Whole Living Daily

What I've Learned from my Diabetes

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Editor’s Note: Kerri Sparling (pictured as a kid here!) is our featured blogger for March. We love the frank and hopeful way she chronicles her experiences living with type 1 diabetes at SixUntilMe.com. This is the third in a series of guest posts for Whole Living.

I've spent the last 25 years living with type 1 diabetes. Here's what I've learned:

  • Some of what "they" said is wrong.  It just is.
  • There are times when "they" make a good point, and it's up to us as patients to figure out what information we react to.
  • The needles don't hurt as much now as they did then.  Lancets have become smaller and sharper, syringes can make the same claim.  Insulin pump sites, once they're in, usually go without being noticed.  Same goes for Dexcom sensors.  (But "pain-free" is a misnomer and so subjective that medical device advertisers had best just steer clear of that word entirely.  All needles pinch at least a little bit.)
  • Progress isn't always shown in tangible technological examples.  Sometimes progress is being able to look at a blood sugar number without feeling judged by it. Or to look in the mirror without wishing you were different.
  • There is life after diagnosis.
  • Diabetes is sometimes funny.  It has to be.  If I didn't find ways to laugh at this stuff, I would cry more.  And crying leads to dehydration, which is a precursor for ketones, which aren't fun.  So...that brings us back to "diabetes is sometimes funny."
  • Diabetes sometimes isn't funny.  Sometimes this is the most serious disease in the world.  It's a strange balance, acknowledging both aspects of this chronic disease.
  • "Comfort food," to me, is a jar of glucose tabs on the bedside table when a blood sugar of 43 mg/dL wakes me up in the middle of the night.
  • It's okay to cry about diabetes stuff.  It's okay to celebrate the victories, too.  This is life, and it's OK to feel all parts of it.
  • Food wasn't for fun or nourishment for many, many years.  Most of my childhood was spent viewing food as medicine, the means to an NPH peak's end.
  • I am grateful that I've learned to eat because I'm hungry.  Or because it tastes good.  Not just because I "have to."
  • Some days I feel like a steel magnolia.  Other days I feel like a wilted pansy.  Diabetes and flower similes aren't my strong suits.
  • Diabetes scares me.  To my very core, sometimes.  I hate admitting that.  I hate fearing something that I have inside of me every day, something I can't shake in any way, shape, or form.  It's unnerving, never truly letting down my guard.
  • Diabetes scares me most when I think about how it may affect my child.  Which gives me a different perspective on what it was like for my parents.  Which makes me want to call my mom and dad and say "thank you."
  • Diabetes also inspires me.  Same; to the core.  It makes me work harder, fight longer, love harder, appreciate more.
  • Family isn't limited to those in your gene pool.
  • Testing my blood sugar is the best way for me to keep tabs on my diabetes.  I wish I could say that wearing a pump was the answer, or using a CGM, but those devices are tools.  Effective tools, but still just tools.  I achieve the best outcomes when I test my blood sugar and actually respond to those numbers, both mentally and physically.
  • Everything in moderation.  Including platitudes.  Turn the other cheek to platitudes.
  • It took me a really long time to realize that perfection wasn't an achievable goal.  Diabetes isn't a perfect science, and you can't hit the bullseye all the time.  Maybe not even half of the time.  The goal is to always aim for it, and to keep trying.
  • It took me just as long to realize that diabetes-related health complications aren't my fault.  Diabetes complications are the fault of diabetes, not of me.  My job is to keep trying.  (See above.)
  • The word "diabetic" hasn't ever bothered me.  (Maybe because I'm lazy and I don't want to say "person with diabetes"?)
  • The word "complications" doesn't just apply to retinopathy, renal issues, and neuropathy.  Diabetes is complicated in so many ways outside of the reach of a test result.
  • Emotional health is just as important - maybe more so, to me - than physical health.  Diabetes is a disease that requires your head to be "in the game" in order for your health to be optimal.  Emotional health needs to be nurtured just as acutely as your blood sugars need to be tested.
  • I've learned that I am not alone.
  • Let me repeat that:  I am not alone.  And if I'm not alone, then neither are you.  We are in this together.  And we can do this.
  • Success with diabetes, for me, isn't a perfect A1C.  Or a crisp, organized logbook.  It's not a week's worth of no-hitters.  Success with diabetes, for me, is feeling happy.  Despite, because...whatever.  Just feeling happy.
  • And I feel like I'm succeeding.

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Comments (8)

  • "Diabetes-related health complications aren't my fault. Diabetes complications are the fault of diabetes, not of me. My job is to keep trying."

    I LOVE that! It makes things feel a little less scary, a little bit less complicated, and a little easier to keep moving forward.

    I can totally keep trying...that's not hard at all.

    Thanks again Kerri for another great post!

  • Thank you for these encouraging words. I've been down in the diabetes dumps lately and this post hits the bullseye. I am coming to grips with the fact that I will never have perfect control even if I do everything "right", but I can control my emotional responses. And it really helps to know I'm m not alone!

  • "Everything in moderation. Including platitudes. Turn the other cheek to platitudes."

    So true whether you are diabetic or not. Thanks for the great post.

  • Beautiful Kerri. I expected nothing less from you. :)

  • Thanks, Kerri. I really need these words. I'm living with my son's type 1 diabetes and when I think about what he's living with and how much it affects his life, it makes me want to cry. I want to rage against the school administration and all the people who feel they need to tell him and me how we *should* be dealing with diabetes. I get so tired of explaining and justifying what we're doing and how we cope. Like you and Colleen, though, we just keep reminding ourselves that we're not alone, and lots of other people are dealing with diabetes, too.

  • Great post, Kerri, as always. Thanks

  • Well said! Every item. It's fantastic to read your words, reflect on my journey, and contemplate ideas I haven't considered before. Thank you for the points about needles, complications, and perfection.

  • Thank you thank you thank you. All these posts give me hope. I constantly feel like I am the only person I know dealing with diabetes and life as a mother/wife. You are a true encouragement, thank you.

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