After an amazing evening Friday, on Saturday we started the DTreat day off with Joe Solowiejczyk (who has had Type 1 diabetes for over 50 years) talking about the psychological aspects of diabetes. With diabetes, we get a lot of feelings. It is a struggle sometimes to not let the negative emotions overwhelm us: Anger, sadness, depression, frustration, exhaustion, fatigue, and sometimes even boredom from feeling like we’re doing nothing but the same things over and over.
Joe encouraged us to allow those emotions to come up, because they will lead to what is really going on and the things that we really need to give attention to most. Whether you have diabetes or not, it’s important that we learn to deal with our emotions in a healthy way so that we don’t adopt a more detrimental pattern of behavior.
Something Joe proposed to our group at DTreat really stuck with me. I don’t think there is one person that doesn’t get depressed at some point in relation to life with their diabetes. It is okay to feel that way, and something we need to be okay with dealing with. It is a progressive and all-consuming disease, and sometimes we just don’t have the strength to push back. He suggested that when we’re starting to feel this way, we should schedule a Diabetes Depression Day.
We all do so well taking care of our diabetes day in and day out, going to work, school, church, raising children, traveling, and everything else that comes are way. As a group of people, the things that people with diabetes are able to accomplish truly defines what it means to be heroes. We save our life with every decision we make throughout the day, and it’s often a thankless job. It is hard for us to appreciate what we do because we HAVE to do it. We work so hard day after day to avoid complications, not to win a prize. The prize is when we don’t get anything at all as a result of diabetes. When you take a Diabetes Depression Day, it forces you to take the day off from work, or school, or other previously scheduled activity and take a day for you. You can even take more than one if you need it. You have the choice of a day to give in, where with diabetes, you did not.
Joe said that on his day, he tells his friends and family ahead of time that he is going to take whatever day off for his diabetes day, and he has them call every hour to tell him how awesome and courageous he is for what he has accomplished in his life with diabetes. Then, on the night before, he goes to the store and gets two different kinds of ice cream and movies to watch. He said, “I didn’t have a choice with the diabetes, but I have a choice in what type of ice cream I want and what movies I want to watch.” By the time he starts his day with ice cream and movies, and folks calling him and telling him how awesome he is, it doesn’t take long before he is in better spirits.
Speaking of spirit, Joe also explained to us that there is a spirit of powerlessness that is at the core of diabetes, and something we fight every single day. He said at one point, “There is nothing more helpless than an adult with a low blood sugar.”
I can certainly appreciate that, because yesterday morning (24 hours after Joe’s talk with us), I had a severe low BG myself. Thank goodness I was around people who “get it” and understood that I needed some help. One of my three roommates, Tremayne, found me on the floor after I had gotten out of bed, dressed, brushed my teeth, and that was the last thing I remember before seeing him, my other roommate Zack, and Mike who works with people with diabetes every single day. They stuck me with glucagon, and were patient with me and eventually helped me to get back to normal.
This low BG was the same as others that have put me down before in that I’m still sore all over from the seizing up, and my tongue is swollen and hard to talk and chew from the involuntary biting, and I was super nauseous (I suspect from the Glucagon). What made this low BG different (and so great!) was when I joined back up with my DTreat friends, not one single person made me feel guilty, or embarrassed, or anything less than a part of the group. I think that is because we all know that it could be any of us in that severe low BG situation, and we all know that it is nobody’s fault, especially not our own. As Joe said, “There is no one that judges us as harshly as we judge ourselves.” We can only do as best we can with all of the unpredictability that comes with a life of diabetes. If anything is to blame, we should leave that burden right where it belongs…with diabetes.