You have diabetes. It’s a circumstance in your life—something out of your control that you can’t change.
For some people, this feels like a major deal. After all, you didn’t ask for this. None of us did. But something I’ve learned over the past 25 years of living with Type 1 diabetes is that I have this condition for a reason. It’s my job to figure out that reason and use it to my advantage. You can do the same.
Living with Diabetes is Not a Problem
The cool thing about our circumstances is that we get to choose how we think about them. People generally think about diabetes in one of two ways:
- A problem
- An opportunity
I truly believe that all of us are more than our condition. We’re humans. People with diabetes. We even have an acronym for it: PWD. It’s just something extra we carry around with us, and it’s only a problem if we make it a problem.
When you see people with other autoimmune conditions like celiac disease, do you automatically think of them as a celiac? Or someone with rheumatoid arthritis as an arthritic?I don’t. I just see them as people with an extra thing to manage. I don’t think it’s a big deal.
Words have power. For some, the word “diabetic” itself has a negative connotation. Like you ARE your diabetes. But that’s not true. Falling into a victim mentality (I don’t deserve this, why did this happen to me, this isn’t fair) only sets you back. It causes needless suffering.
Just so we’re clear, I personally have zero problem with calling myself a diabetic. It’s a nonissue for me just because of my mindset. Instead, I like to think of my diabetes as an opportunity.
Diabetes is an Opportunity
Living with diabetes means I have the unique chance to raise awareness for a condition that affects millions of people. I get to expose the misconceptions, crock cures, and reality of living with something I didn’t choose yet fully embrace.
There isn’t a cure for Type 1, so that means I have to figure out the nuances of my body to chase a higher level of heath. I can see my blood sugars in real time on my Dexcom G6 CGM, which means I have the opportunity to understand exactly what affects my numbers and how.
With 25 years of 24/7 diabetes management and 20 years of diabetes camp, I have a voice, a message, and a community to speak into. Think about your own experience living with diabetes. What opportunities exist in your life because of this condition?
Without my diabetes, I would not have:
- Met my best friend when I was six years old at Panther Camp
- Learned that carbohydrates and insulin both cause weight gain
- Started my podcast on Type 1 diabetes
- Gotten plugged in to an amazing community both in-person and online
- Been exposed to the realities of the healthcare system, which I can now advocate to fix
- Had the opportunity to connect with so many beautiful people, who all have a story to share
I’m one of those people who loves playing with “what ifs” and it’s very possible that without my diabetes, I wouldn’t have met the people in my life who have made me who I am.
Diabetes Does Not Define You
Like I said before, it’s just an extra thing we carry around with us. It doesn’t define what you can and can’t do. It doesn’t define who you are… Unless you let it.
Literally the only thing we can’t do is go into the United States military (I’m not sure about other countries). When I was growing up, my dad felt sad on my behalf for all the things he thought I wouldn’t be able to do, but it turns out none of those things were true.
I went to college. Got an engineering degree. Traveled internationally. I got married and landed a job. Wrote books, started a website, became an entrepreneur, and decided I could speak into a microphone and people would listen to me.
Where is the diabetes in those things? It’s along for the ride, just like my anxiety, my self-doubt, and my determination for speaking truth into the world. I decided that this condition wouldn’t hold me back, because if I let it, I’d be robbing myself of who I am and who I want to be.
If you stripped diabetes away from your life, who are you? Without this condition, what’s your personality like? Your values, your character, your hopes and your dreams? I’m willing to bet they’re largely the same.
The person you are with your diabetes is the same person you would be if God touched His finger to your pancreas and healed those super dead beta cells. That’s why you’re more than your diabetes.
You get to choose your reality, so why not choose the one that opens up your world instead of closing it?
Colleen Mitchell is a life coach, host of the This is Type 1 podcast, author, and analyst. She was diagnosed with T1D in September 1995. She currently wears a Dexcom G6 with Tandem’s t:Slim X2 Control IQ pump. You can find her on IG @inspiredforward or at www.inspiredforward.com.