Diabetes Makes Your Brain Bigger…..

Ok so just back from a normal morning of getting up past the alarm, finding the 17 year old son was going to school late so I had to take the 11 year old instead of him, getting myself, the 11 year old and the 2 year old ready to go out the door, battling rush hour to get the 11 year old to school, pulling into the truck lane to get to the shops to do the weekly food shopping before the man coming to fix the air conditioner calls to say he is on the way (as of course I have nothing to do in my day and can happily sit around waiting all day until he comes, coz they can’t give you a precise time they are coming – more fool me I forgot their lives are SOOO much busier than mine), and get to the shops, toddler in the trolley- check; green bags for shopping – check; shopping list – check….oh oh….blood glucose – yep you got it – check! Of course I am now hypo, standing in the aisle about to start shopping, toddler ready to go, people wondering why I have a little machine ( is it a pager??) and am pricking my finger at 9 am on a Friday morning in Foodland……

So a few lollies later and a little moment and I am off and running again.

Now here is the thing, is it motherhood that makes me able to multi task like this? Yes I think it is. But I also think that diabetes actually grows our brains bigger. Now this is not based on any scientific research, papers from experts, or sitting through one of the many diabetes conferences I have attended since starting work in diabetes a decade ago. Nope, this is based on pure experience – of my life and observation of the many thousands of people with diabetes I have had the pleasure of talking to over the years.

Is it only me or does it seem people with diabetes fit a very large amount of additional thinking, considering, debating, deciding, correcting and worrying in our day, than those without diabetes? The above scenario is just one of hundreds that happen each and every day for a person with diabetes. I have also noticed that people with diabetes, in particular those who grow up with type 1 diabetes, are high achievers. It seems we get things done!

I think that having to consider so many things in every day, not being as carefree as others, thinking about your body and the impact of all the choices we make, as well as dealing with the roller coaster, the worries and fears, the hassles and sadness that can come along, make our brains open to so much more than people who don’t have to think about these things. We know our bodies and we know what it is like to feel like you have not got control of your body.

A hypo is something you can not possibly understand unless you have experienced it….we can try to explain it, but I don’t believe it can ever be relayed properly how scary it can be during a hypo. This alone is an extra worry that can mess with your brain.

So if anyone ever says that diabetes can make your memory go, can lessen your capacity to do a task, or carry out a job, or be responsible for something – that is total rubbish. I guarantee  you that when they woke up, ate without even thinking about the carb content of their breakfast, showered and cruised off for the day, their brain had done less than half what a person with diabetes would have done – and I rest my case. But I am saying this in a positive light – we get to have bigger brains! And you know what, what matters in life is that you have the gift of having a life – that a life well lived is all it is about, diabetes or not. So grab your blood glucose monitor, dial up your insulin pen, check the carbs in that piece of cake and feel proud that you are in fact growing your brain!



  1. Helen W on March 4, 2011 at 11:59 am

    I can relate to this as the parent of a Type 1 diabetic too- those hours and hours of night time when you think, ‘Oh is she awake because she’s hypo?’ and you get up to watch her devour toast and orange juice, and ache with wanting diabetes not to have happened to your precious child…your own brain grows too, so much factual learning and emotional learning for the whole family.. and then to feel great pride as you see the daily struggle with diabetes pass into her hands as she grows up, and just becomes part of daily living, no big deal.

  2. Tuija on March 5, 2011 at 1:42 am

    Hear Hear! Great story. I really think there’s something in your theory. The brain does indeed make new pathways with new knowledge and learning. I am totally in awe of my 10 year old who manages her T1D so well (with some help from me) but she’s a real champion and it’s humbling just being in her presence!

  3. mytypeonelife on March 16, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Gosh, I feel super smart now! I never thought about my diabetes genius that way, but yes, I do feel like I know my body and myself better than non-diabetics! Another bonus to Type 1 is that we do not get sick as often — a genetic fluke that I recently learned about as one of our super-human diabetic powers 🙂