Life with diabetes is a never ending learning curve. Just like the changing colours and the unpredictability of Autumn, diabetes dances around as the wind changes, brings a crescendo of colour and can make you crash to the ground like a falling leaf. This is never more true than at times of change, in your body and your life. If you could sit in a small room with very little activity and the exact same food every day, the exact same movement, the exact same injection site, even then, there would be other forces at work that would cause things to fluctuate. One of the things that I have learnt in all these years with diabetes, is that it is best to see life with diabetes as a sunset, not a maths problem. Sometimes you will get a really perfect day, like those sunsets where the red and gold and pink and purples of the sky all meld together in a fabulous display of light and movement. Just like that, some days with diabetes are golden. Other times the sunset is quiet and dull, slipping away behind clouds and leaving barely an impact on the sky. Likewise, some days with diabetes are ones you would rather forget. They drag on and there are cloudy skies and dark stormy moments and probably, a bit of stomping and crashing about.
As my body ages, and my time with diabetes grows longer, it becomes more difficult. The big times of change in your body, are often the most tricky when it comes to diabetes – puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding and for me now the slide into menopause – have all presented me with challenges. The planning of pregnancy is something you are told is very important when you have diabetes. It’s funny that as I get further into my PhD I realise that I was not really given much information about pregnancy when diagnosed – except not to do it because I would have deformed or dead babies…and later, not much more was said. When I did fall pregnant with my first son, fairly unexpectedly, there had certainly been no visits to any pre-pregnancy clinic. We know so much more now, about the ways diabetes affects you and if you are a woman, the ways it can affect your developing baby.
We have so many more options for having a healthy pregnancy and so many more resources at our finger tips. I am excited by my current research, discovering that if we can support women better when they are thinking about the idea of having a baby one day, in a positive way, not in the way I was told all those years ago, there is a much stronger chance she will have the personal, social and pyschological resources to take the steps needed for a healthy pregnancy and baby. It is no easy journey but one that is worth more than anything you can imagine. We still have a long way to go in many ways when it comes to supporting people with diabetes. This time of my life is another one where I was given very little, to zero information. The changes as you get older are tough, but often not spoken about.
As I sit here in the swirling leaves of an Autumn day with diabetes, I am still reminded of being grateful. I am blessed with being a person of noticing – someone who sees all the things around me, not just diabetes. I could curl up in the corner and take it lying down, and sometimes, on some days, I do withdraw into myself in order to survive. I get tired, overloaded, over it all. I am greatly affected by other people’s stories, other people’s pains and joy. I am greatly affected by injustice and the hard things that happen in the world. I can be torn up, gutted, left vulnerable, by seeing someone’s pain, or by someone’s harsh thoughtless words directed at me. I am also able to see the absolute joy of a small moment someone else might miss. The glint of sunlight across the leaves of the plants on my deck, the sounds of my children’s voices, the way my husband sticks his neck out for other people. I notice the calls of the birds across the day, the echo of the cars as they rush about their business, the crying of the small child next door who I worry about. As I check my blood for the 20th time in a day and stick yet another needle in me, as I consider the very small range of food I am able to eat, as I deal with the frustration of it all, I also smell the scents of flowers on the air and feel the changes in weather on my skin. I appreciate the time when we sit in the evenings, the warm fire making our lounge deliciously cozy. I sip a herbal tea and feel it soothe my stomach.
All of these things bring me a deep experience of life. I share some of my moments with others online and I keep many precious moments of my life away from the enormity of the online world. I spend many hours of my life involved in my own diabetes and many hours of my life thinking about how things can be better for others with diabetes. Yet within all of this there are so many seasons and so many days. Diabetes is just that one leaf fluttering to the ground when you really think about it, and there are so many more leaves to come.