Ten Lessons I’ve Learned About Diabetes
A blog subject was pitched to me by a friend, and I thought, “I have no idea!” Then I realized that after 25 years, I should be able to write this.
The Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned About Diabetes.
1. Knowledge is Power.
When I was little, my mom had a packet that would go with me everywhere, and they had separate copies that lived at my grandparents’, cousins’, friends’, etc. I remember making a “field trip” to all the teachers in my elementary school with a buddy to inform them about my diabetes. I remember my mom making sure the teachers I had were willing to step in should an emergency arise. I remember staying for a faculty meeting in high school to teach them what would be required in an emergency. It wasn’t until I got to college where I could make the choice to inform or not. My tennis team knew, and my roommates knew, but diabetes became a thing I tried to keep to myself. I also started to live in fear. “What happens to me if a diabetes emergency occurs and no one knows how to help?” Then it nearly happened, and I don’t keep silent anymore. The more people who know, the safer I feel.
2. Care Changes.
I was diagnosed when I had to eat the same amount at the same time every day. It honestly kept me healthier (and still does). I was adamant for years that I would never use an insulin pump. I liked my schedule. I liked my predictability. Then one day I couldn’t make a spur of the moment decision and I started the process of getting an insulin pump within one month. I haven’t looked back. It is good I decided to make this change, because the previous insulin are no longer on the market. I would have been forced to change if I hadn’t done it myself. I now keep informed on technology to know what my choices in the future will look like.
3. Everyone has Different Priorities.
My parents and I might want to treat the same low differently (even though I’m 29). My friends and I might choose different pumps. My friends and I might choose entirely different ways to deliver insulin. We might choose different organizations to raise money for. We might choose different research to get excited about. Scientists choose different technologies to work on. As long as we all respect each other, none of that matters.
4. Be Patient.
It can be so frustrating when people don’t remember what you’ve previously told them about diabetes. It wasn’t until I started working with children and I gave them time to make their own connections, did I realize that I had unrealistic expectations for the adult population. Let people ask questions and try not to get frustrated if you’ve answered it previously. I am not an expert on every disease out there or every disease that I’ve come across. This is one of the lessons I still struggle with, but I try to remember it as often as possible.
Try not to rage bolus or over treat a low blood sugar. It’s so difficult when what should work isn’t, but your body has a reason and it will help you out of it.
5. Be an Advocate.
I’m not saying you need to go out and be the JDRF or ADA national advocate. To expect that from everyone is bonkers. However, when someone wants to learn from you, help them. Help them understand what living with diabetes is like. You also need to be your own advocate. If someone is treating you wrong because of diabetes, stand up for yourself. It can be terrifying. But I promise it will be worth it. Whether you want different medical care or social care, make your life better and discuss it with those around you.
6. Ask for Help.
It appeared to me as though my parents always knew the right answers, that there was never any second guessing. What I didn’t see were the phone calls to the doctors and nurses and nutritionists. I didn’t see the advice given at the support groups. So when I went to college, I believed I needed to do everything related to diabetes care on my own. I was so determined to succeed, refused to seek help, that I landed in the hospital for the first time because of diabetes. I couldn’t understand why my mother could do it on her own and I failed within months. But I failed because this is not something to do on your own. There is a community for a reason. “Have you had this problem before?” “What was your experience when you tried that?” “I hate this.” People with and people who are knowledgeable about diabetes are in your corner and this crazy roller coaster is so much easier to ride with them.
7. You CAN Eat Everything, but You Shouldn’t.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t indulge every once in a while, because I’ll be the first to join you. Your body works so much better and more efficiently when you’re giving it healthy foods and nutrients. When you’re giving your body energy that it knows how to process, everything runs smoother.
8. Have a Backup Plan.
Things will go wrong. You might not want to admit it, but have different methods of giving insulin. Have multiple people in your “in case of emergency” list. Have multiple types of sugar for a low.
9. You Will Have Bad Days
There’s going to come a day where you can’t get your blood sugar under control. It might be because you keep going low. And you don’t think you can eat any more sugar. Or you think that your blood sugar will never come back down. This is when your emotions will try to get the best of you and you’ll want to yell at anyone who tries to help. Go back to the basics and you will get through this. Your bad day will end.
10. Have Fun.
Diabetes is a serious disease that can take over your life if you let it. Make diabetes fit your life, not your life around diabetes. Find something you love and do it. For me, it’s skiing and running and swimming and reading. Whatever your loves are, just do them. If you don’t know how to make diabetes fit your love, ask around. I bet there are others who also love it. Make your life bigger than diabetes.