I am a lucky diabetic. Most of the time, having Type 1 diabetes doesn’t feel that hard. The injections, the constant blood sugar checks, the needing to be careful of what I eat – I’m pretty much used to it and can see the silver linings (except during pregnancy, which was a whole different ball game). Most of the time.
But then there are the other times, when all I want is a day off.
Like yesterday, when I met a dear friend for tea and we decided to meet at the Cellars Hohenort so that we could have the best-ever scones with our tea. What a treat! Tea and scones with one of my favourite people! How delightful. Except it was ridiculously hot, so we decided to have iced coffees instead of tea. I assumed an iced coffee was a milky coffee over ice, but what actually arrived was an amazing slushy milkshakey concoction that was pretty much heaven in a tall, dripping glass. So I only ate one scone, to compensate for the double treat, and took what I thought was the right amount of insulin.
I was wrong. Two hours later I had sky high blood sugar, followed by low blood sugar a few hours after that, and an unhealthy dose of guilt. Why had I eaten something I know isn’t good for me? Why hadn’t I guessed the right amount of carbs and taken the right amount of insulin? I had to consciously stop beating myself up about it.
Because really, it’s a scone. I didn’t eat a bag of sweets or drink a Coke, for heaven’s sake. I never do. But I also never get a day off from diabetes – or even an hour! I’d love to be able to unplug and then I’d happily plug back in a few hours later (I promise!). I know I’m always drawing parallels between parenting and diabetes, but this is one case where they’re actually quite different. Yes, I’m always a mom, but it is possible to get a total break – to watch a movie, go out with friends, have some time off in which I am in no way parenting. Not so with diabetes.
It reminded me of a talk I had with a friend a few months back. She also has a chronic condition and has been struggling with her family not accepting it – they just pretend there’s nothing wrong with her, which obviously devalues how she feels on an everyday basis because, sadly, there is something wrong with her and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.
It can be so hard to know what to say, though, can’t it?
We were on holiday with my family a couple of years ago and I snuck off on New Year’s Eve to take my daily 10pm insulin jab (which is about as big a deal to me as brushing my teeth). My dad walked through as I was injecting and said, with such kindness in his eyes, “Oh my baby, you never get a break from it, do you?”
And it made me want to weep. Not out of self-pity, but because someone I love knew exactly what to say. Recognising that I never. get. a. break. Not trying to fix it, because it can’t be fixed, or make me feel better, because I can do that myself. Just recognising.
It remains the single greatest thing anyone has ever said to me about my diabetes.