What Brings Me Down, The Emotions of Diabetes

May is Mental Health Month and there are lots of emotions with having a chronic health condition. This is Day 3 of Diabetes Blog Week and we are asked to write about the emotions we experience as we deal with the daily reality of diabetes.

It’s interesting, I have very few negative emotions connected to diabetes. For me, negative emotions are ones like sadness, anger, rage, despair, hopelessness. In regard to my second cancer experience, I have had to sort through some of these difficult emotions. In fact, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) connected to my second cancer experience. The second cancer threw off my sense of security in the world. It made me question my reason for being here. And I withdrew into myself and into my work. And I made sure no one noticed. I was deeply hurt by that second diagnosis. I am grateful for the mental health team I have and for the close friends I have, both whom have listened to my sorting and who have born witness to my pain.

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Thus, I know what it is to have difficult emotions connected to a physical condition. I have listened to countless people talk about their diabetes, so I know that many people hate diabetes. And hate having to live with it every day. Many hate the carb counting, the shot giving, the necessary attention to so many details. I’m not sure why I don’t experience it that way. About six years ago a friend gave me a t-shirt that says, “Diabetes Sucks.” I’ve never been able to wear that shirt, because that’s not how I feel about it.

Maybe part of the reason I don’t hate diabetes, or resent it, is because of what it was like growing up with my father who was diagnosed with type 1 when I was one year old. While I did develop a healthy fear of low blood sugars, I also watched how he managed day by day to live a good life, alongside diabetes. My mother studied nutrition and we rarely had sugary treats, soda or junk food. We ate salad and veggies every day and we had a garden.

When I was diagnosed at age 16, I didn’t have to go to the hospital and they didn’t put me on insulin until almost a month after my diagnosis. I had a chance to get used to the idea that I had diabetes. I went to Mexico when I was a senior in high school with the Spanish Club and my diabetes was no big deal. I learned early to take it in stride. It rarely interrupted my life.

It’s been almost 33 years since my diagnosis, and it’s not to say I never get sad about having diabetes. Once in a while it hits me that my diabetes may have contributed to me getting breast cancer, since that’s one of the few risk factors I have. And every once in a while I think about how much time I spend every day taking care of my diabetes. I’ve learned to breathe into it, and thank my body for doing so well, in spite of having diabetes. And I’m learning to do that in regard to having had cancer too.

One thing I have learned along the way is that every single human being has a challenge. Perhaps the point of being human is for our souls to have the opportunity to learn things. One good way to learn something is to have a challenge to deal with. Diabetes and cancer are certainly very good learning opportunities for my soul.

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8 thoughts on “What Brings Me Down, The Emotions of Diabetes”

  1. I loved this. Thank you so much for sharing! This is so similar to my feelings and have really struggled reading so many tough/sad/depressing/scary T1D posts this week. As a T1D for 20 years and mom to two 2year old T1D boys, I always try to see the positive and this was a post I really appreciated!!

    • Megan,
      You are a rock star in my book! I’m glad I could offer something more upbeat to you this week. I have no doubt that your success will be because you have such a positive outlook in the face of the big challenge of your own diabetes and that of your two young sons. Our mental approach to life makes a big difference.
      In solidarity,
      Mari

  2. Your blog post made me very thoughtful 🙂 I have from time to time had many of those negative emotions you mentioned. But I would also never wear a t-shirt that says Diabetes Sucks – for me it’s something about knowing it does suck but also not wanting to make Diabetes about the negatives. There are times that I feel hopeless and sad but there are other times when I feel hopeful and inspired – I prefer to focus on those 🙂

  3. Aww, that’s so nice that you had a great example in your dad. I personally think diabetes sucks but I haven’t had to go through anything like cancer before so you definitely put a good perspective on things. I love these two sentences: “Perhaps the point of being human is for our souls to have the opportunity to learn things. One good way to learn something is to have a challenge to deal with.” Very well said…thanks for sharing!

    • Kelley,
      Thanks for your wonderful comments. And yes, having cancer did frame diabetes in another light. But I learned about the “other” perspective from my friend Chris who is paraplegic and is an Olympic level sit skier. He’s the one who taught me how to cycle with endurance and patience with my diabetes craziness!! We all have so much we can and do learn from one another!!
      In wellness,
      Mari

  4. I know that it’s always bad form to say in relation to diabetes that “at least it’s not cancer.” I still think it, maybe because diabetes is the enemy I know and for me, cancer is much scarier. You’ve had to be a strong fighter for what you’ve faced and whenever I think of you, it’s your smile that comes to mind. The smile that shows you’ve done battle with another challenge whether it be a health issue or a stupidly-long bike ride. You’re a fighter for sure.

    • Thanks Laddie!!
      I didn’t ever intend to be a fighter, and generally, my approach is not to fight, but rather to accept and learn. On that note, I’m headed out now to ride my bike for a few hours. Which in my world is pure joy!!!
      Mari

  5. This is a comment from Team Novo Nordisk cyclist Becky Furuta. She posted this on my Facebook wall and I wanted to share it here! Thank you Becky for your amazing insights!

    I don’t hate diabetes either. Some days, it is more of an interruption than others…but most days, I just do what I do and hardly give it another thought. It has connected me to some wonderful people, and opened some unexpected doors for me. But really, it’s given me the gift of mindfulness. It’s connected me to my body in an unique and meaningful way that I think I might have missed without it. It’s an abstraction…a part of who I am….a piece now of my identity as I carry it into the world with TNN. I don’t like the rhetoric of diabetes being awful because, yes, as you say, we all have our challenges. No one gets through life without a struggle.

    Someone once asked me, after meeting my son, if I would rather have diabetes or autism. I said, “I don’t know. I’ve never experienced life with autism.” I think the key is not in focusing on the nature of the challenge, but in transforming that struggle into an opportunity.

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