Don't be afraid of the T1D Big Bad Wolf known as "diabetic complications". Yes, they are scary things to face. Yes, living with complications is life altering. However, they are not as malevolent as the curse Maleficent cast upon Sleeping Beauty. I consider my own complications my many Prince Charmings (yes, you read that right, I have plural princes). When those handsome beasts (Belle would approve) arrived to awaken me from my deep sleep of diabetic denial, each complication's kiss opened my eyes to ♪♫ A Whole New World ♪♫ and not one with Aladdin's Jafar looming overhead awaiting to steal away my good fortune.
Rather, I discovered a Cave of Wonders where, once I stepped through its dark, ominous threshold, I realized there were treasures beyond belief to behold. With every loss, there is something to be gained. And with the feelings of loss complications can give, you may also discover things you never before could or would have been grateful for.
For example, the first day I went out in public in my wheelchair I was nervous to the point of my teeth chattering. Not knowing how I would even manage to roll from the parking lot to the entrance of Bed Bath & Beyond made me feel like a toddler in need of a hand to hold (which is just awkward when you're trying to wheel a chair. So, I went with the next best infantile act I could think of besides sucking my thumb, which was whining like a four year old. Sadly, it didn't inspire the coddling I was seeking, only eye rolling). After my parents helped transfer me from the car to my chair in the parking lot, I sat there petrified, waiting for my mother to push me into the store like a baby in a stroller. Being my first time out and about, I hadn't learned the importance of emptying my bladder before excursions. I pointed towards the restrooms like I had a pacifier stuck in my mouth and couldn't speak. Dutifully and without complaint, my Wonder Woman mother managed to maneuver me into the not very handicap friendly handicap bathroom. She stood in front of me as I stared at the toilet like an alien from another planet. She asked as delicately as possible, "Need help with anything?"
Like a stubborn kindergartner determined not to cry on her first day of school I shook my head vehemently, "Mom, thank you but I won't make you pull my pants down. I'll be fine." It only took about ten minutes for me to accomplish my first public pee. I'm pretty proud of that. By the time I clunked my way out of the bathroom my mom had made her way around the corner, waiting for me patiently, "Everything good?"
"Right as rain, or golden showers... but the PG kind." and with that she gave me the same look I had been giving the toilet earlier. She stepped behind me to give me a push. But after I had conquered the beast of the bathroom I was ready to tackle the next dragon of a challenge lying in my path. I declared I was ready to give wheeling on my own a go. I could tell she was trying to hide her exhaustion from having to lift my chair in and out of the car, halfway lift me out of my seat and into my chair, then wheel me across the bumpy, uphill pavement, squeeze around obstacles left and right in the aisles (carts left by bored shoppers and ladders left by lazy employees), and just the overall stress of seeing her once agile, skipping-loving daughter bonk her way around a bathroom. We both needed a breather. I wanted for her to have some space to get her retail therapy in, and me to stretch my wings and see how fast I could make my new set of wheels fly.
Within minutes I was zooming around the store nearly knocking over displays and having a grand ol' time. By the end of my one person race whizzing down the cutlery aisle (a race which I celebrated as loudly as if I had just broken an Olympic world record) I sat still for a moment catching my breath. It struck me I had never thought of how comfortable it would be being able to sit and shop at the same time. It was a little gem of a discovery in that first Cave of Wonders I had the courage to explore. That revelation made my world glitter just a little bit brighter. And where there is one gem to be found, you can be assured there are a thousand more lying ahead.
For years I lived with the fears and ruminations about what could happen to me down the road. I would see a "bad" blood sugar reading (anything over 150. Sustained high blood sugars are what cause complications) and think, "What's the point of even trying? I suck at this no matter how hard I work at it." I would constantly reschedule my endocrinologist visits and huff and puff when medical professionals warned me of what could happen if I didn't "control" my diabetes (I avoid using the word "control" when regarding managing T1D. Hearing that word automatically makes me defensive. I realize it's only being used by people who ultimately care about my longevity. But it automatically makes me feel like my body's failures are purposefully caused by me). It wasn't until I was diagnosed with a host of complications that I was able to be freed of my Drizellian dreads (Drizella is one of the jealous step-sisters from Cinderella. I know that reference may be a bit far fetched for all of you princes reading this). It took all of my fears coming true, for me to become fearless.
How is it I'm happier now than I ever have been before, living with T1D complications? Through the realization that no matter how our circumstances change, we adapt. It just takes the courage to accept ourselves as we truly are. Look into the mirror, mirror, on the wall, and see as long as you believe in yourself, you're the most beautiful of them all. Snow White's got nothin' on you.
We lose the use of our feet? We learn to crawl, or possibly parkour. We lose the use of our eyes? We learn to listen more carefully. Our stomachs can no longer digest fatty, fibrous foods? We learn that blueberry and banana baby food is tastier than any granola parfait out there (and much easier on the blood sugar).
Be kind to yourself and don't get "Hook"ed into beating yourself up over out-of-range blood sugars, an untimely low, or consistent highs. When it comes to managing diabetes, we have just about as much control as a captain of a pirate's ship whose sailors are attempting to commit mutiny. All we can do is try our best from being thrown overboard by giving our unruly crew what they desire most. In this case, the booty is a treasure by the name of insulin.
We are not poor, unfortunate souls as Ursula would have us believe. Rather, we are made strong by the poison apple's we have been handed (and yes, gastroparesis can make apples as appealing as poison). Don't allow the Wonderland of our bodies to drive you as mad as The Queen of Hearts.
If you, or a loved one, has been diagnosed with a complication of T1D, or you're just a curious Cheshire cat, check out the Court of Complications section of my website to learn more. Soon there will be testimonials included from T1D's across the world who live with complications and have found ways to continue living life with a sense of hope, joy, and freedom.
Living with complications is by far not a walk in the park. But we can choose to look down at the litter cluttering our path, or turn our faces towards the sky to feel the sun streaming through the new budding leaves. If you're facing any kind of loss in your life, whether it be a result of T1D or not, remember Belle's words of wisdom when all seems lost, "It's not until you lose everything, that you can truly appreciate everything."
Below you will find the five most common complications of Diabetes.