This post is the result of three unplanned Type 1 Diabetic encounters this last weekend. This was a new record number of Type 1 sightings out in the “wild” (my girls and I like to look for them like birdwatchers), and they all had one thing in common. They were all newly diagnosed. Due to their new arrival into this diabetic world I could tell that they were all standing in a place that was all too familiar to me 13 years ago.
13 years ago I heard these five words “We Think You Have Diabetes”: What That Really Meant Read More Here
Thinking back to those early days reminded me of how much information I was trying to squish into my brain and how much I desperately wanted to know what I could expect this new life to look like.
These three new Type 1’s have been on my mind a lot this week. I hope that this post helps in some small way to keep your head above water and serves as a reminder that we have all been there and we are still standing and doing the things we love.
To the Type 1 Veterans, I hope this post makes you realize how far you have come and how many little successes you have in your pocket. Know that we made it this far and are strong enough to do it all over again tomorrow.
Dear Newly Diagnosed Type 1 Diabetic,
Let me be the first to welcome you to the club. This may not be a club you signed up for but, now that you’re here, I want to ensure you that you are part of one of the strongest clubs around. This club is filled with people who truly care and are here for you and who really, truly get what you are going through right this very minute.
I have been a member of this club for over 13 years and I have my scarred fingertips to prove I’ve paid my membership dues. I remember being exactly where you are standing right now and I want to tell you that it gets better…not perfect, it gets easier…not easy, and you will find a new normal…just not the normal you were used to. On your way towards your new normal here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way that might help you out.
1. Be Overwhelmed
There is no possible way that a new diagnosis is not overwhelming. So stop wasting energy on pretending that you are not overwhelmed. Let it go and know that you will not have this all figured out tomorrow. This feeling of overwhelm will only begin to subside by waking up every morning and doing your life. Only through constant practice and repetition does this get more understandable, and I promise that with repetition comes understanding.
I found that this book gives a good baseline of info about Type 1 and may help you and your support crew.
2. Don’t Stop Asking Questions
Spend ten minutes with a six year old and you will lose count of the number of questions they can ask. Be that kid. The only way that you are going to learn how to do this on your own is to ask questions. Write down your questions and don’t let that doctor or nurse leave the room until you finish your list. That being said, if your doctor doesn’t want to answer your questions or rushes your appointment, move on and find a doctor you can connect with. There are great medical teams out there and you need to find a team that understands you and your needs.
Medical Teams are not all created equal. Some stand out above the rest. 12 Years of Doctors: The Good, The Bad, and The Life Changing
3. There Is Only One Type 1 Diabetic Like You And There Will Never Be Another
While we welcome you into this Type 1 Diabetic club with open arms, I want to remind you that my diabetes is not your diabetes. What works for me will not always work for you. Comparing insulin doses and A1C’s is not likely to lead to great benefits and has the potential to make your mind spiral. There is no manual for life with diabetes for a very good reason, we are all unique. Reaching out to others for support is encouraged but basing your treatment and life on the patterns of others or things you read online is dangerous. There is no right or wrong there is only what works best for you.
4. Small Successes
Celebrate your small successes because they are truly not all that small. This disease will challenge you in so many ways and it doesn’t hand out gold stars. It is up to you to find the joy and strength in the little moments of greatness. Figuring out the right insulin to carb ratio at breakfast, taking a walk after dinner without crashing, getting a scoop of ice cream without a high blood sugar or changing your first pump infusion set are all reasons to feel pride and celebrate.
This is so true when you are trying to do the things you love. There may be activities that diabetes threatens to interfere with. Take little steps and be patient as you try different tricks to make it happen. For me it was running. Once I found a way to run over five miles without crashing and without feeling scared the whole time I felt like I was a superhero, but this took time. There were countless runs cut short by low blood sugars and numerous runs finished with sky rocketing blood sugars. Being You does not have to stop because of diabetes but you do need to be patient as you find a new path.
5. Plan Ahead
The best course to lessening your worry and anxiety is to be prepared for anything. Stick snacks and glucose tablets everywhere. Always know that if an emergency low blood sugar happens that you have supplies at your fingertips. It seems simple but when a low blood sugar hits, the last thing you need to be doing is searching for food. Similarly, when you go out on a walk or a run, tell someone where you are going. Plan a route that keeps you close to people in case you need help. Carry your phone with you, keep juice boxes by your bed, and wear a medical id. Putting little things in place and being prepared is a good habit to practice so you don’t have to panic later.
6. Put Yourself First
What you are going through is a pretty big deal. It is ok to ask friends to change dinner plans because you can’t find anything on the menu that you feel comfortable eating. It is ok to tell your family that mealtimes or menus are changing or tell your boss (or kids) that you need to take a second to check your blood sugar. It is ok to tell people that you need to take a break because your sugars are low. Even if you are in the middle of a meeting, you don’t have to cover up and hide the fact that you need to eat. It is also ok to be crabby and ask for space during a roller coaster day of blood sugars. Just give your family a heads up that it’s diabetes you’re mad at and not them.
Put yourself first and speak up. Allow those around you to help you in the smallest of ways, it does not make you any less powerful.
7. Be Patient and Grant Yourself Grace
I will say this again, Diabetes will get easier…not easy. The only consistent thing about Diabetes is its inconsistency. You can only control so much, and you are only human. There is no perfect. You will have bad days and bad weeks. Be kind to yourself and accept that a bad diabetes day or month does not mean you failed. Every day is a new opportunity to learn, adjust, and try again.
8. You Can
You are not alone on this journey and you will be amazed at the support system you will develop when the time is right. Take a moment today to breathe and silence your endless thoughts and worries. Remember to smile, laugh and love hard on the ones closest to you. Most importantly I want you to know this and always remember this one thing,
You Are Strong Enough To Do This
Looking for some more perspective on what this new life might look like? Here are a few other hand picked posts just for you.