There are few things quite as life-altering as receiving a type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Not only does it alter how you live your life day-to-day, but it forces upon you a host of physical and emotional symptoms that few people living without the condition could ever truly comprehend.
And to make matters worse, you have to wake up to this fight every morning for the rest of your life.
No one will argue that there aren’t many reasons why this disease sucks or that it can take a toll on your life.
I believe that there are also some positives that come with this condition; some of them even powerful enough to rival all those negatives.
Here are eight ways T1D has the power to change your life for the better.
1. It Forces You to Live Healthier
As a person living with diabetes, you don’t have the luxury of making poor choices when it comes to your health. While the person next to you might be able to load up on unhealthy food or skip the gym without suffering the consequences for decades, you have the unique ability to see the effects of those decisions in real-time.
- When you eat poorly your blood sugars immediately suffer.
- When you fail to stay active, your insulin resistance goes through the roof.
Every day this condition gives you a real-time look at how well you’re treating yourself and what more you need to do to live healthier.
While the condition itself may make you feel less healthy than those around you, the truth is, you probably take better care of yourself than most of the people you know.
2. It Makes You More Self Aware
When paying attention to how you feel can literally be the difference between life and death, you become pretty well acquainted with how your body works and what your feelings mean.
- You know that stress can have a major impact on your sugars, so you are hyper aware of the signs of tension and anxiety.
- You know how important it is to catch a low blood sugar before it becomes dangerous, so you are always checking in with your body for those subtle hints that something might be wrong.
While others may have the luxury of ignoring the barely perceptible signals their body employs, you don’t. And that means you are less likely to miss important warning signs that may signal a problem, whether diabetes-related or not.
3. It Allows You to Feel More Connected to Others
There is nothing quite like the excitement of being out in public and spotting a CGM, pump, or BG meter from across the room.
- No matter who that person is, you immediately have a connection to them.
- It’s a connection that’s built on the fact that there is no one in the world who quite understands your diabetic struggles as well as another diabetic.
- It’s what brings thousands of strangers together for deep conversations on T1D Facebook group pages.
- And what makes it possible to sit down with a group of strangers at your local T1D meetup and feel like you aren’t alone.
Few people in the world can share such an immediate connection with people they don’t know. And that in itself is something to be celebrated.
4. It Makes You More Empathetic
But those connections don’t stop with others who share your condition. Your intimate knowledge of the struggles and emotional hardships that come from suffering an often invisible illness give you a sense of empathy that most lack.
- You may not suffer from depression or anxiety or some other invisible disease, but you do know what it feels like to suffer in silence.
- It’s easy to relate to others who have their conditions questioned because they show few outward signs when so many of the immediate difficulties that come with diabetes are impossible to see.
It’s not always easy to view the negatives of T1D in a positive light, but when those negatives make you a more empathetic person, it does have a positive impact on you and those around you.
5. It Makes You Value Your Life More
As hard as it is for those around us to accept this, living with diabetes means becoming overly comfortable with your own mortality.
- As much as you try to stay healthy and thriving, it’s hard to ignore how easily things can go wrong.
- It’s this acceptance of life’s fragility that allows you to put more value on your life.
- You no longer have the luxury of putting things off or counting on the ability to enjoy something in the future.
- If you feel well enough, you have to seize the day, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.
It’s a dark notion, but one that truly has the capacity to make your life better if you look at it in the right light.
6. It Forces You to Appreciate the Small Things
Few things can make a person with diabetes happier than looking at their monitor or CGM screen and seeing that highly sought after “100” staring back at them. This “diabetes unicorn” is a simple thing, but that doesn’t make it any less important.
- When you spend every moment of your day fighting for better blood sugars and better control, it’s these little things that make the fight worth it.
- Learning to celebrate these simple accomplishments can help you see your condition in a more positive light.
And, once you find that power to appreciate small things, it is easy to extend it to other aspects of your day, making your life as a whole, a more rewarding experience.
7. It Makes You More Humble
There is no “perfect” when it comes to T1D.
- No matter how diligent you are, how well you take care of yourself, or how many books you read on the subject, maintaining perfect blood sugars just simply isn’t possible.
- For some, admitting this fact can be difficult.
- But for everyone, eventually, the time comes when you have to humbly accept that you are not perfect.
- And that’s okay.
The ability to learn to live with imperfection and to forgive yourself for mistakes has positive ramifications far beyond your diabetes. That humility will allow you to more readily find happiness and make you a better person overall.
8. It Makes You Stronger
Lastly, but potentially most importantly, diabetes makes you stronger.
- Adversity forces us to grow into more powerful, more capable people.
- There are few things that spark such a continuous stream of adversity as a condition that requires never-ending commitment.
- Even when diabetes has you crying on the floor, it is still making you better.
- Because, eventually, you have to get up and you simply can’t do that without getting stronger.
While it’s true no one would choose to live with this condition if they had the choice, it’s also true that having T1D forced upon us has the potential to make us stronger than we would have been without it.
At the end of a long, hard day, when you think there is no way you could possibly live another second with this condition, it’s worth reflecting on this and all the other powerful ways diabetes has changed your life for the better.