Despite only seeing a circuit of airport/shuttle/hotel/shuttle/airport, Dallas was fun.
During my talk on “Life After Diagnosis,” a family asked about my views on diabetes, citing that I seemed to have a lot of energy. (Little do they know that coffee is to blame. A real one; my first in several months. And it was lovely and made my brain go hey I still work – jump up and doooooown!)
“You seem very bubbly, and very positive about your diabetes. My daughter hears a lot about people who are very positive and upbeat about their diabetes. She is not there yet. How can we help her get there?”
That’s a loaded question, because it runs on the assumption that once you hit a moment of diabetes acceptance, you stay there. This September, I’ll mark the 30 year point with type 1 diabetes, and I’ve had more than a few run-ins with diabetes burnout, episodes of less-than-optimal, and emotional struggles with diabetes. Sometimes that’s not properly conveyed here on my website, and less-so in person, because I don’t like to write about struggling too often. It’s not a matter of being ashamed of the struggle, but more that chronicling emotional stress sometimes adds to emotional stress.
Think about it: if you’re feeling crumbs-ish about diabetes, and you make a list of reasons why you feel crumby about diabetes, now you have this list of crumbs-inducing stuff staring you in the face. A bulleted list of reasons you should feel like garbage. That kind of reinforcement is not my jam.
For me, itemizing my grief doesn’t work. What does, at least for now, is identifying what’s bugging me and then embracing the opposite of that bug. In the past, I’ve actively hated the process of checking my blood sugar. Oddly enough, a new meter case was enough to trick my brain into being less frigging angry about it. When my blood sugars were tanking after exercising and frustrations were mounting, my husband helped me focus on the benefits of the exercise itself, even if I was consuming a juice box (or four) after a specific workout. Focusing on small victories made dealing with some of the bigger bullshit moments easier.
And sometimes I’ve just needed time to fill back up.
Diabetes “acceptance” isn’t a staircase, where you achieve a mental milestone and continue to work from that point. If anything, the emotional aspects of diabetes are more like an escalator that sometimes stalls out and becomes stairs, which then sometimes collapse entirely to become a slide backwards. I’m not sure what’s at the top, what the apex of acceptance might be for other people, but for me, I picture it as feeling comfortable taking a few steps forward at times, knowing full well I might stumble back.
The point is, there’s always something. People aren’t always honest about what they’re struggling with, which can paint a perception of achievable diabetes perfection, which is absolutely not a thing. I’m not sure how to advise someone to “get there,” but instead assure them that “there” looks different for everyone touched by diabetes. Community, and connecting with others who understand on the most nuanced of levels, helps. Diabetes is a journey. It’s a pain in the butt. It’s a constantly needy little thing that shouts often and loudly at times, whispers quietly and pokes me with an unraveled paper clip at others.
But at the end of the day, diabetes is ours to wrangle in, and on our worst days, the diabetes community helps us to hog-tie that shit.
(Also picturing comfortable pillows and one extremely fluffy and endearingly cross-eyed/double-pawed kitten at the top of this staircase, and maybe a giant iced coffee that I can stick my whole face into and then sprout gills to be able to breathe under coffee. To be specific.)