Can you use diabetes to make your life better?

We hear a lot about “turning lemons into lemonade” and “pain into purpose” and it’s easy to go, get outa here!!! Or, "You don’t get it, why don’t you get diabetes and see if you feel like turning lemons into lemonade!!! But, interviewing more than 150 people I have discovered that’s exactly what many people have found a way to do. They have used, and continue to use, diabetes to take better care of their health, appreciate more what’s precious and meaningful to them and go out and help others.

A lot of health care providers think their job is to help us “cope” with diabetes. And you always read about “coping” with a chronic illness. But what I know is it’s possible to do more than cope. In fact, we can “flourish.” It’s possible to use diabetes as a wake-up call to lose weight, get active, make life fuller, richer and more meaningful. OK, now you’re pooh-poohing me, but I can take it. I’m not saying diabetes doesn’t have its dark side. I’m not saying there isn’t a period of grieving, anger and frustration when you’re first diagnosed, or days you just feel like it’s all too much or you’re sick to death of it any day of any year. But what I am saying is since you’ve got it, you can look at it through a different lens and see there can also be a bright side.

I can give you lots of examples of people who have done that. They’ve lost 100 pounds and kept it off, become runners, contribute in their community, talk across the country to help other patients, and much more. I lost 30 pounds and have kept it off 30 years, eat very healthy and don’t consider it a sacrifice but something that makes me strong, and I write books about diabetes and speak and doing this work is my purpose and gives me great fulfillment. For me, it took getting married at 48 and not wanting to be a burden to my husband, and deciding frankly I was worth having my best health.

I was just interviewed on ‘Transforming Diabetes’ about just this - flourishing with diabetes. I give five tips and there’s a great interview (look for the podcast when you land on the page, right under the first paragraph). It might open a little space for how to do a little better and see there can be more than just coping.

Then let me know if you think it’s possible to “flourish” with diabetes, and how you do that?

I definitely think it’s possible to flourish with diabetes.

When I was diagnosed over 15 years ago my parents and I had virtually no knowledge of diabetes (and certainly no “good” knowledge about proper management of the disease, etc). Once I had wrapped my brain around the basic concepts of management, I made it a goal of mine to never let this disease stand in the way of anything I wanted. I continued to be active in the Scouting program and in outdoor activities. I achieved the rank of Eagle Scout despite this disease. I got into running and loved swimming as well. Later I became interested in cycling and now I compete in triathlons. I have used my diabetes as a platform to constantly strive for better control so that I can continue doing what I love, and so that I can compete well while successfully managing this disease. I now have a successful career and I am finishing up my master’s degree this semester as well. In my opinion of myself, I’d say I was given a load of lemons, I’ve made lemonade, and now I’m selling that lemonade for a profit lol.
Just like lotsofshots, I think it is super important to continually dream and set goals and strive for those goals. It’s a great way to not only be successful in life, but also to enjoy the ride along the way.

It is possible Riva! You’re so right. I have become a much more compassionate person because of diabetes and also a person full of purpose. My husband is still struggling to find his purpose in life and he tells me he admires how driven I am. I tell him I wasn’t always this way but because of the challenges diabetes has forced upon me, I’ve been pumped full of energy to do everything I do, the best I can. This includes cooking, writing, exercising, parenting, heck, everything I do, every day. Sure, diabetes gets in my way, but I wonder sometimes, if I had never gotten diabetes, would I have gotten in my own way even more?

oops, maybe I won’t repost it here!? I think that for me, the big advantage was knowing what I had to do to change things. While I didn’t have to work out perhaps as much as I have, it was perhaps a strong motivating factor not to give up… It also helps to understand carb counting if you want to lose weight I think? I look at some of my peers (early 40s…) and they are struggling with weight gain, inactivity, the onset of symptomatic degenerative joint disease, etc. all of which I’ve understood perhaps a bit more than they do because of managing diabetes?

It makes us (or should) eat more healthily and regularly (I struggle with the regular bit though!), it makes me take more notice of my feet and eyes - both are used an awful lot but were never much cared for before. I can be thankful that in the UK at least, I can get free prescriptions for everything (and I need a lot!) whether I am a pauper or a millionaire, I get free foot care and orthotics which I would never have got if I had not got diabetes, free eye care and glasses and you get rushed through for consultations with specialists ( though not for skin cancer! I have to wait until 28th March for that one!)

