Thanks to the folks behind the Diabetes Social Media Advocacy site for hosting month three of the so-called DSMA Blog Carnival (a chance to "rally" around various life-with-diabetes topics). This month's theme is described as follows:
Living with diabetes can be tough and we never get a break. It's quite easy to feel burnt out from everything we have to do to stay healthy. When that happens, it can help to focus on the things, and the people, who make all our hard work worth it. So this month, tell us: How do relationships with other people help inspire you to take care of yourself?
I have had type 1 diabetes for over 17 years, and have gone through many different life stages: childhood, adolescence, the college years, and now quasi-adulthood (do we ever really grow up?). At various points in my life, my parents, my friends, and even my relationship with myself and my desire to grow up and travel the world, inspired me to take care of myself and be healthy. I didn't want to miss out on anything that the world has to offer and I didn't want to miss out on making memories with my family and friends. I wanted to be there for the special moments, both big and small. I wanted to make sure that diabetes didn't rob me of experiences I longed for.
It's one of the reasons why I decided to move across the country when I was 22 years old, even though I barely knew anyone in the New York City metro area. And because of that move, I met Erik, my fiancÃ©, who is my current inspiration for taking care of myself. We're a partnership now, and what I do affects him. My diabetes may not be his diabetes, but my life and my health impact his life in huge ways. And I love him, so I want only good things to happen in our life. (Yep, I am a sap.)
Although Erik is the existing relationship that inspires me to take care of myself, there's a future relationship that is also influencing my desire for better diabetes management: my future children. I'm not a mother right now, and Erik and I aren't planning for a pregnancy, but getting my body "baby ready" will take time. I'm already actively working to get my body in shape, tweaking basal rates and bolus ratios to an A1c where pregnancy is safe. As most parents will attest to, I would do anything for a happy, healthy baby and that has been the biggest motivator to stay healthy.
For me, there are two kinds of relationships that inspire me to keep charging on with my diabetes care, even when I hit my most exasperating moments and the urge to give up (or scream) seems insurmountable. Those relationships are: the Intimate and the Awe-Inspiring.
On the Intimate end, it is the wonderful people closest to me who may not "get" my diabetes, but who love me and share their lives with me and count on me, too. I am blessed to have married my best friend and the love of my life, and I wouldn't want to miss one second of our lives together! The two of us are triply blessed with three beautiful, intelligent, energetic, warm and funny daughters. I am not a religious person, but I thank the Lord regularly for those three healthy babies, now rapidly on their way to becoming three healthy and very spunky young women. To be blunt: I would claw my way out of my death bed if they needed me... (and I believe I've done so a few times over the past years when they were all tiny little helpless gals and I was sick as a dog!).
My daughters take my diabetes in stride, and the older two are actually hilariously sarcastic (go figure!) Over Easter weekend, when we were spending time with friends in Big Sur, my 13-year-old caught someone at the local pub giving me a sideways glance of disgust as I tested my blood sugar. "I just want to slap those people upside the head!" she whispered to me. Music to my ears! Not because she was actually going to start a confrontation with anyone, but because of her explanation: "Don't they know that some people need to work harder to take care of their health? You do what you have to do, Mom, and it's important."
I <3 my family. Never want to leave them. Never want to let them down.
Then there is the Awe-Inspiring group. By that I mean the amazing people I have met in my work as blogger and advocate who have done superhuman things with diabetes — things that "ordinary people" struggle to accomplish. This includes Olympic athletes, actors, musicians, pilots, accomplished physicians, physicians who conquer crazy-ass cross-country races, acrobats and bodybuilders. Although my "relationship" with these people is fleeting, having the chance to meet and chat with them has made an indelible impression on my (diabetes) life.
I had the chance to interview Crystal Bowersox, the "street busker" musician who was last year's runner up in American Idol. That girl lived a rough life! Growing up in rural Ohio, she had next to nothing. Shortly before she auditioned for Idol, she found herself on the street begging for insulin. But she wasn't giving up. She'd hit "rock bottom" in a way I hope I never will, and yet she charged ahead. One way she found to help herself was by connecting with other PWDs online via the TuDiabetes community, where she found someone willing to share surplus insulin supplies. Where there's a will, there's a way. I find that so inspirational!
So I had a crummy day and my blood sugar shot up unexpectedly? So three infusion sites in a row went bad? So my A1C went up a little instead of down? When I think about what all these "diabetes heroes" have accomplished, I am inspired NOT to feel sorry for myself.
I believe the people in your life can and should inspire you to (as Nat Strand, winner of last year's Amazing Race series says) "never, never, never give up — never." Thank you all for that.