Yesterday, I looked out the kitchen window into the back garden and out over the back fence on the other side of the laneway, and I noticed that our neighbours’ beautiful big tree was starting to wear its Autumn colours. The green leaves were giving way to the most beautiful deep reds and I know that in just a couple of weeks, the branches will be bare, letting in the pale Winter sun.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so aware of the seasons changing as I have in the last couple of years. Perhaps it’s because with more friends overseas I see their seasons change in opposition to ours – we swelter whilst they curse snow; we shiver while their Summer blazes.
But with each season that passes, I am more and more conscious of the time I’ve lived with diabetes.
In the middle of this month, I will have lived with type 1 diabetes for seventeen years. I know that in the grand scheme of things – and when I think of celebrating Kellion medallists – seventeen years is nothing more than a drop in the ocean.
But to me, it feels like a long time. In fact, it’s the first time that I’ve thought the number and it has felt big. While in single figures, it was tiny and even hitting ten or twelve years didn’t seem much. Neither did sixteen.
Seventeen, however, seems big. Really big.
I always plan to celebrate my diaversary and mark it in some way. Sometimes it’s just a cupcake with the family or friends. But I mark it and recognise it as something I want to acknowledge and celebrate. I celebrate that I am living well with diabetes and that I am still doing all the things I love. I celebrate the minimal impact diabetes has had on the previous year.
This year though, I am not feeling like that. It’s not that I don’t want to celebrate (I’m not one to pass up cake), it’s just that I’m not sure what I am celebrating anymore. I’m still living well, but the impact over the last 12 months has seemed greater than ever before.
I have always been proud of the position diabetes has held in my life. And I have always been proud of the way that I have never let it stop me doing anything. But in recent times, I’ve come to wonder and worry – if the reason that things have been that way aren’t so much of my doing, but rather because that’s how my diabetes has been.
The privilege of being able to say ‘diabetes hasn’t stopped me from (insert whatever)’ is because my diabetes has been manageable, and well behaved. What if that really changes? What if things suddenly mean that I am stopped from doing what I want?
I feel like diabetes is, in some ways, stripping me bare with its relentlessness. Feeling like I am managing and coping has become a desperate pursuit and feel overwhelmed and overcome more easily.
I’m not sure if is purely the emotional toll, which has in recent times been more significant, or if is that combined with difficult lows that seem to be becoming more frequent.
But whatever it is, I’m feeling exposed – although to what, I’m not sure.
I thought of all this as I stood at the kitchen window and looked at the tree. I thought about how exposed the branches would be soon. But I also thought about how it was only for a few months. Come Springtime, the branches would be covered in pretty blossom and after that, full again with bright green new growth. The seasons are so defined and clear.
Perhaps the way I feel about diabetes is all cyclical and seasonal too. Maybe the impending cold is why I am feeling exposed at the moment. Maybe I just need to batten down for a few months, wrap myself up and keep myself warm until the season changes again.
And in the meantime, gently and quietly recognise my diaversary, give a nod to the year that has passed and just keep going on.