Our Diabetes/365 Community IS our cuppa!
Colouring Outside the Lines: 2007-Today
Are there certain days that stick in your mind? For each of us there usually are both the days that we especially remember that are celebratory days & then there are other days that are reminders of struggles along life’s journey.
My hope is that for both you & I that the celebratory days are remembered in full colour, sparkles & neon lights. The other hope that I have for us is that when we think of our struggles that we find meaning in them & have found or are finding ways to “do something with” those.
Just like you, my life did not begin on the day that I was diagnosed with diabetes. We are likely to share the belief that our lives did however change when we were diagnosed. Here’s the thing…could it be that we grow through struggles intensifying our gifts that we can choose to share with others. Please do not get me wrong. I am definitely not saying that diabetes or any other “365” health challenge is something that any of us want in our lives or the lives of our loved ones. If it is the reality however, I believe with all my heart that I have the choice to “do something with” what has happened.
A beautiful long list of dates of celebrations remains vivid & sparkling & with or without diabetes, I choose to keep these memories exactly that way. For me, these dates include: meeting my now husband, graduating from university, first jobs, first car (bright yellow by the way), friendships made, getting married to my childhood sweetheart, homes, and the births of each of our boys. The list would go on for pages & pages so I will choose to stop here. Literally, I remember the dates of each of these incredible celebrations. For most of us, we too remember the dates of sad times surrounding losses dear to our hearts. I have found that when the loss is of a Dear Heart person that I find a way to celebrate the life that they shared in a meaningful way & carry that person with me. It is a way of carrying their love & legacy. For me, struggle without “doing something with” it would not make sense. On the other hand, struggle & then reaching out as a result to another person going through a struggle of his or her own makes perfect sense & seems to me to be a pure act of love.
November 29, 2007 was the day that my family found out that I have type 1 diabetes. Any 365 health challenge news hits us like a ton of bricks. Type 1 is usually a childhood diagnosis yet I was colouring outside the lines with a diagnosis of type 1 as an adult, a Mom. Type 1 is not outgrown so it can be a little confusing to folks who are not familiar with what this diagnosis means. It is an autoimmune disease & once diagnosed, you carry type 1 with you on the rest of life’s journey until a cure is found. Since I was diagnosed later than most, it means for our family that I will help raise our sons with this & carry it with me until a cure is found. For children diagnosed with type 1, my heart goes out to their families as the children take type 1 with them through school, post secondary school, marriage & raising their children & other milestones in life until a cure is found.
The first year with type 1, I found to be a huge challenge. I am sure that other folks have found that to be true too. There is a lot to learn about carb counting, exercise, sick day management, insulin and more. Aside from the physical learning, there is a parallel world going on with one’s thoughts I found. It was my experience that although it took time, my best choice for myself was to get myself back on track as far as my attitude was concerned. Prior to diagnosis, I had been a highly energetic, enthusiastic person with a chosen positive outlook to each day. The initial diagnosis derailed my attitude at first. My time was consumed with taking care of this darned diabetes. When I was diagnosed, we were raising small boys. Our youngest son, Alex was just 10 ½ months old at the time. I had been feeling extremely unwell prior to the diagnosis for a further 2 months. The diabetes I found was much more challenging to take care of at first then our 3 small sons combined. There is this thing though & that is I find that when I have a passion or a purpose in whatever is happening during this life’s chapter that my energy is higher. When I was first diagnosed, I did not see the passion or purpose with this diabetes. Okay, stay with me here because as I always tell the children that I volunteer to read with each week, I love stories with a happy ending. There will be one here I promise!
When I was in university a mentor highly recommended that I read a book by Viktor Frankl entitled, “Man’s Search For Meaning”. To this day, I still have this book & re-read it every few years or so. It is highlighted & dog-eared & well-loved by me. A year after I was diagnosed, I decided that it was time to re-read that book again. I read it through the lens this time of the diabetes. I realized that there is indeed meaning in diabetes or a 365 health challenge. I “got it”. Here is a chance to reach out to others with compassion & build community so that no one needs to feel alone or isolated in this. It also was an “aha moment” because I also realized that diabetes could mean for me that I could choose to live life more fully…with all my heart. It meant that I could be myself & share freely & use all the colours in the crayon box. It meant having more gratitude for what was going “right”& it is true, it really is about the little day to day moments. It is about what is truly important & to heck with the rest. It means hope, adventure, heart to heart sharing. It can mean being “different” (thankfully aren’t we all anyway) & making a difference in small ways with huge heart.
Well, it has been 5 years & many things are the same…those are the people that were always dear to me. What has changed is how I hold those dear hearts in my heart. I choose to let diabetes teach me that there is no holding back when it comes to sharing kindness, gratitude & celebrating living in the present. Along the journey, I did get an insulin pump & I am still the brains behind the machine yet it makes a huge difference day to day. The pump for me has meant more adventures & more choices. I love having more choices. The other thing that has changed is that once I made a decision & then acted upon it to get more involved in reaching out to others within the diabetes community that I have met some amazing people! The folks within the community are inspirational. Being part of a community is a choice. It is a choice that I love! The neat thing though is that not only have I found that I have chosen to be involved within the diabetes community, but I have just naturally become more involved with everyone, everything. It feels like the most natural thing in the world. I have met more new friends & have laughed more & felt more intensely & have given & received more kindness. Life is full & that’s something that I treasure. It did not happen all by itself over the past 5 years. These were choices. We all have choices about whether we are ready to be a part of a community. When the time is just right for you, I will be here to welcome you too to “the community”.
Here is how I look at the past 5 years…colouring outside the lines is the most natural thing in the world for our family. We live our lives with this thing called diabetes. We enjoy tea in our good tea cups every day. We choose to live fully & build community. Looking a little unusual whether it is a diagnosis as an adult like me or dancing in a chicken hat (my son really did this while volunteering), reaching out with all your kind heart, giving volunteering a go, building new friendships, and more…absolutely, go ahead, sparkle!
Smiles, Saundie J