It's the season. The season where people eat too much, drink too much, and get together with their friends and loved ones. We often reflect on the year and talk about what was good, and how to improve on what was bad. We post pictures on social media of our kids having a wonderful time decorating cookies, our holiday celebrations, our animals dressed up as reindeer and wearing funny costumes, and hilarious memes about what the holiday season REALLY means. It can be warm and fun, stressful and scary, hopeful and joyous, or exciting and great expectations. Sometimes, it's all of these.
There's been a lot of talk lately about how people get offended on everything on the internet. There is always someone who you can offend by anything you post. I'm not offended. I'm not angry. I'm thoughtful and curious, though. I've seen this meme a few times in the past couple of days, posted by various friends:
Again, I'm not offended. Let me tell you why. Before July of 2011, I knew NOTHING about diabetes. I thought I did. But, I didn't. I thought it was about overeating, lack of exercise, poking your finger, giving yourself shots, and not being able to eat sweets. Man, it would be cool if this was true. I wish it was. I know what you're thinking: “It's not cancer. You can get through this and manage and take care of yourself and CONTROL it. It won't kill you.” Again, man, it would be cool if this was true.
Holidays are the hardest time a year for me. Really, it goes much deeper than diabetes. But, that's for private discussion. Every year, I get together with my loved ones and we overeat and over laugh (if there is such a thing) and reflect on the year. Every year, we sit down at the table and EVERYONE digs in. Everyone, but me. I sit and I look at the table and decide what is worth the insulin and what is not. I don't care if I use more for a holiday meal than I would for a weekday breakfast. After I calculate, I check my blood sugar (sometimes my diabadass comes out and I do both at the same time.) Then, I insert the carbs I'm about to put in my body. It's never right. I usually go back for seconds, or decide I am too full and cannot finish. So inevitably, I go high or low. I feel like crap about an hour after eating. It's okay, because it's only one season. I don't get mad at the people not waiting for me to do all these things, because, like me before July 2011, they have no idea. I'm seated at their table and they don't think about it, because they don't have to. AND THAT'S OKAY.
Holidays are hard because I go through more insulin and then treat and then sleep and then wake up. But there's a chance it could go bad EVERY YEAR. I could die in my sleep, or go into diabetic-ketoacidosis. I could do the same thing every day and use restraint at meal times and my diabetes could still decide what it wants to do. But, because it's not a beast that can be tamed, and it's a crazy stressful time of year, I don't get to decide. I didn't choose diabetes: it chose me. While I love the people and opportunities I have had, it's still not easy, especially this time of year.
As for a time of reflection. This year, I joined advocacy like I never have. I went to MasterLab 2015 in July, courtesy of Medtronic Diabetes. There, I met the amazing Kristen Ewing and Phyllis Kaplan and MY GOD SO MANY OTHERS. In October, I joined The Betes Organization and became a patient ambassador. We are working on an AMAZING project to educate health professionals on the stigma of Mental Health and how long term diseases (much like Diabetes) often go hand in hand with psychological problems. Look for more, soon, although you have already seen some from me. I had knee surgery in March and maintained great blood glucose levels through it all, completed physical therapy with a gold star, and have slowly been able to start exercising again, which is an amazing feeling. My A1C is great according to my doctor and good for me-although (I know many of you don't know this) I am a perfectionist.
So why did I bring up the meme, and the holiday table, and the reflection? Because I want you to know that diabetes isn't coming for you because you had too many holiday get togethers with food. Diabetes isn't coming for you because you made poor decisions. If Diabetes decides to come for you, it will. There are many types of Diabetes, but it doesn't matter. We are fighting something together. And none of us did it to ourselves. We couldn't decide to get it or to avoid it. And it would be mixed emotions for all of us if we never got it because we would not have the knowledge, or the friends, or the experiences, or the fight to live without it. But life would be a lot less risky and lot less expensive if we didn't, that's for sure.
Here's what I am asking you:
Part 1: please stop posting these memes. Whether it's the one about overindulging like I posted before or about a mathematical problem with candy bars, where the main subject ends up with diabetes in the end, or it's Wilford Brimley and his crazy mustache saying I'm going to give you diabeetus, just don't.
Part 2: If you personally know a diabetic, no matter the type: give them a hug and say you're proud of them. Wait until they test and bolus before you eat, even if you're the only one at the table that does. Smile at them and know they are thriving, even if it is the hardest time of the year. They need that support from you. They can eat what they want this time and THEY SHOULD. They are enjoying themselves, much like you are. Know this before you ask the if they should eat that.
Part 3: If you want education, or just have a simple question, I am always here. Please feel free. If I cannot answer it, I am blessed to know a team of professional doctors and long term, well-educated, diabetics that are always ready to listen and help.
I refuse to be offended any more about this. It doesn't do me any good, and it doesn't do you any good. The only thing I can do is try and help spread awareness and education. That's what 2015 was about for me. And it can only get better from here.
Happy Holidays. And a VERY MERRY NEW YEAR.
I was not paid to write this article or promote any companies. I was not approached or encouraged to put these words on the internet. All thoughts are my own. And, for that, I'm proud.