Looking on the Bright Side
A little humor doesnt cure you, but it does keep the blues at bay
August 2007 — Diabetes is the constant hum in the back of my brain. Some days, the hum reverberates inside my head, resounding loudly with fears of the future and high blood sugars. Other days, however, that hum becomes a distant calliope and I barrel ahead with laughter and hope.
What makes the daily difference between cacophony and a soothing elevator musak? I remind myself of the good things about having diabetes. What could possibly be good about having this disease? Some of my reasons are sarcastic and funny, but others make me smile in the face of adversity, in the hopes that someday, diabetes will stop making noise in my head.
Here are my reasons why it's good to have diabetes:
- I am an expert in understanding my body and how everything around me affects it. I know that temperature, exercise, illness, stress, and even elation can trigger a rise – or drop- in my blood sugars. I can talk at length about the endocrine system, islet cells, and whether Lifesavers or Starburst work best for treating a hypoglycemic reaction. I act like an idiot savant when counting carbohydrates come up in conversation, spouting off the exact amount of grams in a fast-food lunch or cereal.
- Kids love me. I always have candy. And snacks. Lots of snacks. Nothing will shut a screaming kid up faster than pulling out something to eat – you become the most fascinating person on the planet.
- I get to meet specialists of all types: endocrinologists, retinal specialists, dieticians, exercise physiologists – and all they give me better ways to live my daily life with diabetes. They may not always tell me what I want to hear, but I would rather help control what I can than rail against what I can't control.
- Membership into an exclusive club came automatically with my diagnosis. One in every 400 to 600 children is a Type 1 diabetic. Type 2 diabetes is becoming alarmingly more prevalent in the U.S. population.
- When you see someone taking their blood sugar or when you recognize an insulin pump, you know you aren't alone. We even have a secret language that non-diabetics wouldn't understand, with phrases like: "Rage bolus", "bottoming out", "highs and lows". It's an instant bond – we share a daily struggle. We don't get a secret handshake or a decoder ring, but it's a club nonetheless – one that I am sure no one wanted to join.
- I impact the lives of others – sometimes to a greater extent than I wish. I have intimate knowledge of a disease that afflicts almost 21 million people in the United States – and indirectly impacts millions more. When someone who knows I have diabetes asks me about symptoms – and I share knowledge with them, I recognize that I may have helped someone learn about - and cope with - diabetes.
- Wonderful friendships have blossomed because I am diabetic – and our conversations do not center on diabetes. We talk about our hopes and dreams and daily life – and we understand when the other person says: "I had to have that piece of cheesecake, even though I was a little high." We know about the unspoken wishes and the heartfelt loss of innocence. Even if we diabetes didn't introduce us, I would want these people to be in my life.
- Las Vegas will never be enticing to me, because eating a pizza and getting my blood sugars to stay within range is like winning a slot machine jackpot. I know the odds – and sometimes I am just willing to gamble!
- I've developed an insatiable interest in medical technology. A new gadget is out on the market that will help me manage my diabetes? Let me at it! I was one of the first to buy the Glucowatch when it came out on the market – and while it gave me sporadic readings of my blood sugars through my skin, it also gave me burns on my arms. Still, with new technology spilling out into the diabetic marketplace, I'm confident that simpler, easier (and less painful) ways will lead us to a true "closed loop" system – if they don't find an outright cure. (For those unfamiliar with the closed loop system, it's a concept that uses technology to monitor blood sugars and administer insulin without manual intervention. We still have a long way to go.)
- I contribute heavily to the economy through the purchase of medical supplies that keep me alive. I help keep pharmaceutical companies afloat and robust! Statistics in 2002 announced that the direct and indirect cost of diabetes was $132 billion dollars. That year, it was estimated that each per capita annual cost for a diabetic was $13,243 – a non-diabetic's cost was $2,560. Honestly, I wouldn't know what to do with all that extra money I could have saved by not being a diabetic, but I sure would like to try and find out!
It's effortless to become overwhelmed with the anger and despair that comes with living with a chronic illness. It's harder to find the good in having diabetes, but over the years, that's what I've done. Granted, some days, no amount of joking or "looking on the bright side" will chase the gloom away for good, but if I can remember that there are positive reasons for having this disease, it's easier to trudge through – with tasty snacks and candy treats available at all times.
dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.
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