I hate the “gifts” of diabetes. It makes me a little twitchy when anyone asks me to think about all the good that has come as a result of my diabetes diagnosis. The urge to reach across the table and poke them in the nose and remind them, “Disease is not a PLUS,” is hard to squish. Diabetes doesn’t give gifts and I don’t like giving it credit for any of my perceived strengths, as far as I’m concerned.
I was reminded of this when Birdy and I were reading a book over breakfast the other day. It was about cats (contain your shock) and discussed how cats may bring you “gifts” to impress you. The book kindly suggested that you appreciate the gift and then politely bury it.
“Bury the gift” is how I deal with the things diabetes has brought into my life that are an asset. I appreciate the perspective and lessons I’ve learned after twenty-nine years with type 1 diabetes, but I’d still like to take all of those “gifts” and politely bury them in the backyard.
However, I have to grudgingly admit that the influence of diabetes on my life hasn’t been all garbage, so I’ve dug up some of the gifts in order to work my way out of this patch of wet paint.
One gift? I’ve learned to see things in numbers. For better or for worse, a plate of food is not a plate of food but instead a math problem. I can calculate how many carbs are in a set meal and mash that up with how much insulin is on board, the amount of exercise I have done (or will do), and take any cortisol-inducing stressors into account when deciding how much insulin to dose. This is not a magical power but a talent that many PWD have in their arsenal. It’s hard-earned, the ability to rake your eyes over something for the briefest moment and determine the amount of dangerously-potent drug you need to administer. Hogwarts doesn’t teach this shit.
It’s helped me learn to forgive. In order to succeed in a body that doesn’t make insulin anymore, I had to learn to forgive that shortcoming. I had to teach myself to let go of some of the anger and find things I was still okay liking. This was a very hard learning curve and I still struggle with it on days when diabetes makes me filled with rage. But my body is still mine, and still successful in so many other ways. I forgive my pancreas, mostly, for being a crumb.
Diabetes has helped me learn to be patient. Waiting in line at the post office, at the airport, in the grocery store … it’s all smooth when I compare it to the endless vacuum of minutes while I’m sweating and swaying and waiting for food to bring my blood sugar back up into livable range. I am able to be more patient because I’ve learned to wait. (This mindset works 80% of the time but has limits, like when I ask Birdzone to put her frigging shoes on seventeen times in efforts to not miss the school bus. Just. Put. Your. Shoes. ON.)
It’s showed me that some shit is terribly funny. Even when it seems like it shouldn’t be. Diabetes isn’t funny (except that it totally has to be when emotions are intense and the tension can’t be broken with anything other than some gallows humor). Some of the hardest laughs I have ever had have been through tears of frustration. Laughing at this nonsense keeps me centered.
And life with diabetes has taught me perspective, a perspective that I would gladly do without but since I don’t have a choice to give diabetes back, I’ll take the perspective it offers and try to remain grateful for it. Some people are frustrated by the statement, “But it could be worse.” That doesn’t frustrate me. I believe it could be worse, and I’m grateful that it’s not. I’m thankful that I live in circumstances that allow for a butter compartment stashed with insulin and a job that pays for medical necessities. Diabetes has shown me what one malfunctioning order can do to my system, which prompts me to take good care of my body, broken bits and all. I’ve had close to three decades with diabetes, and I’m unsure about what opportunities the future might hold. But I’m not waiting for a cure. There’s life after diagnosis, and I can’t put everything on hold until “there’s a cure.”
There’s still a life.
And there’s still a mental garden filled with “gifts” that I can draw from when I need to.
(Is it okay to end on a macabre mental image about dead mice that my cat has brought to us, comparing those critters to the things that diabetes has taught me? I say yes, and will blame Halloween.)