Diabetes isn’t simple, so a lot of us living with this condition often will need to reach out to other pancreatically-challenged folk for tips and moral support. That’s why we provide Ask D’Mine, our weekly advice column that offers honest straight talk about all sorts of D-related questions.
Weekly, type 2 reader Pete, from Florida, composed in with a question about missed insulin shots. But he also told us he had “been struggling with diabetes for five years” and that he was “attempting to discover a path that works.”
Now our advice columnist Wil Dubois — a longtime form 1 himself that works in a practice and has written multiple diabetes books — has some thoughts on that.
Wil@Ask D’Mine answers: As a writer, I naturally love words. I love to play them. Study them. Experiment with one word on the other. But words are more than just how we communicate our thoughts; our selection of words can also be a window to our own souls. About how your diabetes is viewed by you, your choice of phrases, Pete, tells me a bit. You have cast your diabetes. You are in a violent battle with. Your diabetes is some thing to wrestle with. To battle with. To battle.
Here’s what the dictionary says.
To make forceful or violent attempts to get free of constriction or restraint.
A violent or strong attempt to find free of restraint or withstand attack.
— Thus sayeth the dictionary —
Your diabetes is a curse. A foe. A plague, which is a disease’s title. In a nutshell, to use a lovely new term I just heard now, the bête noire of your life. Bête noire is French for “black beast,” and can be used to refer to something that, according to the dictionary, “is particularly disliked or to be averted, or the bane of one’s existence.” Well, that does appear to describe diabetes does not it?
Maybe I need to find a bête noire tattoo with a blue circle.
Or maybe not, because all of those words paint a picture of distress. They’re a language of shadows, darkness, and negativity. Not that there’s not a location for darkness in our world, but diabetes is. And I don’t believe eternal struggle is healthy. I believe you are having difficulty choosing on because you’ve chosen a hostile road, a path that works.
So the very first step on a path that will work has to be a change of mindset. You want to consider diabetes in a different way, because diabetes is a part and parcel of you currently, and self-hate is unhealthy. However if diabetes is not to function as adversary, your enemy, your bitter foe, if diabetes is not your antagonist, your bête noire–what should it be?
Clearly, diabetes won’t ever be your friend. I am sure we all could agree that’s out of the question. What are our options? What is different between foe and friend, between love and hate?
You’ll probably never grow to love her if you see your relationship with diabetes as an arranged marriage, but you can learn to live with her. Or diabetes could be viewed by you as nothing more than a travel companion, or someone from somewhere else that purchased the seat on a very long voyage. Maybe this person has manners or annoying habits, but there is no reason to turn him to an enemy.
I guess I don’t know anybody who is 100% thrilled he or she has diabetes but I know lots of people who have risen to the numerous challenges posed by having diabetes, plus a great number of those folks admit a silver lining to the dark cloud. Than previously they had it they tell me they are healthier with diabetes. Diabetes has compelled them to look after themselves and the end result is that the diabetes and the person with it ended up in a location that was more healthy. Individuals with diabetes belonging that they have gained as part of their tribe, and cite the feeling of community, family. Still others have found it gave them a purpose in life.
All of these are men and women that have picked an easier route. They have learned to live with it, rather than to fight it. And that’s made their path easier.
As for me, as I said in one of my older books, I see diabetes because a wild creature that I’m trapped in precisely the exact same room with. Sorta like Life of PI, the story about the guy who was stuck in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. [Disclaimer: I have never read the publication or seen the movie, so that I hope to hell the tiger does not wind up eating toaster, or my choice of analogy is really sucky.]
But think about diabetes. Like Pi, I chose a crazy tiger to symbolize diabetes (the analogy initially came to me following the Siegfried and Roy incident). A crazy animal can’t be hated by you for being exactly what it is, right? It is not evil. It is not my enemy. In fact, on some level I could–like watching tigers–revel in its fearsome beauty.
If we are careful, our distances can be shared by us with a wild creature. Be it our yard, our property. Apparently Siegfried and Roy did. However, make no mistake, a wild creature won’t ever be a pet. Living with a crazy creature demands respect that is continuous.
And that’s what I have seen as a path that is right for me. My diabetes is respected by me and I discover that it returns the favor. When it is respected by me, I am respected by it. But when I push against the limits, it swats at me across my face with a paw. Just to remind me it’s still a wild creature.
That’s my approach. I can’t say if it would do the job for you. But I guarantee you that the path of battle you are on now won’t work. It’ll wear you out. You want a new way. And as soon as you have that, it is going to guide you to a path that will let you coexist with diabetes.
So how can you select a new way of considering your diabetes? Well, if none of the proposals provided so far click for you, can I suggest a mental exercise? Because another way to think about this is to flip the equation.
If your diabetes were a person, how can you think you would be viewed by it? Would you enjoy you? Would it tolerate you? Or are you currently its bête noire?
I’d love visitors to chime in through comments and share how they believe their diabetes :
Just a part of yourself? Or boon in disguise?
If your diabetes were a person, what would it consider you?
I believe that you change your mindset about what your diabetes is–and your own relationship to it–you won’t need to fight any more. And you are going to be taking your first steps walking.
This is not a medical advice column. We’re PWDs freely and publicly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that understanding in the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are a portion of your prescription that is whole. You still require treatment the advice, and maintenance of a licensed medical professional.
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