After fifteen years with Type 2 diabetes, I sometimes feel fenced away from “normal” people who do not have to worry about their blood sugar levels and three-month visits to a doctor.
It surprises me when friends say they could never prick their own finger or give themselves a shot. Those words remind me that I am different.
Things I do every day without thinking about it have changed how I look at life. Being around people who do not have diabetes makes it clear how hard it is for them to understand what it means to live with this condition.
When I see the reactions of others to diabetes and its complications, it makes me want to feel sorry for myself. In such moments, it helps to remember that those people also have things they deal with every day.
One of them has crippling fibromyalgia. Another gets blinding migraines several times a month. A grandniece will never have the mental ability to take care of herself. Her parents are faced with gut-wrenching decisions all the time, and it gets harder as she gets older.
The truth is, everyone has tough things they are learning to live with. I am the only one in my house with diabetes, but I am not the only one who struggles to find a reason to feel happy or hopeful as each new day begins.
A few weeks ago I watched a documentary about a teenage girl who was born without eyes. She also has a hole in her face where her nose should be.
As she walked down the sidewalk tapping her white cane, the first thing you noticed was the huge smile on her face. It was amazing. How could a person with her difficulties be so happy all the time? That happiness was what made the story.
If, like me, you get tunnel vision about Type 2 diabetes, it helps to see what others are going through and how they cope. Not only cope, but have joy.
If you feel like your little boat is getting swamped while others are sailing along without a care, look again. Some of those people are choosing to be happy even though things have happened that they would never have chosen.
You can prove to yourself that it is possible to be happy, to have joy and hope when your life does not turn out as you planned.
It will break down the walls of self-pity and widen your vision if you see the stories of people who live with disability. It gives some perspective.
And here is another suggestion.
Join a diabetes support group, online or in person. It can help you feel less isolated with Type 2 diabetes. Some of those people have just been diagnosed and need to hear how you cope. You can help them by sharing your mistakes, and it will make you feel better too.
It is sometimes hard to feel hope with a chronic condition. If your world is closing in, there is another way to stop it from happening. Go where people are learning something new. It opens you up to new possibilities.
Don’t use the excuse that you are too old. College classes are discounted and even free for people over 65. Craft stores like Michael’s teach how-to classes. Places like Home Depot have classes too, where you learn do-it-yourself skills.
There are dance classes and aerobics classes and walking clubs and community choirs. Your options are only limited by your imagination.
Being around people who are learning is great for diabetes. It stops the tunnel vision that happens when we live with a chronic condition. I have found joy in learning about Type 2 diabetes and sharing that knowledge through my website.
There are always new things to discover, and it is satisfying to hear from another person with Type 2 who was encouraged by what I have learned from my own mistakes.
Choosing to see how others live and cope and learn will keep us out of self-pity and depression. We need to be involved in lives beyond just our own. I hope you are encouraged to do this, because you have something to give that no one else can.