Thankfulness, Pop Psychology & Diabetes

Melinda Seed writes for Twice Diabetes
Melinda Seed writes for Twice Diabetes

“Thankfulness” just the pop psychology sound of the word is enough to summon up a cynical eye roll from me.   You might have guessed that I’m not exactly Pollyanna when it comes to diabetes so hell will freeze over before I can think of anything to be thankful for about having type 1 diabetes.

I have met people with diabetes trying to claim that they see diabetes as a blessing, gheesh I’d hate to see their idea of a curse.   Anyway you look at it, diabetes is crap and nothing’s going to change that, especially not twee Facebook memes about counting your blessings or those irritating people who say “it could be worse at least you don’t have cancer.”  That sort of superficial thinking is nonsense in my opinion (but hey if it works for you then so be it) but there is some science that shows you can boost your physical and mental wellbeing by focusing on positives and cultivating an attitude of thankfulness.  These ideas aren’t new either, when you delve beneath the pop veneer, you find a long tradition in religion/spirituality and philosophy that supports thankfulness as a means of improving well being.

I particularly like the 1st century stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelias’s approach:

“Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.”

― Marcus Aurelias (121AD-180AD)

So, I’m going to “reckon up” a few things that I’m thankful for in relation to diabetes.

Of course the most important and obvious one is insulin.  Without it, I and everyone else with type 1 diabetes would have died an unpleasant death.  I found this scarily fascinating book, the Allen (Starvation) Treatment for Diabetes (1921) at Berkelouw Bookbarn. It  contains the latest and greatest treatments for diabetes just prior to the discovery of insulin.  The case studies, sadly record the deaths of all the young people regardless of their adherence  to this vile diet. I’m extremely grateful I don’t have to spend the last few weeks of my life on the thrice cooked vegetable diet.

TABLE 1

Thrice Cooked Vegetables

BREAKFAST

Asparagus-50 grams  1 h. tbsp, Broth, tea or coffee

DINNER

Spinach-50grams  1 h. tbsp, Broth, tea or coffee

SUPPER

Stewed celery- 50 grams 1 hp. tbsp. Broth, tea or coffee

Hill, L.W. & Eckman, R.S. (1921) The Allen (Starvation) Treatment of Diabetes W.M.Leonard Boston.

Yep, I’d certainly be craving insulin if I didn’t have it. Thank-you Banting & Best.

I well remember the bad old days of urine testing, an almost useless but time consuming thing inflicted on diabetics.  You could be hypo and unconscious but your urine still show sugar because your sugar had been over 10 in the last 8 hours.  So I’m thankful for home blood glucose monitoring.

IMG_0069My first meter, the latest thing in type 1 treatment in 1979 looked like this and was the size of a brick but I loved it and I can still remember the feeling of wellness that overtook me as a result of using this device to improve my control. Thank-you Stan Clarke.

 

I’m thankful for my insulin pump.  About 15 years ago when I was using Actrapid and Protaphane (or Protopain as it’s known to some of us) I was asked what I’d do if I could live without diabetes for one day. My response was along the lines that I’d sleep in ‘til about 11am, have brunch and go snorkelling for the rest of the day without worrying about hypos and then have salad for dinner.  These things weren’t possible when you had to match food to insulin and get up at a set time each morning (or at least near enough to) to take your insulin.  It was only recently that I realised that even though it’s far from a cure, with my pump I really can sleep in and not eat set amounts of carbs.

Snorkelling trip, Great Barrier Reef
Snorkelling trip, Great Barrier Reef

Snorkelling all day presents some challenges but is doable with some effort and care and at least I can easily manipulate my insulin dose with the pump to prevent hypos when exercising instead of having to stuff jellybeans down my throat to avoid going low.

After insulin the thing I’m most grateful for is laser photocoagulation. The threat and reality of blindness used to be very real for people with diabetes. With modern ophthalmology, blindness is now preventable.  In fact my eye doctor is the only doctor who’s actually managed to cure me of anything.  eyes-24489_150I can’t stress enough to people, even if you don’t see an endo or anybody else about diabetes, be grateful and make use of modern ophthalmology. Find a good ophtho and see him/her regularly as they can actually do something to prevent and fix vision problems. It’s never too late-just do it. Thank-you Dr Playfair & everyone who’s contributed to ophthalmology.

