Sharing diabetes – by Helen May
They may have celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary a few years ago, but there are still family traits from my Dad’s side and some from my Mum’s. For example, I have heard my Mum say to my Dad “your family are too independent for their own good”.
If I consider myself part of my Dad’s family, I am a good illustration of this: I have walked home by myself in the pouring rain, rather than wake someone up to collect me; I have insisted I could go on my first business trip alone, even though I was very nervous; I keep my luggage light so I know I can carry it whenever I need to.
Hey, don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. It is the way I have been bought up: to be independent and not rely on others. And, most of the time, I think it is a good characteristic. But there are times when I am amazed. I still have a nose given the number of times I have “cut off my nose to spite my face,” just to prove I don’t need help.
One way I am independent is managing my diabetes. It’s my diabetes and I don’t need to burden anyone else with it. (I guess that is also down to being diagnosed as an adult rather than a child.) When I want to learn more about diabetes, I read the internet. I read blogs, I read news and I read about research. Although I write this blog, I rarely ask questions and I very rarely spend time with other people with diabetes.
So the Freedom for Life course has been very odd for me. I have spent over twelve hours in a room with up to six other people with Type 1 diabetes. This was a very diverse group of people of different ages with different jobs and different life styles.
In the first few weeks I was uncomfortable sharing my challenges with the group – I’m independent: why burden others? But over the weeks, I started to let slip that it wasn’t always easy. My experiences may be different to the others: no one else went climbing and they all thought I was just weird for wanting to do exercise. But they all gave me a wonderful insight into what it means to have diabetes: we shared stories about having hypos at “the wrong time” and frustrations when we can’t be bothered to count carbs.
I am very grateful for some of their experiences, especially those of their struggles. Might sound strange, but I have read about complications such as problems with eyes or feet. However, these have been “stories”; they have not seemed real. There may be a photograph, but a picture doesn’t make story really real (I remember the photo-stories of my teenage years and they were definitely not real). And because they did not seem real, I didn’t think they could happen to me. Meeting genuine people who have experienced these problems made me realise that I am not immune and I really need to manage my diabetes as best as I can.
I am not sure if any of the six (or the dietician and nurse who ran the course) read this blog. But if they do I would like to thank them for the opportunity to spend time with them, share and realise diabetes is difficult not just for me, and learn that I am not that odd for having hypos.