“Diabetes is my superpower” – quite the unconventional way to think about a chronic illness, especially in its early stages. When I was diagnosed, diabetes became more than just an inconvenience. It was my excuse to run away from every challenge I faced. For example, I started assuming I could no longer exercise because I would always go into a hypoglycaemia, I stopped eating the foods I love because people told me they were the reason behind my chronic illness, and these high-carb foods felt like my blood sugar levels would be impossible to control. I blamed diabetes for my extreme weight gain, my “inability” to exercise without going into hypo, the many scars that have never properly healed, etc.
Today, I strive to become a proud diabetic. Despite the many bumps on the road, it is truly a blessing to be different in a way that can still affect positive change. Yes, diabetes is my superpower.
It forces me out of my comfort zone.
Humans are creatures of habits. Unfortunately, we diabetics do not have the option to always stick to our routines: our mindset is constantly evolving as our management fluctuates. Indeed, being chronically ill forces me to try different strategies to improve my overall control over my blood sugar levels. For example, frying vegetables will have a very different impact on my blood sugar levels than if I were to boil them. Therefore, I am always on the lookout for different food combinations– whether it is in the macros or in the cooking style. I also look out for external factors other than food that could improve my management, such as meditation and exercising.
It is no secret exercising significantly contributes to diabetes management. Before my diagnosis, I was a competitive swimmer and golfer. I never considered trying out different sports because these exercises were already “intense” enough. Through diabetes, I have discovered so many ways to not only keep my body in shape, but also have the upper hand on my diabetes management. I remember being quite insecure when I started attending the gym, but when I discovered weightlifting would help me stay in range (unlike cardio), I decided to take the extra step. It took me months to build the confidence, but I did, and I will never regret it. Boy, do I love weightlifting! It’s a game changer for me! I will never get tired of power lifting, to the point it also contributes to my mental health.
I’m not afraid of failure.
In my opinion, diabetes comes with more bad days than good ones. During my first year as a diabetic, managing blood sugar levels felt impossible. They looked like roller coasters: I would have a series of severe hypos both during the day and night, including extreme high blood sugar spikes after each meal. Broadly, I failed to be in my range and stay in it.
It’s very hard to be positive in these early stages, but my failures were the perfect opportunity to learn and understand my body: what it needs to function, its responses to specific foods, how and when I should deliver the appropriate amount of insulin. Every single time I am out of range, I take the opportunity to reflect and ask myself: what went wrong? Did I not inject the appropriate amount? Did I get the macronutrients right? Did I forget to include external factors (e.g., stress, exercising)? Etc.
We fail, we learn, we grow, we try again, and we do better. Diabetes has made me the resilient person that I am today, and it is my daily reminder to keep going, push through, and never quit. No one said it would be easy. Afterall, failure is the pathway to success.
Face your problems, don’t run away.
Running away is so easy, especially if the problem is not lingering at the back of your mind 24/7. Diabetes, however, will always be there: we do not get a break, and never will. Diabetes has taught me there’s no point in ignoring my problems if they always come back chasing you. The best way to get rid of them is by facing them.
If I have bad blood sugar levels, I’ll do something about it, I’ll make a move. Even if I fail, at least I cannot reproach yourself for not trying, and in that particular case, I learn from my mistakes.
We sometimes negatively appraise our blood sugar levels; the majority of us will experience burnouts and emotional breakdowns; and we all face comments such as “Your lifestyle is the cause of your diabetes” “You can’t eat sugar” “This food will only make your diabetes worse” etc. It is so hard to embrace our chronic illness when society makes us feel it is something that we should be ashamed of, something we should feel guilty about, and hide away from others.
It has become my purpose for both diabetics and non-diabetics to view diabetes in a different light. The social stigma around the chronic illness is so strong that I vowed to my future self to make a difference by raising awareness beyond the t1d community while also stressing the enriching life lessons that diabetes brings, no matter how ironical this may sound.
Hi there! My name is Sophie, but you can call me Soph. I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes for 2 years and a half. I’m currently using the Freestyle Libre 2 to monitor my blood sugar levels and use insulin pens for treatment. Feel free to look up for my Instagram (@proudiabetic) and follow my journey!