Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Invisible Illness Week (Part 2)

So I said I would have some encouraging words to say about diabetes as an invisible illness.  That right there is what makes it a bit easier to deal with.  It is, for the large part, invisible.  I'm not forced to share my moments and details with the world.  There have been many jobs I've had for the entire duration and some people I worked with never knew.  I like the thought that I seemed normal enough that nobody questioned it.  It may be fake but it fills me with a few moments of reprieved thoughts. 

There are a couple good things I can say about having an invisible chronic illness.  It has given me a much greater appreciation for life in general.  As the saying goes "without your health, you have nothing."  It has taught me to value what health I have even if a large portion of the time it might be affecting me in a bad way.  I can't say if I'm lucky or not for being diagnosed at 22.  The fact that I had 22 years of living before my world changed in a second could be perceived as bad since change is more difficult to accept the older you are.  I am grateful that I got to live as long as I did as a normal healthy functioning human being.  Switch from that to a life with type 1 diabetes and it's like night and day.  I can still clearly remember life before and I can truly say I took it for granted.  Having diabetes has taught me many things.  It has taught me intricate details about how the body works.  How the body processes food for energy and the important role that me (as the brain for the non-functioning pancreas) has on the outcome.  I've learned how different types of food affect me, from carbs to protein to fats to processed foods et al.  I've learned the value of the glycemic index.  I've learned how to be a pancreas.  It has led me to be the healthiest I've ever been (even if the test results say otherwise).  The most important thing I think I've learned is balance.  Balancing exercise, diet and diabetes.  It rarely all flows together nicely but I'm working on it.  Diabetes is a huge part of me and yes in a way it most certainly does define me.  I may not blurt it out in public but it's there, every day, and it changed how I live my life.  Did I want to learn all of the details of my body as a machine?  No, but I'm glad I did.

Another thing that I've learned while having an invisible illness is that there is a large percentage of the population that suffers from all kinds of invisible illnesses.  I never pass judgement on strangers because I often wonder if that person too suffers from diabetes (or any other illness for that matter).  You just never know.  As I mentioned above, it's often months before co-workers find out I have diabetes and sometimes they never do.  I've learned that if I struggle with it, everybody else with it does too.  It has given me tremendous amounts of empathy for other diabetics especially since discovering the DOC.  

I can't forget those close to me who have inadvertently suffered as well.  Family and friends, you know who you are, we are in this together. 

As a person with a disease, there is no running from your own shadow.  Acceptance is the only answer.  Just remember that some people have a lot more to deal with under the surface.  Educating yourself and learning is a good place to start.  Never pass judgement when you don't know what's going on.  The best thing one can do is ask.

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