In Which We Make Peace
Realizing the dream of "beating diabetes" may not come true.
By Kathryn Foss
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
December 2011 — I remember when I was first diagnosed five years ago. I was very vigilant about trying to make good decisions regarding diet and exercise. I started a blog, I started a food diary, I started ordering special meals on airplanes.
I remember the first time I called the airline to place my "special" order, I hung up the phone feeling so smug and grown up, so in control of my health and destiny. I remember when the time for the flight came, it seemed about 10 minutes after takeoff that the flight attendant came down the aisle bellowing, "Special meal! Special diabetic meal! Who had the meal?!" I shrunk down in my seat, mortified. I raised my hand and she plonked it down on my tray, the general food service still nearly an hour away. I didn't feel special anymore. I felt like a freak. Everyone watching me eat my special diabetic meal, my dry chicken and rice with no sauce. I resolved that I would never order a special meal again, but I still was determined to overcome.
Back then, I still had the type 2 beginner's hope of beating diabetes. I imagined myself — a 30-pounds lighter self — regaling friends at parties with my tale of diabetes victory. Of how I got diagnosed and made real life changes, lost that extra weight and was suddenly diabetes free! I would be a diabetes spokesperson, a true success story. I spent years measuring my success as either having diabetes or NOT having it. As long as I had it, I was a failure.
Where did that false sense of failure come from? Was it self-imposed? Was I a victim of a culture that tells us that only fat, lazy people get type 2 diabetes and that if only I would exercise and lose weight, I could make "my problem" go away? In hindsight, it was probably a little bit of both. This was coupled with the fact that the doctor who first diagnosed me spoke a bad mix of English and Norwegian, and told me that I got diabetes because I was insecure and just needed my husband to pay more attention to me. (What??? Really? Yes, that did happen!) However ignorant that doctor was, it lit a fire under me. It filled me with an intense desire to prove to him that I was NOT a woman with "insecurity-related diabetes." I was a woman who was capable of beating diabetes, and I would do it.
So, looking back with the wisdom of five yeas as a person with diabetes, I wonder where that fire has gone? I no longer have such a tumultuous relationship with my diabetes. I no longer obsess about "beating" diabetes. I no longer fantasize about having a doctor say to me, "Well, we've looked everywhere, but we just can't find any trace of diabetes. Congratulations!" It could be that I have learned more and gained maturity. That is something that happens naturally as time goes by. Yet something has fundamentally changed, the fire of conquest has gone, the intense need be a non-diabetic and "normal" again has faded.
I don't think that I have any less desire to be diabetes free; I guess the difference now is that I just don't blame myself for getting it. I lost the weight, I still have diabetes. It has just become a part of who I am. It feels nice to not have the struggle anymore. It feels nice to not have the shame anymore. But most importantly, it feels nice to know that diabetes is part of my life story, and that is just OK.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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