Hey All — if you’ve got questions about life with diabetes, then you’ve come to the ideal place. That might be our weekly diabetes advice column, Request D’Mine, hosted by veteran type 1 and diabetes writer Wil Dubois.
Pass the cranberries! Thanksgiving Dinner is just around the corner. In today’s column, Wil tackles a question about navigating this feast experience with diabetes chucked to the mix. Thankfulness is surely a priority, but it can be challenging to muster to the pancreatically-challenged… here is what Wil has to say about that.
Rose, type 1 from Colorado, writes: Thanksgiving sucks! My life has been a struggle because I was diagnosed five decades back, I find nothing to be grateful for, and I despise having a vacation that rubs my nose in it. To make things worse, my husband insists that I prepare all his traditional favorites for him and the kids on Thanksgiving Day. He understands these high-carb foods are bad for me and are a no triumph: Either I will be mad watching everyone else things their faces, or I will cave in and make a wreck of my blood glucose. I don’t think that it’s fair to me. I’m the sick person. I just hate this holiday over all others. Can I be the only person who feels this way? What should you think, Wil?
Wil@Ask D’Mine replies: Well, I’m grateful that you wrote to share your feelings. So there is that. Are you really the only person who feels how you do? That would be statistically impossible. There are many people on the planet that there should be at least another person who shares your feelings.
But are you asking whether it is a frequent way to feel? Well… I would say yes and no. I think most people carry at least a small grudge from our diabetes, and the majority of us find Thanksgiving to be at least a small struggle–but I think the intensity of your anger is odd.
Obviously, your correspondence really deals with two separate, but related issues, doesn’t it? The issue of thankfulness, or a lack thereof, and the issue of what I will call family dynamics on vacations. Let’s start with the easy one first: Thankfulness.
OK. So you don’t have anything to be grateful for. How tragic. But is that really true? Your feelings are yours, of course. They are as real as the trees around the mountain and the stones in the road, and they are the windows from the world into your soul. I can’t change them but I’ve got a secret to share with you. This disease of ours plays funny tricks on us. Occasionally it fogs that window over, and prevents us from seeing as clearly as we ought to. I noticed that you said that you’re the sick one. That tells me a lot about how you see yourself, and your diabetes.
You do understand, do not you, that you can have diabetes and not be ill? There are plenty of us out in the world who have diabetesthat struggle with diabetes even–but aren’t “sick” We do not let ourselves to be made ill by diabetes. Because really, diabetes can’t make you ill, if you don’t let it. If you don’t choose to be victimized by it.
Being victimized by diabetes is a process that takes place within our minds and souls, not in our own bodies. Back when I worked in the healthcare trenches I saw a lot of people who let their illnesses define who they were. They have so wrapped up in their conditions–be it diabetes, or asthma, or arthritis, or PTSD, or heart disease–that they lost their souls to their healthcare. They ceased to function as people and became full-time sufferers. I worry that you may combine that gloomy zombie army.
If you would like to avoid that, consider starting daily by looking in the mirror and saying: “I am someone who appears to have diabetes. Boy, that sucks. But it does not define me.” Then go on to list the other items that define you. For me, I would say something like, “I’m a fantastic father, a fantastic son, a fantastic husband, and a fantastic buddy. I’m a writer and a teacher. I define me. My diabetes does not. It’s just along for the ride, and I am the driver.”
But back to things to be grateful for. Do I dare attempt to point out some things for you that may be worthy of thankfulness?
Do you think that your kids are better off if you were dead? Since if this were 100 decades back, there would be no insulin and you’d be six feet under on Halloween instead of sulking at the dinner table on Thanksgiving. I might be incorrect, but it sounds like something you might be grateful for, if you wanted it to be.
You’ve got a husband. Unless he’s a lying, cheating, abusive, dog-kicking bastard; that is probably a fantastic thing. Loneliness is a larger killer than diabetes. I might be incorrect, but it sounds like something you might be grateful for, if you wished to be.
You have kids. I will be first to admit that parenthood can be a larger challenge than melancholy, but it is the best damn job I ever had. I might be incorrect, but that sounds like something else you could be grateful for, if you wished to.
You are fighting with Thanksgiving because you reside in the USA. It’s a uniquely American holiday that started out with the locals being pleasant to the dinosaurs (in hindsight, the natives may have fared better had they let the pilgrims starve). So that means you’re not living in a cardboard shack in certain third-world nation. I might be incorrect, but it sounds like yet another you might be grateful for, if you were so inclined.
All right, enough of that. My point is that no matter how dark our lives appear, if we really sit down and analyze it, all people may find something to be grateful for. And that is one nice thing about this particular holiday. It forces most people to consider what we have that we ought to be grateful for.
Now let’s talk about that meal. Traditions are where the rubber meets the road in associations. You say your hubby insists on a traditional T-day meal. And yet, somehow, reading between the lines, something about how you composed suggests to me that he’s more about board with your diet the rest of the time. If that is true, you owe it to him for a fantastic game on the occasional vacation. Those foods, this manner of observing, may well act as a link to his own past. They might be bringing back happy memories of their own youth that he wishes to pass to his kids.
And talking of your kids, you’ve got a unique difficulty as an adult diagnosed person. You are asking your kids to change their traditions also, the ones you originally introduced them to, should you bond on the standard meal.
I’m pretty sure many will disagree with me on this, go ahead and flame away, however I presume there are some days (like Thanksgiving) where we PWDs just ought to go along with the crowd and muddle through the best we can.
My general survival advice to PWDs on T-day would be to try to partake lightly–instead of angrily sitting it out or moving on a carbohydrate bender–and bolus heavily. Hey, you’re a type 1. You’ve got great tools for a dietary indiscretion. You’ve got your fast-acting insulin along with your meter. You’re in a far better position than our type 2 cousins on pills, who find food vacations nearly unconquerable.
Hmmmm… I might be wrong, but that sounds like another thing you might be thankful for. If you wished to be.
This is not a medical advice column. We’re PWDs publicly and openly sharing the wisdom of our accumulated experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we’re not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are just a small portion of your whole prescription. You still need the expert guidance, treatment, and maintenance of a licensed medical professional.
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