In honor of National Diabetes Awareness month, I decided to write my blog on the top 10 things I have learned as a parent to a child who has type 1 diabetes. It is easy to paint a picture of despair, it is easy to hold on to the negative moments especially in a time of uproar or complete chaos during a challenging trial/time.
Here is the kicker…it isn’t ALL bad. It isn’t all sucky. It becomes part of our routine and with that it becomes part of our daily actions that happen without even thinking about what it is that we really are doing. It becomes second nature, but we are constantly on watch. With our greatest challenges, comes our greatest blessings IF we slow down enough and open our hearts enough to catch it.
Top 10 things I have learned from Diabetes as a mother…
1. Timing matters
It really does! Timing really is essential in the management of diabetes in more ways than one. Timing of insulin injections, timing of basal dosages delivered, timing of your last check, timing of the carbs you consume AFTER you dose for them in order to prevent a spike. Timing in activity, learning, advancing. Timing in alerts from our dog before a crash. Timing in good deeds, and timing in our actions towards diabetes around Kinzie. Timing is important, and you have to always be aware of timing…every single moment of every single day. IT IS ESSENTIAL in being successful.
2. Count your blessings
Count them every single day. Count your blessing ESPECIALLY on the days you do not even have the energy to acknowledge them! It is completely necessary to keep in your mind the blessings you are surrounded by because this disease is TIRING, heart breaking, devastating, FOREVER, challenging, never stopping, always changing FRUSTRATING, exhausting! It can wear on you and it can get the better half of you when you get lost in the moment. So count your blessings no matter how small you may think those blessings are. They will have an ever-lasting effect on you…and in the moments you need it, they will always be there to remind you that not all is lost.
3. It isn’t a curse
It isn’t! This isn’t because you suck or you are being punished. THIS IS NOT A PUNISHMENT! This is merely a test, a trial, a temporary thing for this life. I often think about the quote that goes roughly like ‘God gave his biggest challenges to his strongest warriors.’ And boy ain’t that the truth?! I don’t know a single T1D or T1D parent that wasn’t a passionate fighter. If ever you look into a small community of people with something similar I think you could easily pick out certain traits (for the most part) in the community across the board for T1D. We are strong, resilient and inventive. We problem solve, we go with the flow, we stay calm, we pray daily, we learn. It isn’t a curse…you can see we really do gain a great amount by living a life connected in one way or another to t1D. If you face this as a trial, not a curse…there is always room for victory! This isn’t a curse, you did nothing wrong for your child to be diagnosed with T1D…it isn’t a punishment for you or for those with T1D. I cannot stress enough how vital it is to have the perspective that this is not a curse, it is a trial waiting to be tackled. Waiting to be accomplished. United by one common trait, T1D people are pretty amazing.
4. It could be worse
It could! It could be better. BUT it really could be worse! And I don’t want to tempt fate saying we got dealt the WORSE hand ever. We still live life, nothing stops us, and we still can see growth, change and blessings come our way because of this disease. It isn’t easy, but it could be worse. It never ends, but I am sure…it could be worse. And just when I think it is WORSE…I remind myself, no, it really could be worse. Be thankful for the trials you face and the blessings that come with it, because at the end of every single day…it really could be worse. Some how along the way, it is never too much and we find a way to tackle whatever is thrown on our plate…reaching near breaking point and shattered, but not bad enough to finish us off. It could be worse.
5. Strength in numbers
You can look at this in more ways than one. Numbers as in information…BG readings, A1cs, ketones…the more information I have the more strength I have to combat it. The more detail I have in front of me the more I can factor in to the equation in order to have the power necessary to face this beast and win.
Strength in numbers is also important in the company you keep. When you cannot carry on…somewhere someone on your side will… and they will carry you until your feet are sturdy upon the ground. Strength in numbers helps work through those unfamiliar moments as you tread unfamiliar territory; knowing you are not ALONE. Strength in numbers as you watch your child grow, knowing they too need freedom so you draw on strength in numbers to create an environment set up for her success and safety.
6. Celebrate the small stuff
Small stuff suddenly seem so much bigger, more important. Small stuff seems pretty important in every single way. Celebrate the perfect night, time together, another year living healthy with T1D. Celebrate educating others, spreading awareness; even if it was reaching ONE person. Celebrate the independent siblings gain as they too grow up too quickly instead of mourning what we perceive as ‘normal’. Celebrate the life you were given because you were deemed ‘fit’ enough to face it. Celebrate the moments diabetes has made you slow down enough to celebrate. Celebrate the moments that take your breath away, make you laugh, make you cry because you are aware enough in the moment to notice them. Don’t forget to celebrate when you are in a constant state of vigilance and fight. It is okay to be happy and celebrate…that is what life is all about.
7. Everything really does happen for a reason
No need to say more. I truly believe that everything in my life has happened for a reason. The good, bad, ugly, sad…everything! I believe that certain steps in my life played out for this one purpose…my talents as a great student, thirst for knowledge, problem solving skills and career as a nurse all came before diabetes because those talents harvested at that time in my life were to be able to be in place for THIS moment in my life. My talents were going to be greatly needed at home. The order in which those things happened was for a reason, to help set us up for success and have a leg to stand on when everything seems too challenging.
8. Just because it is hard, doesn’t mean it is impossible
Nothing is impossible. NOTHING. Nothing about T1D is easy. NOTHING. I was witness to my daughter having the worst night of her (my) life, nearly losing her, push on in order to prove to the world (and herself) that diabetes will never dictate what she can and will do in life. Nothing is impossible…we just go about EVERYTHING differently. That simple day in March taught me probably more than I ever would have known about impossible things in my entire lifetime. Perhaps that is why we were faced with such a tragedy. Perhaps not. Not matter what you face, how rough it gets, how many times you get knocked down…nothing is impossible. If you are determined, if you are willing, if you push past your fears…nothing will ever be impossible in this world. I simply look at my children and know this to be true.
9. Always continue learning and evolving
Do not become stagnant in what you know about this disease. Evolve, learn, grow and dedicate a good portion of your time to be able to teach your child this. It is important to not get set in your ways. I can honestly say the more set in your ways and the less you actually actively seek more knowledge the more ignorant you will remain. Every parent of a t1D child has a responsibility to set their child up for success in this world…success in life choices, health, career, human being qualities. It is hands down, the number one thing I cannot stress enough. Never be stagnant in your willingness to learn more or to seek information. Information will not just land on your lap. You child will watch how you tackle this disease; will watch how much you seek knowledge and active practice what you preach. Set them up for success. Knowledge is power.
10. Time is precious
So make it count. Do not take for granted any single second, because you never know when fate will be tempted or when your job here on this earth is complete. You are not the keeper of time or the one who decides when your time is up. When you are in a constant state of motion, which is where diabetes can tend to keep you, sometimes you forget that time is passing you by. Sometimes you forget there is a bigger picture and better purpose. Time is so precious. Your kids will only be this age once; you can never have a redo. You never get to pause. Make time count. Teach your child to be able to make time count. Watching your child struggle with the entire grief process, this perhaps might be the hardest thing to do…but when they see that clear picture, it is worth it. Time is all we have until it is gone. Don’t regret yesterday, forgetting today already trying to change tomorrow.
So what are your top 10 that you have learned from diabetes? What are your top 10 you have learned in your life if you do not face t1D? Remember it is never too late to start making that list and to start appreciating the blessings that encircle such a huge trial in our daily lives. Diabetes shouldn’t ever be allowed to define your life. Shape it to whatever it is you want it to be, you won’t be successful every day, you will have set backs…but keeping that positive motion forward you will find yourself looking forward to the future with purpose and strength.