Having T1D Doesn’t Give You a Monopoly on Suffering

If someone just met me, they wouldn’t immediately guess I worry about my health several times each day. They have no idea that I fret over every bite of food or swig of a drink that passes my lips. Or that before I go to bed, I measure, check, and create backup plans in case something unexpected goes wrong. They don’t see this. To them, my illness is invisible.

It can feel like I’m the only one who is going through something like this, but I’m not.

A friend of mine lives with chronic pain. She doesn’t even remember what being pain-free feels like. She smiles through it, takes her pills, and hopes she doesn’t become addicted to them. Another friend is manic depressive. She talks excitedly about everything in her life, but then can get severely depressed and despondent, sometimes even agoraphobic. Their conditions are invisible.

Some days I think that every person I encounter might also be battling something not easily seen – PTSD, loss of a family member, migraines. We all soldier on. My worst day could be a ketoacidosis episode, complicated by a bad hospital stay, with little sympathy from my family. My friend’s worst day could be waking up with a incapacitating headache and having to try to go grocery shopping. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Both within the diabetes community and without, some people find it necessary to compare their worst days with the next person. This kind of venting can be used to point out that personal issues can be conquered, but too often it devolves into trying to one-up each other in suffering. This latter process can delegitimize one’s struggles and leave both parties feeling isolated.

In this new age of information overload, let’s share our diabetes stories to gain wisdom. Let’s set aside our need to be the Most, Best, Worst, or Right. Let’s walk alongside each other and pick each other up as we take turns falling down, because we all are going to need a helping hand along the way.

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Katherine Marple was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 14 in 1998. She is the author of two diabetes-related novels, Wretched (this is my sorry) and Deathly Sweet.

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