Wink at Diabetes

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I’m late getting my blog entry in this week, thanks to a bug that took me down with, among other things, a fever that would have made anything I wrote pretty incoherent. Being a bit late, I was able to glimpse the Diabetes Self Management blog page before I started writing. And when I did, I saw the very, very sad news of Jan Chait passing away.

Though I never met Jan in person, there is one thing that always seemed to come through so clearly in her writing — diabetes was never going to overpower her. Reading through the comments, I saw so many people appreciating the humor, the wit, and the empathy she expressed in her writing. Diabetes is a very serious condition, one that can cause great suffering in our lives, and, ultimately, something that can take our lives. But we still are the ones who get to define what it MEANS in our lives, and I think Jan, through her writing, gave us a wonderful example to follow.

So, for today’s blog entry, I want to explore that idea a little. I would feel presumptuous writing about Jan too directly — that should be reserved for her friends and family. But I do want to give my deepest condolences to her loved ones, and say thank you to her for all the good she gave the world through her writings. She made the world a better place for many, many people. And I want readers to keep Jan in mind as we explore this idea, because I can think of no better example for how to do it RIGHT than Jan Chait.

Nothing is either good or bad
Shakespeare wrote “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” I believe I may have even used this quote in a previous entry, but after almost two years I’m sure there’s bound to a little repetition in a weekly blog. In any event, I love this quote. It’s telling us, in essence, that WE define our world. It’s not suggesting that we can CONTROL our world, but that we define it.

Pain happens. Pleasure happens. Sorrow happens. Joy happens. All of our emotions happen. But how we define the events and themes in our lives is up to us. Diabetes also happens. None of us would ask for it, and we’re all stuck with it. We can control it to an extent. But sometimes, things go haywire. My blood sugars this week have been all over the map, at first seemingly for no reason. Then when the fever and illness hit, it made sense. The point is, we can control the physical part of this disease SOME of the time, or even MOST of the time, but not all of the time.

But even when the physical side of this disease is misbehaving, we can follow the example of people like Jan. We can relate to it with humor. We can relate to it as a teacher, albeit an unpleasant one. We can experience the pain without BECOMING the pain, or letting the pain define us. And in so doing, we maintain our control over our identity. We don’t let ourselves get overtaken by diabetes.

Wink at it
Over the years, I’ve developed my own little set of coping strategies for dealing with diabetes and the stress that can accompany it. I meditate (not often enough…), I play music, and I occasionally use a journal. But one of my favorites has always been to imagine myself winking at diabetes.

I know this sounds childish, but I think there’s some merit. When my blood sugar isn’t responding normally, or when I’m feeling a sense of victimhood, I’ll picture diabetes in my head — usually as a kind of Muppet-like monster — and I’ll just give it a wink.

I do this because it takes the power away from diabetes, it makes me laugh a bit, and it reminds me that this thing, even though it’s with me all of the time and demands a lot of my attention, is NOT me. And it reminds me that I get to relate to this thing however I choose to. I can’t do anything about the physical ups and downs, but I can always manage how I’m relating to it. If you want to see what this looks like, go to the archives on this site, and read Jan’s blog entries. You’ll hear a woman who knew how to relate to this disease on her terms.

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