Living with Type 2 diabetes means we have to make decisions every day to do the things we have been told to do. The “do this, don’t do that” list is long.
After a few years we just get tired of it all. Chronic stress from a condition like diabetes builds up until it seems to be more than we can bear. The past holiday season was one of those times for me.
My perspective sometimes narrows until diabetes becomes my whole life. When that happens, I have to deal with it or lose all desire to take care of myself.
Winter can close in on me, making me feel trapped, and this past month it happened again. What was worse, it was time for gift giving, but I knew what I wanted the most could not be given to me by any human being.
The modern Christmas hype seems to encourage expectations that something wonderful might happen. When it does not, I have to look at things differently or fall into self-pity.
There are so many things I fail to see when I focus on wishing I did not have diabetes.
I need to balance my wishes and dreams with gratitude. Hope looks to the future, while gratitude focuses on the past and present.
For one thing, I am grateful to be surrounded by young children who let me share their joys and sorrows. Their simple faith and simple needs, even their disappointments, help me keep perspective.
Last week I read about a young child who was over the moon because she was getting prosthetic feet, and I began to cry. What are my problems compared with that? I have feet.
There are so many things we can find to be grateful about after we get a glimpse into other lives. A friend my age lost his wife suddenly a few months ago.
He said he lives with that pain the same way he lives with the struggles of chronic knee pain. He keeps going. He focuses on the people in his life and in his ministry. The pain never goes away, but it does not stop him.
He speaks of being grateful for the chance to do things for others. It keeps him moving forward, looking away from himself. To me that is a key for fighting burnout.
Sometimes the people around me can make life harder, but most of the time they are a chance to love, to get out of myself. So I am grateful for them — all of them.
Looking forward is another way I fight burnout. Hope is a powerful enemy against depression. Some experts say everyone with diabetes will have bouts of depression.
Having had Type 2 diabetes for more than 15 years, I have fought depression several times. One of the things that brings me out of it is hope.
I do not mean the hope for a cure, although that is always possible. Many health professionals believe it will happen someday.
The hope that helps me lies in a particular dream I have been working on. It has nothing to do with diabetes, so it lifts me out of tunnel vision and into the future.
Moving toward the dream of finishing a series of books for preteens gets me out of bed. It helps me forget the shame and guilt that try to shroud those of us with Type 2 diabetes.
Any creative outlet pulls us forward into the future. So I encourage you to find one for yourself. Dust off an old dream and pursue it.
It is not too late to try something new, either. People have taken up dancing, art, or writing late in life. So go ahead.
Living and breathing are not enough by themselves, not for me. I need purpose, a reason to keep fighting the chronic problems that come along with Type 2 diabetes.
The people around us cannot fight for us, no matter how much they care. We need to find reasons to keep on top of our diabetes — our blood sugar levels, our feet and eyes, our medicines, and all the other things on our lists.
I hope you find those reasons for your sake and for the sake of those who love you.
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