Quick note: This week (May 15-19, 2017), GraceMark Musings is participating in Diabetes Blog Week, adding our voice to the chorus of diabetes bloggers, caregivers, and friends of the DOC (diabetes online community) who are uniting to share their unique reflections on certain topics prevalent in life with diabetes. Thank you to Karen Graffeo at Bitter-Sweet for creating this opportunity--congratulations on the 8th year of D-Blog Week!
Depending on your familiarity with diabetes, you may or may not know that it can be, at times, nothing if not a completely unpredictable factor in daily life. An predictably unpredictable chronic illness, managed with a life-saving medication that can become deadly when delivered in excess...what could go wrong? Seriously though, if you think about all of the many factors that go into the management of type 1 diabetes, it is shockingly empowering to think about how often things go well as opposed to not, when taking it all into consideration.
I find myself often delivering platitudes when talking about the challenges of life and diabetes. I hate to say it, but phrases like:
-"What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger."
-"This too shall pass."
-"What comes up, must come down."
-"Expect the unexpected."
You get the idea. The thing is, these ideas have become cliches because they've been used often enough due to the amount of truth found in the statement. When I think of expecting the unexpected with diabetes, there's always the unexpected challenges that come to mind. Things like always being prepared for being low/being high/pump failure/sensor failure or any other sort of diabetes-related mishap, packing extra of everything in case the first one doesn't work, or being ready to explain T1D to someone on a basic to advanced level in case you are being hassled in a public place for doing diabetes tasks.
When expecting the unexpected in a case like one of those listed above, I prepare by making lists of supplies. Then I check the list twice, pack the supplies, and then check the packed supplies twice. I pick up my purse to feel the weight of my PDM, meter supplies, sugar/snacks, and back-up items and feel comforted by the bulk because I know it means it is all still in the bag. I stash extras of as many things as possible in as many places as possible. Some of my friends and family may not even know that they have or have had sugar packets or other similar items hanging out in their cars or bags in case I find myself with them and needing back-up (I'm sneaky like that). I educate myself and others about T1D, how it is caused, what kind of care I require on a daily basis to maintain my health, and why my care routine and supplies are necessary, for many reasons. One of the top reasons that I have a diabetes "elevator speech" is because I am questioned often, from curious onlookers while checking my blood sugar, to nosy, overconfident patrols of people who question my ability to carry snacks into certain places, or whether my devices are "medically necessary". For these reasons, and more, I expect the unexpected with diabetes.
The flip side of expecting the unexpected comes from other cliches, things like:
-"Every cloud has a silver lining."
-"Everything happens for a reason."
-"Misery loves company."
Just kidding on the last one. But in all seriousness, there is another angle to expecting the unexpected with diabetes, and that is expecting the unexpectedly great and special things that can come from a pretty uncool (to say the least) disease. We have to be open to (read: expecting) these good things to enter our lives after T1D opens the door, otherwise we may not recognize the good when it parades in behind some really frustrating, annoying, upsetting stuff. I never thought I would make friends because of my diabetes, but it has happened. It was not until I was ready and open to it that I began to attract the wonderful people into my life that remain there today as a result of our common bond. I never would have expected that my diagnosis would eventually fuel a fire for a new passion (T1D advocacy and improving resources available to individuals and families living with this chronic illness). It was also unexpected that I would feel so motivated to build physical strength in reaction to diabetes, but that becoming physically stronger has not just been a metaphor for overcoming challenges, but also a great piece of my diabetes management, since exercise helps me to regulate my blood glucose (and any diabetes-related stress).
In any case, diabetes will keep you on your toes. You can either do your best to ignore it, and let it knock you off your feet at every turn, or you can begin to anticipate and become proactive instead of reactive. Expecting the unexpected means anticipating, and being proactive, and being open to possibility (whether that possibility is that you may run out of test strips before you get home from work today or that wearing your CGM sensor on your arm invites a conversation with another T1D in your area who has been reluctant to try new technology).