So, having diabetes isn’t as bad as it used to be and it’s far less intrusive than it was when I was first diagnosed.  Let’s not confuse thankfulness with acceptance of the status quo though, whilst things could be infinitely worse, they could also be better.  Here’s to agitating for continued improvements, funding and research to reduce the burden of this disease even more over the next 40 years.

I’ll leave the final word on optimism to those modern day sages, Monty Python, enjoy the sing-along  Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

12 thoughts on “Thankfulness, Pop Psychology & Diabetes

  1. Fantastic post totally agree it is easy for people to say it is not that bad when they don’t ligve with it, and we do need to share more about how many positives there actually are – not about DIABETES, but about how we can live well with it

    1. Thanks Helen, one of the many challenges of d, is I think, being realistic and honest about your feelings but not letting yourself wallow in negativity.

  2. I can’t possibly imagine what your life must be like dealing with Diabetes, but I love your blog!

    Everyone has their challenges, whether it’s health, financial, emotional, children, partners, parents…. and some things are beyond are control, but I’ve learnt that while we can’t change the past and sometimes our reality, we can choose to feel better in the moment, and gratitude is one of the many tools that can help this.

    I’m glad that you can see some positives, and you haven’t allowed your Diabetes to beat you down, and I’m soooo jealous of you snorkelling on the Barrier Reef!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind and very wise words Maxine.

      The Great Barrier Reef is here waiting for you, come back for a visit. I read something credible that said planning holidays was scientifically proven to improve your mental well being. So get planning 🙂

  3. Hmm. Maybe this is the perspective of a newbie who has not been struggling as many years as you have with this bizzo. But I do still feel relief at being diagnosed T1 after being so unwell, because I noticed improvements in my health and life. I’m not thankful and do I get cranky pants about it, but I confess that I am one of those annoying people who does find it helpful to think about worse alternatives. Whatever gets you through I suppose. Check back in with me in 7 years or so when I celebrate my decade of diagnosis – I may be less sanguine!

    1. Thanks for commenting njd. I don’t think we’re all that far apart really. It’s only other (non-d, 100% healthy) people saying “it could be worse” that irritates, it’s ok for diabetics. I also totally understand the relief at being diagnosed but I’d prefer to have kept my islet cells functioning and wouldn’t have felt unwell in the first place 🙂 Glass half-fulll or half-empty, maybe we should just agree that there’s room for more wine:) Cheers Mel.

  4. I just read this and I’m chuckling my head off. Have had type 1 for 48 years and am also a Coeliac so even Jelly Beans are out. Choices are far more limited than just with Diabetes and keeping control is twice as hard. Things can get worse 😀 I’ve had a child with cancer and come a hair’s breadth from losing her. Glass half full or half empty? ‘Just be happy to have something in the glass at all’ is my motto!

  5. Hi Lynne, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. You illustrate the “things can get worse” point beautifully but I’m sorry to hear that your daughter went through such a tough time, must have been awful for your entire family. I’d hate to think about having to make informed food choices even when hypo, I’m like stuffing everything in my mouth to make me feel better. Here’s to us always having something in our glasses as somebody famous said “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal labotomy”. Cheers

    1. LOL Trust me the stuffing still happens! Hypo’s bring out the Pooh Bear with Hunny attack in us all 🙂 I just have different supplies. I love your page by the way <3

    2. Thank-you Lynne, glad you like the page. I think I’m more like marauding, half-demented Viking when trying to fix a nypo (night-time hypo) than Pooh Bear 🙂

  6. After not being able to think of anything at all good about Diabetes, I have finally come up with something. When you have had D for a long, long time and the circulation in your legs is very bad, your leg hair does not grow nearly so fast and you don’t have to shave them very often. There, I’ve found something I’m grateful for.

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