The list of people I know living with diabetes who have achieved amazing things in their life is very long. I have often thought about why? I am not just talking about famous people. I am talking about all of the people I have met over the years, who have done outstanding things in their lives. This may range from running a marathon, to advocating for changes to improve our lives, to reaching out to someone in the diabetes community to make a difference to one person’s life. Since I started my online diabetes community in 2001, the numbers of people online reaching out to each other, is enormous. There are meet-ups in real life and online, regular chats and always someone there to have your back. There are people speaking out and standing up, and people pushing the boundaries and doing things in their life that are truly remarkable.
On it’s own, having diabetes is not remarkable. I don’t think telling someone they are so remarkable or brave because they do things that any human would, is acceptable. Having diabetes does not make you somehow damaged, somehow less. Saying you are remarkable or inspiring or brave, just because you got on with life, implies this. It is not ok to say you are so amazing because you got up and went to work today. I do think it is ok to congratulate someone for writing a book, or starting a support group, or walking an enormous distance to raise funds, or creating political change to better people’s lives, or climbing a mountain. I also think it is remarkable how people with diabetes get on with all the things there are to do in life, AS WELL as managing diabetes. It is also not ok to say – oh I don’t know how you do it, I could not inject myself, and so on. These things are part of diabetes, you either do them or die. If you are someone without diabetes and you got it, you would do the same. I know you would.
Living with something like diabetes can change who you are and the way you live your life. Diabetes is an extraordinary condition. If you live with it you are an ordinary person dealing with an extraordinary condition. This can carve out a new path and encourage you to do things you might otherwise not have tried. It permanently alters what you do and the choices you make in your life. When people ask about the positive parts of life with diabetes it is easy to roll your eyes and say there are none. But when you stop and think about it, there might actually be some things that have happened, some things you have done, or opportunities you have had, that are because of living with diabetes. I was following along on twitter with my fellow bloggers at an event this week which I was supposed to be at. The lovely Frank from type 1 writes, shared this tweet which really talks to this point:
“The consumers sitting in the room here are not the average. Just as the DOC is not representative of all PWDs. Important never to forget my privilege”.
There are opportunities that can come when you live with diabetes. There are insights and experiences and relationships. I know that I have had many wonderful experiences because of diabetes. I have often felt like I am continually striving to get somewhere. I think perhaps this is just part of who I am, part of my personality and my busy mind. Over the years this has led to me doing many things that have revolved around my diabetes and taken me on many journeys. These things simply would not have happened if I did not have diabetes myself. This makes me wonder that when you hear people saying “she has done such amazing things despite her diabetes”, maybe it should be “she has done such amazing things because of her diabetes”. Maybe, the extreme focus on getting balance in your day, the calculating numbers, the counting and considering, the lack of logic and frustration of the highs and lows, leads to highly developed problem solving skills. Maybe, the insight you gain into how everyday activities and stress affect your body, that you have to come to terms with the fact it was really just bad luck that you got this disease, leads to a wise head on young shoulders. Maybe, the loss of spontaneity, the extra thinking, planning and energy that goes into the smallest of tasks whilst your peers skip freely through life leads to an early appreciation of life and attitude to live loud and live well. Maybe, the empathy developed from knowing what it is like to struggle, leads to a desire to do something to change the world and to reach out to others.
Maybe, because of diabetes, you become the person you are and that is truly remarkable.
**updated from a post originally shared in 2012