I recently finished reading Amy Stockwell Mercer’s book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Diabetes. In Chapter 1, the author discusses a topic that I find critical to the well-being of people with diabetes: Developing a personal diabetes philosophy.
I’ve had type 1 diabetes for five-and-a-half years now, long enough to develop what I believe is my diabetes philosophy. Until reading Amy’s book, however, I never thought about my diabetic standards as a “philosophy,” nor did I put those standards in writing.
One evening while my husband and I were preparing to go to bed, I grabbed a pen and a sticky note from my nightstand and furiously scribbled down my diabetes philosophy. This is what I came up with:
1: Be in charge of yourself. This is the best lesson my mother ever taught me. I never knew as a child that learning to be responsible for my own actions would someday help me be mindful, purposeful, and determined in dealing with diabetes. This disease is tough, and although I sometimes feel that it’d be easier to ignore or deny, I’ve decided to bring it under control with insulin pump therapy, excellent nutrition, daily exercise, and frequent checkups with my doctors.
2: Demand excellent healthcare. You might remember my most popular article, “Dear Medical Health Professional,” which was a letter to medical professionals explaining the demands of my disease and asking them to be ever mindful of the burden I carry. I believe that medical professionals are powerful influences in the lives of people with diabetes, and I will not accept one who is not receptive, encouraging, and honest.
3: Make good choices, and you’ll reap rewards. I often remind my two-year-old daughter to make “good decisions” when I see the look in her eye that says, “Should I push my little sister over or not?” I have to remember to put first things first in order to live a full, healthy, happy life. This means giving priority to the routine that keeps my blood sugars stable: exercise, proper nutrition, quality sleep, and time to relax and rejuvenate.
4: Don’t wallow when things aren’t going well. I have many down days with my disease when my sugars are astronomically high, my head feels like a bowling ball, and I’m nauseous and exhausted. I also have days when one low blood sugar makes me tired for hours afterward. It’s a struggle at times to feel positive and healthy when my disease tries to tell me that I’m a failure, but I know that if I do the things I’m supposed to, I’ll be back on track and feeling better soon.
5: Be a role model. My disease is not just about me. When I found out that I had diabetes, my whole family, in a sense, became diabetic. All the sudden, we were reading nutrition labels and ingredients lists and measuring and weighing food, and we began to take exercise more seriously. Now that I’m the mother of two little girls, I understand that my every decision influences them in many ways, including with regard to their health. My two-year-old enjoys, in her words, “working on her fitness” by running in place and eating homemade, balanced meals. My friends often approach me with nutrition questions. I didn’t ask for diabetes, but I cannot imagine throwing away the opportunity to use my disease in a positive way to impact others.
How can you define your own diabetes philosophy? Write down ideas as they come to you. Think about what and who shaped you as a person with diabetes. What has worked well for you? What important lessons have you learned?
You might want to print a copy of your diabetes philosophy and place it somewhere visible, like the front of your refrigerator or beside your computer at work, to remind you to stay inspired. Use the life that you have been given, which includes diabetes, to propel yourself into a fantastic future: one of accountability, possibility, and hope.