Wil Dubois

Diabetes isn't easy, so many of us living with this condition often need to reach out to other pancreatically-challenged folk for tips and moral support. That's why we offer Ask D'Mine, our weekly advice column that offers honest straight talk about all sorts of D-related questions.

Last week, type 2 reader Pete, from Florida, wrote in with a question about missed insulin shots. But he also told us he’d “been struggling with diabetes for five years” and that he was “trying to find a path that works.”

Today, our advice columnist Wil Dubois -- a longtime type 1 himself who works in a clinic and has written multiple diabetes books -- has some thoughts on that.

{Got your own questions? Email us at AskDMine@diabetesmine.com}


Wil@Ask D’Mine answers: As a writer, I naturally love words. I love to play with them. Study them. Experiment with one word over another. But words are more than how we communicate our thoughts; our choice of words is also a window into our very souls. Your choice of words, Pete, tells me quite a bit about how you view your diabetes. You’ve cast your diabetes as an adversary. One that you are in a violent struggle with. Your diabetes is something to wrestle with. To fight with. To battle.

Here's what the dictionary says.




to make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction.


a forceful or violent effort to get free of restraint or resist attack.

-- So sayeth the dictionary --


Your diabetes is a curse, a bitter enemy. A foe. A plague, which at least is the name of a disease. In short, to use a lovely new word I just learned today, the bête noire of your life. Bête noire is French for “black beast,” and is used to describe something which, according to the dictionary, “is particularly disliked or to be avoided, or the bane of one’s existence.” Well, that does seem to describe diabetes doesn’t it?

Maybe I should get a bête noire tattoo with a blue circle.

Or maybe not, because all of these black words paint a picture of misery. They are a vocabulary of shadows, darkness, and negativity. Not that there’s not a place for darkness in our world, but diabetes, like a diamond, is forever. And I don’t believe eternal struggle is healthy. I think you’re having a hard time picking a path that works because you’ve chosen a hostile road.

So the first step on a path that does work needs to be a change of mindset. You need to think about diabetes in a different way, because diabetes is part and parcel of you now, and self-hate is unhealthy. But, if diabetes is not to be your adversary, your enemy, your bitter foe, if diabetes is not your antagonist, your bête noire—what should it be?

Clearly, diabetes will never be your friend. I’m sure we can all agree that’s out of the question. So what are our options? What lies between friend and foe, between love and hate?

If you view your relationship with diabetes as an arranged marriage, you’ll probably never grow to love her, but you can certainly learn to live with her. Or you could view diabetes as nothing more than a traveling companion, someone from somewhere else who purchased the seat next to you on a very long voyage. Maybe this person has strange ways or annoying habits, but that’s no reason to turn him into an enemy.

I guess I don’t know anyone who’s 100% thrilled that he or she has diabetes, but I know plenty of people who have risen to the many challenges posed by having diabetes, and a great number of these folks acknowledge a silver lining to the dark cloud. They tell me they are healthier now, with diabetes, than before they had it. Diabetes has forced them to take care of themselves and the end result is that both the diabetes and the person with it ended up in a healthier place. Other persons with diabetes cite the sense of community, family, and belonging that they’ve gained as a member of the tribe. Still others have found it gave them a new purpose in life.

These are all people who have chosen an easier path than constant fighting. No matter how they regard their diabetes, they have learned to live with it, rather than to fight it. And that has made their path easier.

 Taming the Tiger diabetes book

As for me, as I said in one of my older books, I view diabetes as a wild animal that I am trapped in the same room with. Sorta like Life of Pi, the story about the guy who was stuck in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. [Disclaimer: I’ve never read the book or seen the movie, so I hope to hell the tiger doesn’t end up eating Pi, or my choice of analogy is pretty sucky.]

But think about diabetes as a wild thing for a moment. Like Pi, I chose a wild tiger to symbolize diabetes (the analogy originally came to me after the Siegfried and Roy incident). You can’t hate a wild animal for being what it is, right? It’s not evil. It’s not my enemy. In fact, on some level I can—like watching tigers—revel in its fearsome beauty.

If we are careful, we can share our spaces with a wild animal. Be it our yard, our house, our lifeboat. Apparently Siegfried and Roy did. But, make no mistake, a wild animal will never be a pet. Living with a wild animal requires constant respect.

And that’s what I’ve found as a path that works for me. I respect my diabetes and I find that it returns the favor. When I respect it, it respects me. But when I push the limits, it swats me across my face with a clawed paw. Just to remind me it’s still a wild animal.

That’s my strategy. I can’t say if it would work for you. But I guarantee you that the path of struggle you are on now won’t work. It will wear you out. You need a new way to think about your diabetes. And once you have that, it will guide you to a path that will let you co-exist with diabetes in a way that lets you live together in some degree of harmony.

So how do you pick a new way of thinking about your diabetes? Well, if none of the suggestionWhat Do You Think About Diabetes Struggles?s offered so far click for you, can I suggest a mental exercise? Because another way to consider this is to turn the equation on its head.

If your diabetes were a person, how do you think it would view you? Would it like you? Would it tolerate you? Or are you its bête noire?

I’d love readers to chime in via comments and share how they think their diabetes:

Enemy? Parasite?

Unwelcome companion?

Just part of yourself? Or blessing in disguise?

If your diabetes were a person, what would it think about you?

I believe that once you change your attitude about what your diabetes is—and your relationship to it—you won’t have to struggle any more. And after five years of fighting, you’ll be taking your first steps walking down a path that works.


This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.