Living well with diabetes. That’s how I like people to think of me. And how I like to think of myself.

But there are occasions – rarely, although sometimes more frequent – where I do feel living with a life-long health condition that is there every minute of every day start to creep over me and a sense of dread and worry plant themselves at the back of my mind. For me, this is part of diabetes burnout. It’s a feeling of being overwhelmed by what diabetes is right now but even more, what diabetes could be in the future. How will my faulty pancreas and my autoimmune problems play out in my life?

And is there any point worrying? At the moment, things seem to be tracking along well. Annual complications screenings tell me that I am doing okay and I’ve read some research that shows people with diabetes are living longer and longer.

So why the dread and anxiety and is there any point? And even more, is it possible to change the way that we think about diabetes?

When I was first diagnosed, the smell of insulin would fill me with dismay. The very scent would remind me of the horrid, scary photos the doctor showed me within the hours of being told I have type 1 diabetes. An invisible force would reshape me from the vibrant 24-year-old I was at the time to a withdrawn, sick, shell of the person I really was. For months I felt this way and every time I gave myself a shot, it was like I was slowly drowning.

But that all changed one day. I drew up two units to squirt through the air before jabbing myself and said ‘Urgh. I hate the smell of insulin. It’s everywhere – I feel like it’s what I smell of now.’ Aaron who was sitting next to me looked up and said simply and matter-of-factly, ‘I don’t hate it. It’s the smell that keeps you alive.’  

And just like that, the smell of insulin went from being a death sentence to life saving. It never bothered me again. Keeping the perspective of diabetes in its rightful place is not easy and there will always be times that we feel like it is heading in the wrong direction. We just need to find ways – and people – to say things to help us get back on track.

‘Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’
‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh.
After careful thought Piglet was comforted by this.

                                                                      A.A. Milne

 

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