The opinions presented in this blog post are those of the author and may not represent the opinions of Ascensia Diabetes Care. Ascensia have paid Chris Ruden an honorarium for his services as a contributor to this blog.
As my sugar creeps down, I’m scouring the pantry for a low blood sugar snack trying to decide if I want juice or the ever-so-standard, dusty glucose tabs.
Luckily because of the alerts on my CGM, the shakes and the sweats are avoided…this time.
Moments like these remind me that diabetes really is a minute-by-minute condition that I [read: we] never asked for. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed in the moment and feel like life is all about diabetes.
But I’m writing this because my life changed for the better when I learned how to live with diabetes…not for diabetes. I went from struggling with my health conditions to building a career that allows me to help other people just like me. I speak at diabetes events all around the globe, appeared on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s hit TV show “Titan Games”, and have been featured in publications like People Magazine, Netflix, The Today Show and more.
These 3 practices I’m sharing helped me improve my quality of life and, in turn, my diabetes management. So in sharing these with you, I hope it might help you to do something similar.
My first few years of having diabetes, I did everything but accept my reality. I pretended like it didn’t exist. I resisted it. I fought it. I cursed it. I did everything but accept that this condition is now a part of me. Instead, I felt like it would become my identity.
I was born with a physical disability and didn't get diagnosed with diabetes until age 19. I had always struggled to accept my physical condition, but diabetes was the catalyst for me to stop fighting the life I had and start improving it instead.
I figured out that desiring a different reality makes reality a lot harder, and accepting reality (or diabetes, in this instance) allowed me to put my energy towards managing my condition without exhausting me from enjoying the rest of my life.
I learned to accept that I need to check my sugar multiple times a day.
I learned to accept that I have to take insulin to keep my blood sugars in check.
I learned to accept that diabetes management is key to living a quality life.
Resisting my condition only prevented me from actually managing my condition and left me with little energy for my friends, family, and life outside of diabetes.
Diabetes might not get extremely easy when you accept it, but I can promise that it gets harder when you don’t.
Focusing on what you can control
With a disease like diabetes and all its ups and downs, it’s easy to be fearful and overthink about all the potential possibilities and hardships.
My first thoughts with diabetes were overwhelming:
What will the rest of my life look like?
Will things ever calm down?
Will I have complications?
Will this stop me from enjoying my life?
In 10 years, what kind of life will I have because of diabetes?
I was overthinking everything, and that really hindered my ability to enjoy anything because I was so consumed by the “what ifs” of life with diabetes
Once I learned to ground myself in focusing on what I can control (treating sugars, consulting with my doctors, learning more about diabetes, etc.), I lessened my spiraling thoughts that did nothing to help me or my sugars.
No one ever said “stressing about something that hasn’t happened really helped me”. Learning to not suffer in advance really improved my quality of life.
While I know it’s very hard to rewire thinking patterns because diabetes can be scary, it’s a skill that needs to be practiced and developed over time.
Easier said than done? Yes, but also better done than said.
For example, when a sugar is out of whack, do what you can to correct it and learn from it, rather than spiraling out of control with fear of the future possibilities.
We can always improve.
We can always learn.
We can always do something to help.
Just ask yourself: “Is what I’m doing or how I’m handling this situation helping me or hurting me?”
The day I found diabetes support groups on social media was the day I started learning more about my condition and stopped feeling so alone. It was wild to me that so many others knew what it felt like to have these ups and downs, and I even learned about technology that I’ve never heard of before (like the Eversense® CGM that I now wear).
I did a simple search on Facebook and found so many diabetes-related groups around fitness/general life. I joined and immediately connected with people just like me. I found myself making amazing friends 1000s of miles away who just get me.
I truly learned so much from these groups, but more importantly, I felt seen and understood. In a strange way, I felt like I had more control of my life simply by having community support.
Support can come from social media, in-person groups and events, books or anything that you connect with others in your community.
Do a search on social media:
- Facebook groups
- Diabetes related hashtags (ex: #t1dlookslikeme, #type1life #eversensecgm, etc.)
These 3 strategies helped me go from living for my diabetes to living with my diabetes.
I am not my disease.
I am not my blood sugars.
I am not just a diabetic.
I am me… and I just happen to have diabetes.