Recently, I spoke with someone who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes about twelve months ago. A mutual friend had connected us.

‘How long have you had diabetes?’ That was her first question.

‘Almost 20 years,’ I said.

‘I’m really struggling. Will I move on and get over it?’

I wish I had been able to say something to ease her anxiety. Instead I just nodded and told her she would be okay.

But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that question.

Because, the truth is, I don’t think we do move on. I don’t think we do get over it. We move through it. We learn to get through it, but it’s a chronic health condition and it never, ever goes away.

I went through some tough times a few years ago and I remember a conversation with a friend who was a great source of comfort to me. ‘When does this awfulness stop? When does it go away?’ I asked, tearily, one day.

‘It doesn’t, but it will get easier. Think of it like this… You’re in your car and you’ve just driven past a horrific car accident. You can’t stop, you have to keep driving, but you are driving very, very slowly because there is a lot of traffic backed up. You’re shocked and can’t believe what you have just seen. It’s gruesome. You look in the rear view mirror and you can still see it – all the details, all the goriness, all the pain.

You can’t help but keep checking the mirror. Every time you do, you feel the horror of what you saw, but the accident is a little further away in the mirror’s reflection, so the detail of what you are seeing is a little less.

After a while, all you can see are some flashing lights and a crumpled mess, but no details – it’s starting to be a blur and the shock and pain you felt is starting to numb.

And then, eventually, after a long time, you look back and you see nothing. You’re on the open road, going about your driving, and all you see behind you is road and other cars. But you still think about what you saw. You still have flashes of it. You still remember it.

It doesn’t go away – you don’t get over it. But you got through it. And your life will be forever changed by it. But it will always be there.’

I remember being incredibly reassured by this analogy. And it was actually so true. The pain I felt did wane – I never forgot it and I’m not ‘over’ it. But it is far more distant in my rear view mirror now and eventually, it may completely disappear from view. But it is still part of my memory bank.

I’d never applied this way of thinking to diabetes – that analogy belonged to a time of incredible and quite acute emotional pain – but it actually is perfect for diabetes too.

I wish my response to my new friend’s question was simply: ‘I don’t think that I have moved on from diabetes; I don’t think I am over it. But it is easier today than it was twenty years ago. And every day I move through it, and I get through it. I hope that gives you some comfort.’

I look at those who have gone before me and those who are living a diabetes life alongside me and I see us all moving through it. Some days are harder, some days are easier. But we keep moving. We move through diabetes. As best we can.

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