The first time I encountered diabetes was when one of my teenage classmates had it. I can remember asking her what the diabetic alert bracelet she wore was for and why she couldn’t eat sugar. I never once saw her have a hypo, she never complained and to me she seemed completely normal.
Now that I live with type 1 diabetes I get how naïve I was and how amazing she was. She woke up every day and dealt with so many calculations, lows and highs. She was a super hero.
When I was first diagnosed as pre-diabetic I thought I had type 2 diabetes. To me that meant I had every chance of reversing my diagnosis and the opportunity to continue living my life as I saw fit. Sure I’d have to eat a low glycemic diet and exercise more but that was easy. I’d been disciplined my whole life. It didn’t occur to me that because I didn’t fit the typical profile for a type 2 diabetic, something was awry.
It didn’t take long for things to come unhinged. About 6 months after my diagnosis the doctor let me know it was an autoimmune condition. “Your pancreas isn’t going to miraculously start producing insulin,” the doctor stressed, “eventually you’ll be on medication.” I can remember sitting in that office and feeling like I was being handed a death sentence. I was angry, confused and convinced myself he was wrong.
I didn’t want to admit that I had the same diabetes my childhood friend had. That kind of diabetes happens to kids, not too adults in their 40’s. That’s the bad kind.
Recently at a wedding I was caught in the act of eating my home cooked quiche and asked why I’d brought my own food. “I have diabetes,” I shared.
“Is that because you ate too much candy as a kid?”.
“No, sugar does not cause this kind of diabetes,” I replied, It’s autoimmune, my pancreas doesn’t produce insulin I have to control my carbs, inject or die!”
A bit dramatic I know, but I wanted to drive the point home.
I admit at times I find myself being envious of people who live with type 2. Somehow I imagine they must struggle less. But in reality I am sure they deal with as much stress as a type 1 diabetic. It just has different moods and flavours.
It’s not my fault that fate has lumped me with this condition. And at times I feel like such a failure. I can’t predict how each injection will be absorbed, how much is the right amount to take for travel, the weather or that lunch out with friends.
As a young yoga teacher, when working with pregnant woman, I’d get them into a posture and encourage them to breathe through the intensity explaining that this was what childbirth was like. After having my own child, I felt like such a fraud. Nothing can prepare you for childbirth, certainly not a prenatal yoga class!
And that’s exactly how I feel about living with diabetes. No matter how much I quizzed my type 1 friend, read about it or watched stuff on YouTube nothing could prepare me for what’s happening now as my beta cells slowly call it quits.
The one thing that has helped, besides my awesome yoga practice, is keeping my sense of humour. As I troll Facebook groups and connect with other type 1’s those clever type 1 memes get me going!
Here’s one of my favorites
Something that my yoga teacher used to say, is that the joy is felt in the space after the laughter ends. With regards to keeping it upbeat in the face of the daily diabetes challenges his words certainly ring true for me. No matter what goes on joy, stillness, peace, love, and all that good stuff are ever available.
That’s one thing having “the bad kind” can’t undo!