How Important is Diabetes to You?

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It’s a time of year for reflection, so here are some possible questions. How big a part does diabetes play in your life? Is managing it your top priority? Is “person with diabetes” an important part of your identity?

For me, I think about my multiple sclerosis a lot. That might be because I notice the symptoms every time I move my body or do anything. But it might also be because I don’t have many other problems to take my attention.

People with diabetes tend to have a lot of other problems and distractions. In poor communities, with lots of Type 2, people are stressed about threats of being evicted, foreclosed, unemployed, or being able to buy food. They may be dealing with alcohol, cigarettes, or drug abuse, crime and family violence, kids getting in trouble, depression, and pain. If you asked them where diabetes ranked on their list of problems, the average might be seventh or eighth.

Most of us don’t have it quite that hard. But do you ever notice life getting in the way of your diabetes care? Do you think you are ranking diabetes high enough on your priority list? Or do you sometimes want to put diabetes on hold, to focus on other things, maybe give it a lower priority, especially at holiday season?

Some people obsess about their numbers; others won’t admit to having diabetes at all. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong about this. You can only do what is right for you; which may not be what your doctor thinks is right.

A related issue is: How big a part of your identity is diabetes? For me, having a chronic illness is a major part of how I think of myself and present myself. Maybe that’s not a good example, because writing and speaking about chronic illness is my career. And people can take one look at me and see there’s something wrong, so I can’t hide it.

But these identity questions affect anyone with an illness like diabetes. Are you a healthy person who happens to have diabetes? A diabetic who is managing well? When you meet someone for the first time, how soon do you tell them about diabetes, if ever? Some people think of others with diabetes as their community; others may not have a single friend with diabetes, or want one. Some people really need their diabetes support groups; others want nothing to do with them.

Another issue is diabetes’ effects on your plans for the future. If your health is not going well, it might be hard to imagine even having a future, at least one worth living. While some people may go on making big plans and dreams, others benefit from scaling back their futures to pay more attention to the present. A lot of spiritual teachers would say that’s a good change for anyone to make. Perhaps that’s one of the benefits of having diabetes, making us focus on today.

I’m sure there are other, subtler ways illness influences lives, and the way we feel about our lives. Some of these may be positive, while others can be crippling. I hope they are mostly positive for you.

And have a wonderful Christmas — hope the season brings us all love, the best medicine. If you haven’t checked out my blog Reasons to Live, this story might be a good place to start.

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