This week, I wrote a personal piece about an extended bout of diabetes burnout. (Whoa – that’s a lot of words with ‘…out’ in them….)
I have been overwhelmed by love and support from the diabetes online community, and people outside the community as well. Seriously, completely and breathtakingly overwhelmed – and wish I could reach out to every single one of you who has reached out to me to thank you and give you a Nutella cupcake.
I wrote about this for one simple reason – it is my real life with diabetes, and that is what this blog is meant to be all about. Sugar-coating (ha ha – whatever) life with diabetes does no one any good and there is no point pretending it is all fun and games.
Talking about the times things are going well is really easy. Being humorous and looking at the bright side is easy too – and as a person who really does usually see her (champagne) glass/coffee cup as being half full, it is easy for me to seem positive about things all the time.
But the problem with that is that we don’t talk enough about the tough things. And that leads to feelings of shame, which, in turn contributes to stigma.
One of the reason I am such a huge supporter of the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes (ACBRD) is because, apart from being a bunch of fabulous, smart, funny and lovely people, their work means we are talking about the emotional wellbeing side of diabetes. Thanks to the immense body of work they are doing, diabetes is being seen as far more than a numbers game. The quality of life implications of living with this chronic condition are being considered and we are getting a better understanding of distress, anxiety and depression that is related to diabetes. Even more importantly, we are talking about it. And even more importantly, there are strategies being developed to address these things.
I’ve been writing about mental health and diabetes – and wellbeing and diabetes – for some time now because we need to be able to discuss it freely, free from judgement, devoid of stigma.
It’s the same reason that I have written so openly about my miscarriages. I don’t do it because I want people to feel sorry for me or pity me. I do it because it is part of my story. And I do it so that others can see that it is a perfectly normal thing to happen and that there is no shame in it. After I had my second miscarriage, my mothers’ group met. We were sitting around in someone’s living room with our young kids toddling around, playing quietly. It had been a while since we’d caught up and we were going around saying what we’d been up to.
‘Oh, things are their usual crazy self,’ I said. ‘But I had a miscarriage last month, so have been dealing with that too.’ It was the first time I had told anyone, apart from my immediate family and very close friends.
One of the other mums looked up sharply. ‘What? Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you let us know? I had a miscarriage three weeks ago. I don’t know anyone else who’s had one. I really need to talk about it, but didn’t know who to turn to. I really wish I had known.’ And she burst into tears, coming over to give me a hug. We sat there and discussed our experiences and how we were feeling and how we were dealing with things. We both felt guilt and shame. We both felt we had somehow failed ourselves and our partners and our families. We both felt the same way – yet were telling each other that we were wrong to feel that way.
It was at that point, I decided that I would no longer hide my story. Because hiding it – when I am usually such an open person – suggests it is something to be ashamed about. Because that’s what happens when issues go underground, we feel shame. I don’t want any woman to feel ashamed because she has had trouble carrying a baby. I don’t want any person to feel ashamed because they are feeling overwhelmed or depressed or in distress because of their diabetes.
There is no ‘fault’. And there should be no guilt. So when we open up and talk about the not-so-good things, we see and accept that this is part of life. It normalises things. It allows for open and easier discussion. And it helps us connect with others who are sharing the same experiences.
Because I can promise you, my story of burnout is not unique. Absolutely not.
I’ve decided that my two favourite words in the world are not ‘coffee, please’ or ‘shoe sale’. No. They are ‘me too’.
Apparently, it’s snowing in New York! So the Brian Setzer Orchestra, live at the Rockefeller Centre with ‘Winter Wonderland‘ seems more than a little appropriate today!