I don’t think it, I know it was, at least in myself. As you stated, lose weight, take better care of myself, exercise, etc. But even in my own thinking, my psychological life, I have become better. I am more tolerant of those around me, cause I may need their tolerance at one time. I am not a positive person by accident. I have learned to live this way…I have educated myself on this disease, on the people who have it, and on what is being done to take care of it. I have stepped out of my comfort zone, and shared more about “D” than I have anything else. I learned to force myself to keep a schedule, and to make it work. I have become more consistent with what I do with me. It’s as if someone gave me a choice, health or a life of question marks. I took the life part and have benefitted greatly from that choice.

I’m really elated to find us all seeing there is some good that can come from having diabetes. I often say I wouldn’t ask for it but I also don’t know what I’d be doing right now if I didn’t have it :wink:

If we’re going to make lemonaide ,make sure it’s sugar free. You are right but flurishing goes far beyound myself . While it is true," When the going gets tuff the tuff get going. " With diabetes it reminded me that I’m greater than the sum of all the parts . I’m reminded of the words of John Dunne ;" No man is an island unto himself but part of the whole…" and another quote ; " If I’m not for myself ,who will be ? And if I’'m not for others then who am I ? And if not now ,when?"

I have to agree with you guys, specially with Riva, I wouldn’t ask for it, but I don’t know what I would be doing if I didn’t have it. Diabetes has forced me to take better care of myself. My health has never been better. Heck, I don’t even catch colds anymore and my allergies don’t bother me either. I have lost weight and have managed to keep most of it off. I eat healthier and include salads and vegetables on my diet, I exercise more at the gym and walk whenever I can instead of just getting in the car and driving down the street. I have learned to research about diabetes and learned to cook more and healthier. I enjoy eating more fish, and getting up earlier to take care of business. I go to the doctor and pay attention to my body more closely. I am even encouraging and inspiring more of my clients, friends, and family members to become healthier. Even my neighbors are joining me on my morning walks.

Once I got my head on straight about the whole D thing, it just made sense to do it right. With carb counting I realized that this isn’t a game of denial, it’s a game of moderation. I also got myself into tight control and lost a good deal of weight. These things I do make it so that I can live well for longer. Small price to pay when the body for some reason flips the switch that says those beta cells gotta go. As a result of this experience I do know a bit more about food and metabolism than the average bear, but it has only led me to make better choices or avoid things that really have no redeeming nutritional value. I found that I really liked all kinds of apples.

Riva is right. I wouldn’t have decided I wanted to destroy my beta cells and have to do this, but it’s what happened. There’s nothing about anyone that would exempt them from the same opportunity as anyone else to punch the diabetes clock. My engagement has led me to be healthier and I do feel better as a result. I don’t know what else I’d be doing now either. That so struck a chord with me.

well I know what I would be doing if I hadn’t been diagnosed… I would be sitting on the couch eating ice cream getting even fatter than I am now!!! I am actually grateful for my diagnosis last week, and I know it hasn’t been much time… I do have a sense of mourning, but still glad for this “excuse” to be a better healthier person I couldn’t do on my own but wanted to. Now I “have” to right??? So I am losing weight, eating extremely healthy and because I buy the food, my kids are getting healthy too. God gave me plenty of chances to do it on my own, and I didn’t, so He put a stick of dynamite under my bum… and I am glad He did!!!

Wooohooo for you and what you wrote!
But dang this disease sucks… Still, being diagnosed young I think I’ve lived life a bit different than others around me. I’m not saying better or worse, just diff. I didn’t sweat the smaller stuff like some people and I take more chances. I am waaaay more confident than some of my (wonderful) friends only because I had no choice but to accept myself just the way I am & learn to live w/ it at a very young age.
I have been lucky enough to have heard these kinds words many times “you are inspirational”. Well, I was just a kid when I was diagnosed, just wanted to move on with life, boys, school, whatever. Other stuff was sorta an inconvenience, haha! I just learned to accept it and incorporate it as if it were a normal part of life. Now at the age of 41, I don’t even know the difference. Other than I see some people who take silly things too serious & I like to laugh a lot and just enjoy the life that I was given, the cards that I was dealt…