Maybe I'm seeing the glass as half full, but it feels like we might be in the midst of a shift in cultural narrative about diabetes.
For example, did you notice the way President Obama addressed the fact that his Supreme Court nomination, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, has diabetes? Her diabetes wasn't the story anyone led with, but it also wasn't a fact that was overlooked or ignored. The story line felt pitch perfect to me, that this is a remarkable woman, who has achieved remarkable things in her life, all of which have led to this remarkable moment in history, and by the way, she's done so while having diabetes. The story goes that we can respect her noteworthy accomplishments that much more because of this fact. Diabetes adds to the picture of this person, not subtracts.
Maybe the new story line emerging is one that says that diabetes doesn't make a person less than but rather, it actually makes them remarkable. A plus to all their other accomplishments they have as a human being throughout their lifetime. Maybe what's starting to emerge here is a larger cultural understanding that living well with diabetes is in it's own right, actually one of life's accomplishments worthy of notice and respect.
I think I've been searching for a philosophy about my life with diabetes for a very long time. Something that can help me make sense of this strange experience with chronic illness. For me, a picture of the reality of a situation always helps me as the beginning of any growth process or change. Once I have an understanding of the truth, the way things really are, I can usually develop a philosophy to cope with it. I've done this process a number of times in my life when faced with some very difficult things. It's how I've been able to have as rich of a life as I've had, in spite of some very hard stuff that's happened along the way.
The process makes sense but the actual doing of it isn't as easy as it sounds. I've spent a very long time working on this, first by getting a handle on the physical aspects of diabetes and then attempting to draw the picture of the reality of the disease in my own life. Only recently have I come to understand that diabetes isn't an easy thing to pin down in terms of truth or certainty. There are so many stories we are told about what diabetes is, by others and by ourselves. Stories and information and warnings from the medical community and society at large. Stories from our families and partners and friends that factor into the picture. And then of course, there are the stories we tell ourselves, about diabetes, our lives and the experiences and expectations we carry with us because of it. "You're sick, so be careful." "You're lucky, so be grateful." "If you just do what you're supposed to do, you can lead a normal life." "You are damaged goods and no one will want you." "Diabetes shouldn't hold you back." "Diabetes will eventually cause terrible complications." "Diabetes isn't that big of a deal." And the list goes on and on. Some stories are negative, some are positive, some inspire and some set us up for disappointment. At the very least, all these stories serve to confuse because whether they are offered with good intention or in ignorance, they're most certainly at odds with each other. In my experience, each has a bit of truth about it but in the end, it's up to us to tease out which truths fit for us. It's up to us to figure out what our own diabetes reality looks like.
And that takes time and some quietness and maybe even some solitude to do so. And yes, it's yet another aspect of dealing with diabetes. But I think it's a worthy use of my time. I think the payoff is totally worth the effort.
So that's where I am right now. Unteasing the stories I've been told and am telling myself to see which ones really fit for me. It's surprising because I'm beginning to reject some of the ones I've held dear since I got diabetes, ones that others hold dear too. We'll see where this process takes me. I'm hopeful that by doing this, my experience with diabetes and chronic illness will be that much more authentic and meaningful. In the end, I will discover (and maybe also partially create) my true story with diabetes and in the process of doing so, find the philosophy around it that I've been seeking for so long.