On this day two years ago, I was admitted to the hospital where I spend the first night of my diabetes journey, alone, scared and sick, hooked up to a variety of drips, including my new life-saving drug, insulin. It was the second most horrible night of my life.
Tonight, two years on, I will settle down in my own bed, my husband beside me, warm, cosy, and hooked up to my new insulin pump, which has been attached to me (apart from showering) 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for just over 5 weeks now.
From one drip to another; it’s like full circle.
But that circle has never really been squared. I’ve struggled these past two years with the physical and mental effects of my Type One diabetes diagnosis.
However, rather than dwell on the diagnosis and its hard path, I wanted my ‘annibetes’ to be positive. Marking your ‘diaversary’ isn’t a celebration of having diabetes but instead a celebration of being alive, of having not killed yourself with one of your many daily decisions, and of living in the face of and in spite of a relentless condition.
So to square my circle – here are my corners. Just a few of the things that have kept me sane or I’ve learned in the past two years since I lay in that bed, aged 38 years old, scared and sick.
You only have one body – use it wisely. I’d often thought about slowing down, meditating, doing yoga, or more physical exercise, like running, perhaps cutting down excesses like wine, cake or crisps. Really, I was a nightmare beside a bowl of crisps and hummus at a party. And run? Pah, that was for, well, people who were fit. I never took care of my body, or showed it the respect it deserved, never considered that it might need nurtured in order to keep standing. Would having done so stopped an avalanche of auto immune conditions? That I can’t say. But what I do know is that it shouldn’t take a life changing diagnosis to change habits, take stock, or go buy a pair of trainers. Diabetes or no diabetes, my body needs looked after, nurtured, walked, fed good food, taken care of, slept enough, watered enough, or it’ll wither. So does yours. Make that change today.
Your mental health is as important as your physical health. While we’ve come a fair way on the issue of mental health it remains a taboo. Personally I reckon this is because we’re all keen in this ultra-filtered society to permanently keep our mask on and scared if we take it off we’ll be somewhat diminished, imperfect. You’re not smaller for talking about how you feel, whether that’s about a health condition that’s getting you down, or the anxious feeling you’ve started getting, or god forbid, the panic attacks that started. We are all likely to suffer at times in our lives from some form of instability in our heads. We’re not robots, or superheroes, or Instagramed-perfection! Talk about it, whether that is to a partner, your friend, or a counsellor.
The most important thing is hope. Lying in that bed I had no hope. I had not a clue what was happening nor what was coming. In the days and months that followed, with blood sugars all over the place and repeated, constant infections, and reeling from being told my world would never be the same, I continued to have no hope. It was my husband who eventually told me that without hope there was no point. We have nothing to aim for, to strive for, to live for. These needn’t be big hopes, they can be small. We all strive for happiness from external factors, waiting for it to come with the next job, the next this, the end of that. Find happiness in the small things, find it where you can, find it in yourself, in hope for the present and the future. Life is too short.
Surround yourself with those who love you and accept you as you are. Having love, like hope, is the most powerful drug. I’ve lost friends after my diagnosis and I’ve gained others I never knew could give so much. They and my family have been rallied round when I was at my lowest. We need to know we can lean on people and that we are accepted as who we are, even if that is at times not happy, or a bit blue, or maybe just quiet. I’m not very good at it but I’m learning. We don’t all have to be strong all the time.
Meditate and be mindful. If there is one thing you should start doing today it’s this. Download Headspace and start. If you won’t do that, then turn your phone off, be, stare, watch the clouds, go for a walk. Be present with your life, it’s the only one you have. Social media isn’t life; it’s an illusion of life. Live yours.
PS. Yes, I know. That’s five corners. I’m squaring my Pentagon.
PPS. Specifically relating to diabetes, go find the #gbdoc on Twitter, or some of the many Facebook groups, or your local Diabetes UK group. Knowing I was not alone was the single most helpful thing. Finding people who understood, who could help, and who just ‘knew’ what a juggle each day was. That was a lifesaver.