Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Next Day: Diabetes Accomplishments, Big and Small

It's Day Four of Diabetes Blog Week! Today's topic is "Accomplishments, Big and Small"

We don’t always realize it, but each one of us had come a long way since diabetes first came into our life. It doesn’t matter if it’s been 5 weeks, 5 years or 50 years, you’ve done something outstanding diabetes-wise. So today let’s share the greatest accomplishment you've made in terms of dealing with your (or your loved one’s) diabetes. No accomplishment is too big or too small - think about self-acceptance, something you’ve mastered (pump / exercise / diet / etc.), making a tough care decision (finding a new endo or support group / choosing to use or not use a technology / etc.).

My greatest accomplishments have never been physical. They have been intellectual, emotional, artistic, social, but not physical. I have a certain degree of disdain for my body, as it seems to subvert my desires at every opportunity. The last time I remember being proud of a physical achievement is when I managed to speak on the phone without losing my breath while running more than 5 miles an hour on the elliptical. Mostly, my body seems a useless rag; something that’s never as thin or pretty or working as well as I want it to be.

Diabetes is a very physical disease, but there is a large portion of it that is mental, and the mental definitely affects the physical. I’ll never be a “physical” person, but the strides I’ve made with this condition mentally and emotionally have undoubtedly improved my physical well-being.

There’s a large movement out there that says, “don’t let diabetes define you,” and it’s one that I absolutely agree with. But there’s always the flip-side to this idea, which can be equally limiting and dangerous, and that’s trying to define yourself completely without diabetes; not letting diabetes be in your definition at all. That’s something I tried to do for a long time. It was an abject rejection of everything my body was trying to tell me.

My greatest accomplishment has been an acceptance of who I am. I may never accept my large bone structure and ribcage, but I can now talk about diabetes; not in the abstract, but as something that affects me, and something that I work on each day. I’ve entered into an incredibly supportive community. I never would have thought about blogging on this subject or sharing it with the world at large until I said, “this is who I am, and this is how I want to work to make my life better.” There are many, many people I can thank for this development, for encouraging me to get the pump and self-monitor and work to bring my A1cs down from the horrorshow of high school and college to the 8-9s of grad school to the 7s I’ve seen for the past 2.5 years. There are so many who deserve thanks for support. In the end, however, no matter how much encouragement or nagging I received, progress was all up to me and to the decisions I made. This is a lonely realization, but also an empowering one.

The problem with describing a “diabetes accomplishment” is that an accomplishment tends to describe one specific moment, frozen in time; it describes something you've done, that's over. That 7.1 A1c I achieved in February? I’m extremely proud of it. But to focus on it as an achievement can result in ignoring the work that still needs to be done. It’s not like the moment where I received my Master’s. That’s an achievement; it’s done, and it’s not going to go away (although receiving a degree never precludes further learning). My numbers, on the other hand, can and will change every minute. My health can be taken away from me at any time. It’s so, so important to recognize and celebrate the work that went into achieving these numbers and feeling good, but it’s important not to dwell on them as an impediment to forward motion.

Diabetes is scary, with its power to take your life away overnight. In a way, just waking up, having survived another day, is its own accomplishment. But it can’t just be about sheer physical survival; rather, it’s about living the best life possible. It’s the commitment to survival; the willingness to try, and try again, in the face of insurmountable odds, which is really what matters.

I woke up this morning, and I started anew, and I continued to take care of myself.

Every day, that is my diabetes accomplishment.



  1. This is my favorite 'Accomplishment' post of the day. Thanks for writing it. I've struggled with the whole "nope, not in my personal definition - at all!" attitude for so long and you just described so plainly where the failure is in my perspective - "it's an abject rejection of everything my body was trying to tell me." I'm going to be mulling this over for a while. Great post.

    1. Thank you! We're so conditioned to not accept diabetes as a stumbling block that I think sometimes we forget we have to accept it at all. I'm glad my post was thought-provoking!

  2. This is a really great post, thank you for sharing! I agree with Melissa, I've said that my diabetes doesn't define me, but at the same time it is a large part of who I am, and a lot of what it has given me are strengths. Definitely made me rethink how I see my diabetes.

    1. Thanks! Diabetes has certainly made me think of myself in a physical sense more than I ever would have before.

  3. I love this. You are so right about starting anew and continuing to care for ourselves.