Continuing with our “Letters to your Diabetes” project, we’re happy to share the latest addition with Amanda’s letter.
Get inspired by this deeply personal and helpful reflection on diabetes.
Written by Amanda Wass
A letter to my type 1 diabetes,
Where to begin? A rush of emotion floods my mind as I sit here thinking about what I would actually write to my type 1 diabetes (…if it could read). I guess this is the first letter I have ever written to it. To you. So I guess I will take a deep breath and allow the emotions to flow.
Why do my eyes fill with tears? It’s something that I have been living with for 8 years and despite a few rocky moments, I have absolutely tried to embrace and welcome you with open arms. So the headrush of tension is a little peculiar. Why do I become overwhelmed with emotions when taking the time to really sit with the fact that I have T1 diabetes?
Maybe it’s because I’ve just had to put my head down and crack on with having you around. Every day. For 2,850 days. Having faced approximately 17,100 injections into my stomach, thighs and back of the arm. Having drawn blood from my fingers approximately 28,500 times to test my glucose levels. Having to approach mealtimes with a mental calculator at the ready! All of this changed overnight and there was no other option but to just adapt & move on, together.
I had to accept you immediately, I had to embrace a life changing lifestyle overnight. I had to accept that every single day, the potential for things to go wrong could result in life threatening situations.
So maybe I get emotional because I’ve had to handle the fact that you have wormed your way into my personal and professional life & dictated how I am going to live, work & feel every single day. Like a wicked spell you can crush me, putting a halt to my flow and throw a spanner in the works with a hypo when I’m least suspecting. A life threatening hypo attack in which there is no other option but to immediately stop what I’m doing and consume fast releasing glucose and a slow releasing carbohydrate snack in order to survive. Then continue where I left off, without blinking an eye.
The social impact you’ve had has been testing. Having to push through exhaustion when glucose levels have run sky high due to stress, hormones, incorrect insulin dosages – despite my best efforts – you come and whip my energy away, taking my naturally positive disposition with it. The mood swings you’ve gifted me with have proved challenging not just for me but for my family, my friends and my loved ones. You’ve interrupted intimate moments, special times and during those times when you haven’t, your threatening whisper is still heard.
Don’t even get me started on the fact that I have to physically inject needles into my skin in front of people on dates, (before I found my love!), at work, in public & in private.
The two Words
I’ve had to change.
Going through a whirlwind of emotional rollercoasters knowing that I cannot fight you has been key. I cannot waste any time hating the fact that you’re here, tagging along in life like a “limp side salad nobody wants around” (a phrase coined by my sister when we were kids explaining why we couldn’t play together! ha)…except with this mushy brown limp side salad, you will not wilt away.
There were two words which changed the potential for a toxic relationship between us. One allowed me to embrace you and stopped me fighting you before I had the chance to go down a very dark hole. That word is Gratitude. Having real gratitude for the lessons you introduced me to with managing my diabetes has been life changing.
Pretty early on, I realised that you weren’t going away and the only way forward was to work together. To find balance, which is the second word, that helped me find peace in accepting you. Releasing that I was never going to live a healthy, happy life by just ignoring you or by trudging through all the hypos & hypers, I needed to find balance, mentally. I needed to accept that I am not going to have perfect numbers; that my emotions will be sliding around, depending on how high or low my sugar levels are, and that I am not to blame for said slide! There is no need to feel guilty for the highs and lows – not just mentally but physically too.
A Superpower I’ve Managed to Unlock
Having a sense of gratitude for being able to feel my body and the chemical changes which happen within it. The warning signs of a hypo creeping on allows me to feel the changes in my body and state of mind: the shakes, the pulses, the numbness, the tingles, the confusion, the blurred vision, the heartbeats, the breath getting lighter and faster, the all consuming fuzziness which engulfs my whole body, is a gift. Being able to pick up on those sensations even when they are so subtle and quiet allows me to trust my intuition even more than before.
