A Good thing about diabetes

As I have probably posted here, I've always struggled to find something good about diabetes even after 20+ years. All the positive things I could attribute to having diabetes, like empathy and preparedness and problem-solving and determination, I tend to attribute to blindness because I've lived with it longer, it has more impact on all aspects of my life, and it raises more overt barriers to accomplishing goals. And, unlike some people, I've had diabetes since I was a kid, so I don't have the sense that diabetes resulted in me being healthier than I would have been if I hadn't had it.

But over the past few weeks, I think I may have found something positive that diabetes has given me.

As some of you know, I was recently diagnosed with an allergic condition called eosinophilic esophagitis. This is a major, life-changing diagnosis, but I actually posted here last year about how I thought I had it, so it didn't come as a complete shock.

I've found a few online support groups which have honestly been a GODSEND! I can't imagine dealing with this without having that resource. I now know how some of you who are newly diagnosed with diabetes feel when you find the DOC soon after the event.

The group is great, but strangely I am finding that there are a lot of posts about things that I realize I have already dealt with because of diabetes. Things like having to stick to a very restricted diet (I'm currently strictly avoiding 10-12 foods, between EoE and food allergies), the fact that the disease can change in random ways, the fact that factors beyond control can affect it, the fact that you can feel sick but look fine, having to juggle doctor's appointments and work and so on.

I found that I couldn't really relate to any of these posts from an EoE standpoint. So many of posts about these topics I want to say, "Yes, I can relate because of diabetes!" and then I remember it's not a diabetes group and they would probably get sick of me talking about diabetes. I think that it's possibly because I've had diabetes that I haven't experienced these frustrations with EoE yet, and maybe never will because I've already dealt with them emotionally, just in a different context. Of course, it helps immensely that I've responded well (or my symptoms have, at least, haven't seen my doctor again yet) to eliminating foods, which isn't the case for everyone with this condition. Some have severe cases that progress to where they have to use a feeding tube and eliminate all foods, which hopefully I will never get there, but I like to think even if I did that diabetes would prepared me somewhat.

This is literally the first time in my life I've thought of something POSITIVE having diabetes has given me.

Have any of you had similar experiences?

First of all, Jen, congratulations on getting a diagnosis and on seeing improvement with diet!

I have also had numerous obstacles to deal with in my 65 years and so when I got to Diabetes at age 58 I kind of took it in stride and applied the same lessons and skills. Kind of like you with the EoE, I found that I didn't really go through some of the adjustment periods that many people do when getting diagnosed with D because I'd already learned those lessons: don't over-react or "worse case scenario", learn as much as you can, do what's in front of you, treat it like a challenge to be met and a problem to be solved,take care of yourself and do things you love to balance out the struggles. So I guessed I had D (though not the type) and asked for a blood test. When I was told my fasting bg was 325 I didn't know what the number meant, but just said, "so that means I have diabetes?". when the oral meds stopped working around 15 months I just set out to figure out why and re-diagnosed myself. Etc.

Bottom line is I think there is a general category in life for lack of a better term called "dealing with adversity or obstacles". We get good at it by rising to the challenge. Though some people never do. But we also run the risk of getting jaded, apathetic or resigned and that in itself is another challenge to get through.

When I was diagnosed with D I thought I already ate pretty healthy. I hadn't eaten sugar for 13 years so that wasn't an issue to confront. I was (and am) a vegetarian. I eat mostly fresh food, no fast food or chain food. I did discover that as a vegetarian I ate a lot of carbs so that was something I had to confront. (and still do).

Many years ago I was about as unhealthy as you can get, doing lots of drugs. Once I got past that phase it seemed natural to take care of my body. I figured I got a free pass surviving and now that I am 65 and looking at my own mortality I want every day/year I can get! So I do everything I can (I just started wearing compression stockings for my poor circulation...grrrr..in summer!).

The one thing that has come out of D for me specifically is I've become a better cook. I know people already think of me as a good cook, but I always just followed (complicated foodie) recipes and never improvised so I thought I was a level below a reallygood cook. Now that I have D limitations on food in addition to my acid reflux/arrhythmia limitations (nothing like yours, Jen) I have learned to improvise. If I want to be able to cook more than 2 recipes in a cookbook - even a vegetarian one - I need to substitute. So my cooking skills are improving!

Great topic, Jen; I look forward to other responses.

Wow! That's awesome that you've made progress. I know you've done a lot of work and your success is a tribute to your meticulous approaches to diabetes and I guess now this.

