A lot of people think being stubborn is an unhealthy trait. But for me, I can see that my refusal to give in to the impact diabetes has on me physically and emotionally has served a purpose. A great one. And that is refusing to give up on moving forward. Sometimes the steps aren’t easy. Other times I have been furious at being so different from friends and family. I’ve certainly cried my share of self-pity party tears–haven’t we all? I’ve sometimes run away from facing diabetes straight on. But give in? Not yet.
That’s why I read, with interest, this recent article from a 1994-2008 study on just how serious the impact is on most people who have diabetes:
Some of the unignorable facts that emerged from this study of 385 young diabetic teens into their thirties?
* having diabetes significantly increased the risk of dropping out of high school
* diabetics were 8-13% less likely to attend college
* while in school, people with diabetes had more frequent absences, adding up to substantially missed periods of schooling
* over a 40-year work period, diabetes affected overall earnings–people with diabetes made $160,000 less than people without the disease
The article tries to soften the blow of these issues through William Polonsky’s statements. He is CEO of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute and an associate clinical professor in psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. Although saying he “was surprised and disturbed by the study’s findings,” he went on to soft-pedal by adding, “if these findings are true for this group of kids from the early 1990′s, they’re probably not anymore” due to “changes in diabetes management over the past 20 or 30 years (which) have made a significant difference in the way people with diabetes live.”
“In the past,” Polonsky says, “some people were told by their physicians that they weren’t going to live too long, probably not even past 30 or 40 . . . which would have had an impact on how someone would view schooling . . . and career plans. Now, young people with type 1 diabetes can expect to have a normal or close-to-normal life span.”
I’ll admit that today’s medical technology helps. Home blood sugar testing, alone, turned my understanding of everything I do to take care of myself into one of immediate impact. These days, I actively immerse myself in taking the steps I need to take to be in the best health I can be. The data force me to do that and helped make me more accountable. A good thing, like Polonsky says!
But does this man realize how many negative messages are still out there for anyone dealing with lifelong health conditions? Those kids from the 1990′s, along with huge numbers of older people with Type 1 diabetes, have had to deal with this psychological assault, along with diabetes’ physical challenges, for a long time, fighting those messages we’ve heard for years.
I’ll admit that I was uncertain, especially when I was younger, about my own chances to live a long, full life due to having diabetes. Polonsky concedes to a typical mindframe in the medical community that has struck this kind of fear into so many diabetics. Comments I heard while growing up?
’You’ll be lucky to live into your 30′s or 40′s.’
’If you don’t start taking better care of yourself, you’re going to go blind. Or lose a toe. Or leg.’
‘You’ll never have a family.’
‘We can’t sell you life insurance if you have diabetes!’
Nasty thinking. Dangerous territory. And all–not true! Thus, I am strangely grateful for that quirky trait of being stubborn. So many times in the face of negativity, I’ve stuck out my tongue at the naysayers. It’s helped me survive, somehow, and laugh at the absurdity of what I am dealing with. Deep inside, despite all my fears about this stuff coming true, my anger at proving it wasn’t going to take over my life was stronger than those messages. Well, most of the time. But you can’t live in a bubble of negativity too long before wanting to poke through it and see what else is out there in life.
And so it goes. Staying stubborn in the face of negative feedback can, oddly enough, be a saving grace. You may need to think about a perspective different than yours, but you can’t give in like a passive sheep to diabetes’ (or any other health issues’) demands. Reflect on what’s really best for you (I have recently assembled a great team of doctors), be proactive and tweak what you need to do to take care of yourself and your loved ones (that’s why I wear an insulin pump), and then move past your worries to enjoy what life has to offer (I train my dogs in agility, conformation, obedience & pet therapy and immerse myself in ceramics & photography). These steps are what I coach myself to do every day. Usually, it helps me move forward, even if that step, on a particular day, is but a small one.
B well, b happy. And be proactive, even if you can only take the smallest step.
Until next time, Kath