February 17th, 2011 is my ten-year anniversary with diabetes. I still can’t believe it: an entire decade of finger sticks and insulin and carb counting. Ten years of constant awareness of my blood sugar, constant vigilance, constant control. If I stop to think about how much time and thought and effort I’ve put into managing diabetes since that horrible, snowy Saturday afternoon when I first saw my diagnosis spelled out on a glucometer’s screen, I almost can’t believe it. The realities of living with diabetes are enough to overwhelm.
I’ve tried to celebrate my diabetic anniversaries over the years, but I’ve never quite known how to do it. It’s not like diabetes is a beloved boyfriend I want to lavish with gifts. Frankly, I’d rather punch it in the face. Instead, I want to give myself a gift. But what? Since the thing I long for most with diabetes is a break — just one day of not worrying, not caring — my first instincts often have to do with food. I will have an ice cream cone and not feel bad about it, I’ll tell myself. I’ll hit the bread plate without cultivating regret.
But that never works. The truth is that I can’t take a break from diabetes — at least not in terms of food’s effects on my blood sugar — and so any attempt to buck against that just ends up making me feel worse than I did before. This year, I wanted to do something different.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks and I came up with an idea that seems so simple, so obvious and so perfect that I can’t believe I didn’t come up with it before. Simply put, I spend every minute of every day caring for my diabetes. Why not spend my anniversary caring for myself? Or, more specifically, why not devote a day to rewarding myself for all the effort I’ve put in over the past ten years?
This doesn’t have to involve food. Instead, I want to spend the day indulging in experiences I don’t usually give myself. Like a massage. And some sort of overpriced — yet relaxing — pedicure. I usually feel bad spending money on such things, and it makes me really happy to think that on February 17th, I’m going to enjoy them, guilt-free, as a gift, to thank myself for living and managing this disease for a full ten years.
So that’s my plan. And it makes me curious: how do other people celebrate their diabetic anniversaries? Any traditions or ideas you’d like to share? As diabetics, we spend so much time being hard on ourselves, so much effort maintaining our self control, that I like the idea of using the anniversary of our diagnoses as a chance to offer ourselves thanks and credit. We deserve it.