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When Things Get Complicated
Complications are a crappy part of this disease. So many people will tell you that if you keep good control, you won’t end up with major complications. If you take care of yourself, you won’t be a statistic. Today, I’m tired of hearing that. A very dear friend in the diabetes online community was recently diagnosed with a type 1 diabetes complication after 26 years with this disease. This friend doesn’t let things go and has struggled through the highs and lows of diabetes to maintain control (whatever that may be). She didn’t do this to herself and it wasn’t through lack of trying.
A couple of weeks ago, Ross and I were talking about diabetes. Given everything that came to light with Marvin, I’m a bit nervous about the whole type 1 diabetes and health conditions thing. I don’t want to wake up one day and be a burden or “too much.” I want to be with someone who says “This is a big deal, but it’s not. We got this.” I need someone who is strong enough to handle whatever comes our way and who is positive enough to realize this is not the end of the world. That's exactly how I feel today.
As Ross and I talked, I started to go onto a dark emotional path. I started talking about complications and what that might mean and somehow it ended up somewhere I didn’t intend it to go. But the fact is, this is life. This is life with diabetes. There are risks and conditions and the unexpected. It is a possibility that I will end up with complications. I’ve had type 1 diabetes for over 20 years now and each year I go without complications, I feel a sigh of relief escape me. Each year creates a new twinge of fear as I wonder if my tired eyes are really something else or if the tingling in my hands means more than just poor circulation. There is always fear. That doesn’t go away and that is life.
Life isn’t easy and it isn’t fair. My own story is proof of that. But it doesn’t mean that I’m not blessed to be here and excited to keep living every day. At this moment, I am more appreciative of my present than normal. I want to cling to this moment and to this happiness and peace just a little longer. I also want to yell and scream, but that’s another emotion altogether.
The thing with type 1 diabetes is that complications happen. We all need to talk about it before, during, and after. If we hide it and push it under the rug, it makes those that deal with the complications wonder if they are the only ones. It creates a stigma that is incredibly unfair and undeserved. We all fight hard with this disease, some of us are luckier than others. My control is not perfect and I know that every high and low and swing between puts me at risk for neuropathy, retinopathy, kidney issues, heart attack, stroke, and so much more. I know this and I fight with as much as I can to get my diabetes under control. But sometimes it doesn’t happen and sometimes it’s just too much to bear. We can’t stop talking about it in those moments though.
I refuse, as always, to sweep diabetes or its complicated nature under the rug. I refuse to shine the happy light constantly when this disease can be dark and twisted. I refuse to say the glass is half full always when sometimes it’s just empty. I will stand up for how this disease makes all of us feel and I will stand up for how unfair this life can be. That doesn’t mean we get to wallow in our grief for very long, but it does mean that we deserve a few moments of despair before we pick ourselves up again and move on. It also means that we deserve a community, a family, a support system who stands by us no matter if we have complications or not. It means we deserve happiness in spite of diabetes.
Michelle Kowalski, a writer, editor and photography hobbiest living in Phoenix, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in February 2005. In January 2008, as part of her quest to start on an insulin pump, Michelle learned that she actually has type 1 diabetes. (Read More)
Nicole Purcell lists having type 1 diabetes last when she's asked to provide information about herself - because that's where it belongs. (Read More)