Wow, time has flown by! Diabetes Blog Week is almost over. Today’s prompt: “What is one thing you would tell someone that doesn’t have diabetes about living with diabetes?”
I feel like I should have something profound to say here, as if after almost thirteen years of diabetes—has it really been that long?—I should be some kind of sage. But when it comes down to it, living everyday with a chronic illness renders it rather banal.
Doing all of the diabetes things (checking the blood, using insulin, changing infusion sets, looking at CGM graphs, being mindful of all the factors that affect blood glucose, and doing so many other activities) becomes just another part of living. It’s an unwanted part, to be sure, but those of us living with the disease integrate it into the fabric and rhythms of our life because we have to. Sartre and Camus would remind us that we’re always making choices, but practically our options are severely constrained when it comes to either accepting this disease and making it part of who we are or deciding to ignore it and face the consequences.
What this means is that we live life in multiple ways. We have the “normal”/”healthy”/non-diabetic portion with jobs, commutes, families, hobbies, and obligations, not to mention anxiety, joy, boredom, failure, and success. And then we have the part where we pick up the slack for our malfunctioning endocrine systems. This brings its own tasks, obligations, diversions, emotions, friendships, and opportunities to be better than yesterday. Diabetes is just another “thing” that we do. And like other things in life, sometimes it’s surprisingly easy, while other times it’s cruelly difficult. Sometimes we use these challenges in life and diabetes as a springboard to transcendence, and other times we just can’t wait for them to be done so that we can say, “Well, that sucked. Let’s never fucking do it again if we can help it.”
Diabetes just is.
It’s an aspect of my life that I manage (or mismanage) like any other part. Could I have better BG numbers and be less afraid of insulin? Yes. Could I also sleep more, floss regularly, and worry less? Yes to all. Do I mostly do alright with the diabetic and nondiabetic parts of my life? Absolutely. Diabetes isn’t a separate thing from me, but it is also not an essential, defining part of who I am. Just as I would never say, “I’m a toothbrusher,” it seems ridiculous to assume that my diabetes shapes the essence of my life any more than my toothbrush. I would rather say that I’m a husband, a software engineer, a triathlete, and an international playboy, and I just happen to do all of these things with diabetes.
That’s what I would say to people with or without diabetes: This illness is just another part of life, so don’t expect it to be our top priority or our defining characteristic. There’s more to us than that. It is, nevertheless, an important part of our lives, and it’s going to have an impact on what we choose to do and how we do it. Occasionally, it’s going to mess everything up. Try to be as Zen and thoughtful in your acceptance of this part of us as we are trying to be ourselves and as you would be of any other aspect of our lives.