Feeling the high blood sugars also feels like a superpower I’ve managed to unlock. Over the years, I now know even without testing that my levels are high because I can tune into how my heart is beating, how the regular thirst differs from a hyper thirst, the general feeling in my body if it feels more inflamed and tingly, my heart beats a little differently, my bladder twinges differently and my mood becomes gloomy with conversation taking more of a passive and disinterested tone. These are all feelings I have had to become intune with and for that, I am grateful.
I am grateful for having to educate myself on nutrition & paying close attention to how my body responds to certain foods & exercise. Knowing that I can do the work on my pancreas by counting carbohydrates and administering insulin, gives me a huge sense of pride and gratitude. I am grateful for having insulin and all the diabetic supplies provided by the NHS and for the time in which we live. The technology and science is at such a sophisticated level, that I can monitor my diabetes with relative ease, I am lucky.
Because of you I have accelatered in sports and I use you as a motivator to push through when out on the road bike. Yes, you haunt me a little with threats of hypos & punish me with high sugar levels sometimes but I push on through – knowing that you don’t have a grip on me and your taunts aren’t going to dictate how hard I ride.
Yep, ‘love for you’
Understanding the importance of balance within yoga has helped me gain even more love for you. Yep, I said it, ‘love for you’. To tune into my body, my breath and movement is my greatest pleasure and you help guide me through what I need. The close relationship and deep understanding of my body connection allows me to take care of my body better. Finding my love for yoga has deepened my respect for my body and mindset; it helps me care for you even more.
Instead of a, “limp side salad that no one wants around” mindset, you have become more of a best friend or a child that I want to help guide, nurture and embrace.
You have helped me open my eyes so much. You have educated me, you have allowed me to find a positive, healthy mindset, you have given me even more of a push to achieve physical goals.
There is also an enormous amount of gratitude you have revealed with my partner. The appreciation I have for his absolute commitment to understanding my diabetes as best as he can is beyond words. Having had multiple hypos when we’ve been out exercising or out of the house has tested us and he has always leaped selflessly into hero mode. He has ran at the speed of light to save my life – to get me orange juice, he has spoon fed me honey when I have been unable to do it myself, he has given mental and physical support to comfort me as I lay in heap on the kitchen floor at 4am, sprawled out in the sand on a beach, on the side of a road during long bike rides, in the car during a drive, during a half marathon, during a swim, during a yoga flow, in the middle of the night, he has been there. He has helped me, held my hand, stroked my head, told me it’s going to be okay. Reminded me to breathe slowly, to eat, to drink, to relax. My eyes find themselves filling up again…thank you for enabling me to witness such love and compassion.
Diabetes Doesn’t have to hold us back
Without you, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I wouldn’t have the total gratitude for life as I do now. Now I don’t take things for granted like my health and the ability to go out for a 100km ride, the ability to experience a fully immersive chemical change within my body. To witness the love and support from friends & family on a much deeper level than I knew before.
Facing every challenge with a sense of belief that I will maneuver through it and come out the other side stronger is a good reminder to keep that sense of gratitude close to my heart. I will balance the good with the bad and keep doing my best. We can fight it or we can thrive. I choose to thrive.
You have given me an opportunity to really connect and become intune with my body, that is a real gift. In fact you provided many opportunities for growth and compassion every day and for that, I truly am thankful. You have also enabled me to embark on a mission of spreading positivity and a ‘can-do’ attitude with T1D. To meet and connect with other T1s who may be struggling or needing someone to talk to who ‘gets it’. I want to share my love and passion for yoga, as it has helped me manage my diabetes physically and mentally. To spread the positive mindset that we can use our diabetes as a catalyst in life and achieve anything we set our minds and bodies to. Having type 1 diabetes doesn’t have to hold us back. It can propel us beyond our type 1 ‘limitations’ & fuel us with knowledge, enthusiasm, and lessons to push forward and achieve dreams we didn’t know were even within our reach.
Maybe the limp side salad isn’t so bad after all.
Comment below if you found this personal writing helpful. ↓ And let us know if you have any of your own experiences to share! Send your own diabetes letter to firstname.lastname@example.org ✉️