I think I can relate better to the demands of diabetes self-management now. I’ve been having a hard time with my multiple sclerosis (MS) recently. I’ve started going to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic. They do acupressure, herbs, exercises, and other methods that Western medicine doesn’t believe in. It seems to be helping.
But it’s a lot of work and a tremendous challenge. For various TCM reasons, they want me to give up the exercises I used to do—deep water aerobics and weight-lifting—and do lots of tai chi instead. But I loved getting in the water, and I liked having defined muscles. I also miss my pool and gym friends. Tai chi is hard for me and not nearly as much fun as water exercise.
They’ve also changed my diet radically. The TCM approach is almost opposite to what I have always believed. They say eat everything cooked, nothing raw, avoid nuts and whole grains. Eat lots of rice and well-stewed meats. To avoid constipation on this low-fiber diet, eat lots of prunes.
It’s also two hours each way by public transportation to get to the clinic and a two-hour treatment twice a week. So that’s two days of the week devoted almost exclusively to treatment. And they want me to rest more and work less, especially think less. I don’t mind resting, but I do love to use my mind. So that’s another challenge, as is paying for treatment. Insurance doesn’t cover it.
Changes in everything you eat and do. Sound anything like the challenges you deal with in managing diabetes?
But like I say, I seem to be getting better in a number of ways. Not dramatically, but some significant improvements in walking and some other things.
There’s no guarantee any of the benefits will continue, of course, and I’m really depressed about giving up the foods and activities I love. I told the therapists how I was feeling, and they said, “It’s up to you. You have to decide how much your life is worth to you. Do you want to get better, or keep sliding downhill?” Reminded me of some Western doctors I know.
So I have to decide: How much effort do I want to put into my health? What’s worth giving up, what’s worth doing and paying for? And why do I want to put out this effort? Why do I want to get well? What’s my motivation?
A life of resting, eating, taking herbs and doing tai chi doesn’t feel like much of a motivator to me. Some people might find it heavenly, I suppose, but I don’t want to just be taking up space in this world. I want to be doing something interesting, pleasurable, helpful to others.
Here are some things I advise other people looking for motivators. What are some things I could do if I got better that I can’t do now? What horrors are in store for me if I get worse that are worth some effort to avoid? What are good things in my life that are worth some effort to preserve or expand? How can I get more good things, even with illness and disability? What does my body need from me now? How can I make self-care itself a source of pleasure and good feelings?
I realize you can’t solve these problems for me. But I suspect some of you may have asked yourself similar “why bother?” kind of questions at times in your career of dealing with diabetes. What have you come up with? How do you keep yourself motivated, especially when things don’t seem to be going well? Who or what has helped you deal with motivational issues? Is your faith an important part of it?
Please share your experiences, ideas, and questions with us by commenting here.
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David Spero: David Spero has been a nurse for 40 years and has lived with multiple sclerosis for 30 years. He is the author of four books: The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002), Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis — Who Gets It, Who Profits, and How to Stop It (New Society 2006, Diabetes Heroes (Jim Healthy 2014), and The Inn by the Healing Path: Stories on the road to wellness (Smashwords 2015.) He writes for Diabetes Self-Management and Pain-Free Living (formerly Arthritis Self-Management) magazines. His website is www.davidsperorn.com. His blog is TheInnbytheHealingPath.com.
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