In the course of my experiences as an advocate for diabetes, I’ve had people ask me what my parents did to help me become a well-adjusted adult with diabetes. And after I stop laughing at the clearly loose definition of the phrase “well-adjusted,” I realize that I have the support of my friends and family to thank for my diabetes emotional health.
Like my mom. We fought about all kinds of stuff while I was growing up (because I was a little bit of a stubborn child … please, hold your looks of surprise), but I’ve always thought of her as my mom and my friend, even though we battled.
My mother and I fought long and hard about a lot of things. We fought about my desire to shorten the hems on my skirts. We battled about my bangs constantly hanging in my face (this drove her mad, apparently). We fought about how much I was on the phone, or who I was going to the movies with, or the fact that my socks never, ever matched because I thought Punky Brewster was awesome.
And we also battled about diabetes. But those battles weren’t angry or aggressive; they were vehement and passionate. It wasn’t a nasty fight, but our hearts were on our sleeves in a very clear way: My mother just wanted to keep me safe; I just wanted to ignore diabetes sometimes.
When I was very little, I remember my mom doing my first few months of injections. I took over when I was about eight years old, and then went through a mental block of not wanting to do it. I would put the syringe to my thigh, rest the tip of the needle against my skin, but I couldn’t push it through. There was something about feeling my skin release and accept the needle, that pop when the needle would imbed itself into me … just grossed me out.
“No, no!! I don’t want to do it!” I would throw the syringe and hide behind the blue, floor-to-ceiling curtains in the living room, my feet sticking out but convinced I couldn’t be detected. But my mother would find me, pull me out, and ask me what the problem was.
“Is it the needle? Are you scared of the needle itself?”
I sniffled and shook my head. “No, Ma. I just don’t want to do it myself. I don’t want to push it in. Can you do it this time?”
This mental block about injections went on for several months, and we’re not sure what made me ready to do it again. It was an emotional roadblock (resistance) that deterred me from making a physical action (taking the injection), and fixing it took more than just literally forcing my hand. What I do know is that it required some hand-holding, at times, this whole growing up with diabetes thing. For my family, it wasn’t a disease we could just read all the “necessary manuals” for and then have it mastered. The road to living well with diabetes is paved with trial and error, stumbles and successes, plain-old winging it, and people who care.
My mother made diabetes something that we did together, until it was something I could do alone. And even now, thirty-one years into this whole thing, I’m still not completely fending for myself. I lean on my friends and family for support when I have trouble staying on-task, health-wise.
When I stumble emotionally, it helps so much to have someone help for just that moment, urging me to try again tomorrow.