  • Going to an endocrinologist appointment first thing in the morning and discovering that your A1c has dropped nearly half a point, down to 6.7. YAAAAAAS!
  • Being told by said endocrinologist that you’re doing an amazing job, and passed all other blood work tests with flying colors – I was most thrilled with my HDL cholesterol (the good kind) levels, which have gone up due to my current exercise regimen. And she said I lost a couple pounds, to boot!
  • Coming home from work to a package from Dexcom containing the brand new G6 receiver, transmitter, and sensors. I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about a delivery!
  • Topping it all off, my blood sugars throughout the day weren’t too shabby.
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Dancing excitedly with my new Dexcom G6! My puppy couldn’t understand what the hullabaloo was all about.

It’s days like that that make me feel validated – like all my hard work is worth it. It isn’t easy to manage diabetes every moment of every day, so when the diabetes stars align like this, it feels…wonderful.