Listen Up, Diabetes, I’ve Got Plans!
I am 24 years old, and I’ve lived with Type 1 diabetes for almost 11 years. As I write this, I’m three days out from my second powerlifting competition, at which I’m hoping to win and score high enough to attain my “Elite” status as a female lifter—the status right beneath “pro.” In this month of Diabetes Awareness I’ve read many a blog and seen many tweets that break my heart; they are filled with despair, self-pity, hopelessness, genuine anger and the word “unfair.”
There are so many unfair things in life. And I believe, whether it’s in the form of diabetes, brain tumors, or an addiction to alcohol, none of us will avoid these challenges. Allowing my diabetes to make me angry (angry at who?) just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s annoying, sure. Challenging, oh yeah. But diabetes has never held me back from anything…because I never allowed it to.
I know it’s harsh, and I risk sounding preacher-like, but what you make of this disease is your choice. I chose to research, study, and actively participate in my healthcare instead of waiting for a doctor to give me the answers. The doctors don’t have the answers I need! They can’t tell me how to keep my blood sugar in range during powerlifting training, they can’t tell me how to gradually adjust my insulin doses as I gain more muscle and become more fit. And they certainly couldn’t help me regulate my blood sugar as I drop water weight temporarily for my weigh-ins before my competitions.
I learned these things on my own because I told myself a long time ago, “This disease is part of my life, and I’ve got plans, so I’m not going to let it mess any of that up!” I kept notes, I did what I call “science experiements” and studied how different foods and activity change my insulin needs. I taught myself about my own disease in my own body.
It is not a burden on my shoulders, because I care so much about my goals and dreams, that I manage my diabetes to prevent it from ever hindering my progress.
This disease is part of my life. I want a cure, too. But if I were to spend any time getting angry about diabetes, who would I be angry at? Life? That is so exhausting. Besides, life is never fair! If it was, that guy I dated in college wouldn’t have cheated on me…but that lead me to join a new gym, which lead me to becoming a record-setting powerlifter. So perhaps the cliché line is true: everything happens for a reason. How you respond to what to happens to you is what’s really important.
Life is full of opportunities and unfortunate events. If you can use diabetes as a motivation to take better care of your overall health, and even become healthier than a non-diabetic who has never had to think twice about their health, you will be putting that challenge in your life to good use. There isn’t enough time for anger and moping. Face your diabetes, accept the challenge, and live it up!
Ginger Vieira is a Type 1 diabetic, moderator of www.diabeteens.com, 7-time record holder in the World Powerlifting Association, VT State Bench Press champion, therapeutic yoga instructor and personal trainer.