The day my diagnosis essay posted was a great one for boosting the feeling of community with my diabetes care. I was touched to read the comment thread from the essay because it allowed me to connect with some of you about your own life changing doctor visits. That day, I also sent the essay to the Insulindependence Captain google group. My email inbox was flooded with responses on how reading the essay brought back vivid memories of their own personal experiences with being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
No matter what age of diagnosis (type 1, type 2, LADA, gestational), most of us felt isolation in that life changing moment of hearing some version of the words, “you have diabetes.” The evening of the day the essay posted, I sat on my deck, sipping on a glass of local pinot gris, marking the occasion of having such a personal piece of writing published. I was sharing the celebratory moment on the phone with a friend and he and I were talking about connecting with people through this common thread of our stories with diabetes, I was overcome with the completely opposite feeling of isolation.
It was in January when I was reading the weekly posts on A Sweet Life, when I read a blog post by Erin Spineto about her preparations for a solo sailing adventure in the Florida Keys as a fund-raiser for the non-profit Insulindependence. At the time, I had been researching different diabetes training programs because I wanted to train for something to get in better shape and start to build community around my diabetes care. I had been dragging my heels in signing up for a Team WILD training even though I was excited about what they do as an organization and despite the fact, two of my closest girlfriends told me that they would do the Chicago sprint triathlon with me as type 3 supporters. Type 3 supporters are described on Team WILD’s website as, “the female friends and loved ones of a woman on the team who has diabetes or pre-diabetes.”
I struggled with the idea of having to train to swim as part of the race. Lets face it; I was the girl at swimming lessons as a child that did not like to get her face wet. That was until the swimming instructor decided to put pennies on the bottom of the pool. If I were brave enough to get my face wet and dive to the bottom of the pool, I was going to become the wealthiest eight-year-old I knew. Who could resist those copper colored circles of joy? But what triathlon has pennies in the bottom of the lake?
When I read on Insulindependence’s website about how they had an entire club within their organization devoted to outdoor adventure, I was thrilled. I could easily get behind the idea of training to go backpacking in Yosemite or cross-country skiing in Maine with other people with diabetes. They had an announcement on their website; they were currently accepting applications for Captains for their outdoor adventure club Testing Limits. It was settled, this is what I had been looking for, and I decided to apply then and there for one of the Captain positions.
At the time, I was in the midst of undergoing testing for a 3rd autoimmune disease due to some markers that had come up on bloodwork. I had been on that testing road many times over the years with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. They are both autoimmune diseases, increasing the potential for developing additional autoimmune diseases. I don’t think that anyone likes undergoing medical testing. But as I began going through the familiar process of test after test, I noticed myself reacting strongly both mentally and physically. I could feel myself fighting to not have anything else to manage, even if potentially it may be an explanation to some of the symptoms I was experiencing. I kept slamming up against the thought; I don’t want anything to get into the way of me living fully.
One of the Captains for Triabetes, the triathlon training club for Insulindependence recently shared an article he had written about how the Greek titan Prometheus can teach us about living well with diabetes. I highly recommend reading the article and want to share one of his key closing thoughts, because, to me it is another way in exploring softening instead of hardening because of our challenges. He says, if there is one message he can impart to a child living with diabetes, which I will add could apply to anyone living with diabetes, it will be, “Live this life.”
I am excited and honored to begin this blog journey with you and the connections that we share in this process of living fully with what we are given. We all have something that we struggle with and it is through these struggles that challenge us, that we are universally connected.
@ Jeff – Thank you for your thoughts about how embracing our fears allow us to push out of our comfort zones and learn something new and good in the process. Thankfully it also allows us to make genuine and honest connections with people along the way. @ Heather – I think so many have experienced those feelings of having to be “strong” and “solo” with living with type 1/LADA, which as we know leads to isolation. Happy that we met almost a year ago and that you introduced me to the concept of “diabetes burnout.” That lovely lunch… Read more »
Katie, Thank you for your eloquent honesty. The connections we are now able to make via sites such as this make a world of difference in the isolation that accompanies living with diabetes (hell, living – period!) over the long haul. Your thoughtful approach to waiting for something that fit you vs. hoping for those shiny pennies in the pool was wise, and insulinDependence is so lucky you joined their Testing Limits program!! :) Keep up the great writing, and thx for the reminder to soften into these things. Sometimes I feel I have to be so “tough” and “hard”… Read more »
Wonderful blog Katie. When you discuss “Testing Limits” it just reminds me that when our comfort zone meets its boundary with fear, that is where we learn the most important things in our lives. You seem to be on a good journey. Cheers and good fortune. Jeff