“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.
Thrice Cooked Vegetables
Asparagus-50 grams 1 h. tbsp, Broth, tea or coffee
Spinach-50grams 1 h. tbsp, Broth, tea or coffee
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.
My 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 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. I 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 LifeTweet