My positive thing might be odd but I think there's an advantage to distance running and cycling as you know if you're bonking and know about nutrition, know how to figure out how much food to eat and things like that. There's always people puking at long runs who I suspect probably don't have diabetes but maybe got carried away eating multiple Goo packets or something else that didn't agree with them, overloaded before a big run, etc. I've never had any trouble with any of that and I think that diabetes helped a lot.

Many years ago I wrote a newsletter for a club. I learned to use a computer then, but after I passed on the newsletter to another person, I hardly ever touched my computer. When I was diagnosed with diabetes 20+ years ago, I started using my computer again to try to find some answers to my D questions. I found the DOC and TuDiabetes...using my computer again was a good thing. I've learned about not only diabetes but other autoimmune conditions, found friends here to discuss these diseases with, love reading blogs... I've also written some blogs and some poetry--for me, that's a very good thing, because I've always enjoyed writing.

Jen - You have successfully adapted to your health challenges. Your ability to stay positive in the face of those challenges not only impresses me but also reminds me that I have been lucky by comparison.

While I've lived with T1D for 30 years, I've not had to deal with any other all-encompassing illnesses. I've had my share of challenges, however. I have mild peripheral neuropathy, GERD, and gastroparesis. I've been able to adjust to dealing with the digestive complications and have also reigned in my BGs in an attempt to minimize the extent and hopefully the progression of these complications.

I count my health blessings. I had normal blood glucose levels during my childhood and young adulthood. When I was diagnosed at the age of 30, I felt sadness, anger and grief, but never denied the reality of my situation. I took on a basal/bolus insulin regimen almost from the start. My doctor said that education in general and about diabetes in particular had a strong association with doing well living with diabetes. His analysis has stood the test of time well.

While I've mostly tried to answer the challenge of diabetes, I didn't always give it sufficient time and energy. It's hard sometimes to split your energy and resources between dealing with diabetes and just trying to life life.

When I retired and received the GERD and gastroparesis diagnoses, I decided to kick my diabetes therapy into high gear. The efforts of the last two years, while very time-consuming, have paid big rewards. My first 28 years of living with diabetes consisted of less than accurate insulin dosing, always erring on the side of overdosing and then feeding the insulin. I was constantly fighting off hypos and I was very good at that, but not perfect. I had some scary and huge lows when I was lucky to survive and not kill somebody else.

My long-term lesson with diabetes is a counterintuitive one. You have to pay a lot more attention to you diabetes so that you can pay less attention later. Sometimes you just have to get down into the nitty-gritty details of the BG management game and put off living life before habit takes over and restores the opportunity to live life again. While weighing food and calculating rational insulin doses base on the full nutritional content of what I eat and logging all food, insulin, and exercise seems like a lot (for some, too much) of work, it's what I need to do in order to restore some metabolic sanity to my life.

Some might say my behavior is OCD, but I'm content with the absence of frequent hypo danger while I also avoid most hyperglycemia. It's cliche about the balancing act of diabetes. but it's so true. While doctors and other medical advisors are so fearful of hypos, I've learned that reducing BG variability is the key to that balance. With low variability I can lower my average BG and A1c without undue exposure to dangerous hypos.

Diabetes has demanded from me discipline about food, exercise, and dosing insulin. This discipline has rewarded me, however. I take pride that I play a difficult game well. But I also realize that there are no guarantees regarding health and in the end, none of us gets out alive! But in the meantime I benefit from maximizing my chances to feel as good as possible and that enables me to give back to others.

A bit similar to Acidrock. I find it an advantage that I know how I work. The majority of other riders around me won't have a clue about the fuel they are burning, needing and preparedness for an event. I see it as something which has educated me to give me an advantage over them.

Determination wise, hell yes! Also see it as being part of it, as I can't give up...on anything! I don't ever give up on tweaking me, and I don't ever give up on any goal I set myself. I change my way of dealing with things, but I never give up!

Also maths I guess to some degree also. Back at primary school I am sure carb counting from an early age gave me an advantage over the other kids in class...little things I guess, but it helped.

I'm the opposite, Nyadach. I've always been good at math, which is somewhat unusual for a humanities type person. It has been only minimally useful, like budgeting, converting metric to non-metric (I forget the name!) and currencies when in another country, and being the one everybody expected to figure out who owes what at dinner. I can no longer multiply six digits by six digits in my head like I used to do to impress people, but in two years on MDI I didn't mind at all doing all the figuring.