Through the years, I have struggled with my emotions as they relate to type 1 diabetes. I’ve been alternately sad, nearly always stressed, and sometimes angry, but overall I’ve been able to remain positive. I credit my friends, my husband, James’ amazingly resilient personality, and wonderful professionals who give me access to the technology and knowhow that allow me to manage James’ diabetes and give us a (relatively) normal life.
It has been long enough, and we’ve progressed so well, that I find myself completely comfortable with diabetes. I almost feel like I can’t say this in the diabetes community; after all, I still have challenges. I find periods of time where I’m not sure how best to handle a medical issue (like persistent high or low blood sugars), and I struggle to make the right decisions. I sometimes come into conflict with teachers or schools or ignorant people, and that can be frustrating. These things are real, but they are part and parcel of a larger part of my life in which I’ve just accepted diabetes without reservation. It is a part of James, and I love James. So I deal with diabetes because it has been with us so very long. I don’t cry over it. I’m rarely sad, and I can say with all honesty that a diabetes diagnosis is not the end of the world.
It was this mindset that made the tears that started flowing the other night such a surprise to me. To properly appreciate this moment, I have to paint the picture of the diabetes event where it happened. It was held in a city about an hour away. This city is on the coast, and I needed to drive there alone right around sunset. My children were being tended by my mom, and for the first time in weeks I had some child-free moments to reflect on life. The event was held in a beautiful locale, and I arrived just as the sun was setting.
The event was two-part. First was a support session just for grownups. Second was a panel discussion on type 1 diabetes and exercise. I really went mostly for the second portion. Exercise has always been a challenging and ever-changing part of diabetes management, and I was anxious to get some new techniques. I attended the first portion because I (perhaps foolishly) thought I could offer some support to the parents with newly diagnosed children. It turns out that I needed that session just as much as anyone in the room.
It was a friendly group and a comforting place to be. We all went around the room giving our story. Every story is a little different, but they all share points of similarity. When it was my turn, the tears started flowing. They actually weren’t sad tears, but I was overcome by the feeling that I was among friends and dear people who understood precisely what I was going through.
The tears revealed the reality behind the usual calm composure that I wear when I talk about diabetes. While I don’t actively mourn James’s diagnosis anymore, it was clear that I still benefitted tremendously from being around this group of people and sharing our experiences and frustrations. I am no longer smug about being completely “over” diagnosis.
While my feelings are generally positive, I find that I NEED connections to others in the type 1 community as much as they might potentially need to hear my perspective. I guess if anything, it helps me realize the great value in support groups. Even for those of us who feel like we are beyond needing support, there is still great benefit to be had! If you can find a local group, I highly recommend connecting. The effect it can have is remarkable.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.