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T1D Positivity?...Sounds a Little Wishy-Washy. Give Me Specifics!
We all want concrete instructions for a better life. Not concrete like an IKEA set of assembly directions for a new coffee table (“Does anyone have the L7 screw?”), rather a unified mindset or a single one-size-fits all approach for how best to handle life’s hardships. Positivity is often sold as this life-changing snake oil that will solve all of our problems, those of the world, and make everything rainbows and unicorns... Is that a saying? You get the idea. Blindly chasing positivity with no framework can cause us to run in circles without much improvement.
Sometimes, it can feel like this:
or it may feel like this:
We can do better than that. It’s pretty easy too. So, I’ll cut right to the chase for you and spell out exactly what I mean when I say T1D positivity:
T1D Positivity is a simple realization that changes how we reflect on our Diabetes.
Rather than constantly viewing our illness as an embarrassing, heavy, restricting weight dragging us down, T1D Positivity encourages Diabetics to understand T1D as a tool, or maybe a piece of workout equipment, like a stairmaster. Yea, the T1D Stairmaster.
The responsibility of T1D makes us stronger. Yep, that’s it. Applying this logic can be a bit trickier though.
How Do I Actually Apply This Mindset?
It’s not too hard. All we really have to do is decide what we believe in. Do we believe that T1D actually makes us stronger (**spoiler: it freakin’ does**) or do we choose to believe that the illness makes us weaker, that it confines our life to a small, controlled, and timid existence?
My inspiration to write this article came from our first Podcast episode where I sat down with T1D All-Star Brandon Denson. Brandon, like many Type One Diabetics out there, was diagnosed as a teenager. Heading into his senior year, coming off a knee injury, and eager to prove himself as a valuable prospect to the top college football programs in the nation, life decided to be acutely unfair during a pivotal period in this young man’s life. Despite his Diabetes, Brandon went on to have a stand-out career at Michigan State earning him attention from the professional level. Brandon would join the CFL ranks as a linebacker and even compete on the hit TV show American Ninja Warrior. As his accomplishments clearly indicate, Brandon hopped on the T1D StairMaster. He chose to view his T1D as a gratifying, character-building challenge. He saw his T1D was an opportunity to give back to a tight-knit community by inspiring young Type One Diabetics from his athletic platform at Michigan State. He leveraged his mental toughness gained by having to control an additional, vast dimension of fitness and well-being that his competitors were able to take for granted, his blood sugar.
Receiving a diagnosis at a later age can be extremely challenging. Even as a teenager you’ve developed some of the major lifestyle factors that are probably going to remain consistent for the foreseeable future. Namely, what you like to eat, how you like to manage your time, how active you want to be...even your haircut. No, no thank God not that one. What I am trying to say is that as you age, the ability of a T1D diagnosis to disrupt your life grows. Consequently, your ability to adjust to this positive mindset also grows in significance.
Unlike Brandon, I was diagnosed when I was just 5 years old. I grew up not knowing life without Diabetes. I grew up reading nutrition labels. I grew up with my parents telling me just what the heck carbohydrates were and why they were important to me. The word glucose entered my vocabulary before 99 percent of my peers. I learned to live with the shots, finger pricks, and late night lows. As much as I would have liked to known a more carefree childhood, I have the added benefit of a lot of diabetic history to look back on. I imagine it takes some time after a diagnosis before you can look back on your T1D with any feeling besides anger, frustration, and despair. But eventually, that time will come. For Brandon, he was able to improvise, adapt, and shift his T1D diagnosis from a burden to a blessing quickly. For me, it took longer. What I have learned over my 18 years of living with Diabetes is that it is an incredible opportunity.
An Opportunity?! What the #$%&! Let Me Explain!
As Diabetics we have the following opportunities that others may not experience.
On a personal level:
We are generally more accountable for our health than our peers. We develop healthy habits and carefully examine what we are putting in our bodies.
i.e. “Nice SnickerDoodles Janet, but are they sugar-free!?!”
We have a higher awareness of how our bodies respond to different nutritional and exercise factors. We also know how the two factors interact and impact one another.
We must endure hard nights, days, and weeks that inevitably arrive with high and low blood sugar. Like any adversity, these trials make us mentally stronger.
On a community level:
We are blessed with a tight-knit community that wants to give back to one another.
We have an instantaneous platform to be a role model for other Diabetics.
We have immediate access to a network of 1.5 million people with who we have a pretty big similarity! (small talk win!)
All joking aside, how we choose to reflect on our Diabetic journey is hugely important in terms of leading a happy and gratifying life. There are a numerous factors that arise as a result of our Diabetes that make us stronger, more responsible, more inspiring individuals. We can choose to over analyze every little hardship that comes with T1D and build up this mountain of despair or we can choose to focus on those qualities that make us unique, powerful badasses. The choice is yours. But always know whether you like it or not, your Diabetes is making you stronger.
-30 Second Version-
Having a mindset of T1D Positivity is crucial to leading a happy, gratifying life.
Be aware that your T1D is a tool (like a StairMaster) that is making you stronger mentally and more accountable for your own health. Both good things.
It may take you longer to adjust to this mindset if you were diagnosed later in life. That’s ok. It’s never too late to hop on the T1D StairMaster!
Struggling to see the blessing in disguise? Find another person with T1D and ask them what they think is the BEST part about living with T1D.
Thanks for reading! Let's help each other be better!