Canadians with type 2 diabetes write back to their younger selves, to share personal insights and reflect on their experience of living with diabetes and starting on insulin therapy. In this post, Cindy reflects on living with diabetes.
The hardest thing Cindy, an energetic 52-year-old woman from Milton, Ontario, has ever done is come back from a deep depression. There were plenty of difficulties before that; in fact those troubles were most likely the reason she finally tipped into depression when she was in her early 40s. Both parents were alcoholics, which contributed to a “hellish childhood,” she says. She became a very meek person who didn’t stand up for herself. “I let people tell me how I should feel and how I should do things. I felt like a doormat,” she recalls.
Fifteen years ago, Cindy faced some serious family struggles which involved multiple interactions with law enforcement, which were beyond her control. This resulted in her and her family moving from Mississauga, ON to Milton, ON for personal reasons. But the accumulated stresses of parenting began to catch up with her. Though she had been a successful public relations executive for a number of years, she found herself unable to get out of bed. She was in her early 40s and knew she needed to get help. She stopped working for almost a year while receiving psychiatric counselling and participating in a short-term program for people with a spectrum of mental health issues. Finally, she began to recover and resumed work.
A year later, having finally achieved a measure of emotional balance and stability, Cindy was shocked by the news that she had developed type 2 diabetes. It felt terribly threatening in a couple of ways. Her mother had been diagnosed in her 40s with the disease, but had not managed her blood sugar levels very well – a path that Cindy feared that she would follow.
She also was frightened that the diagnosis might pull her back into the “that dark place” – in other words, back into a depression. “I remember that first finger prick,” she recalls.
I was sitting at the table and thinking, ”Haven’t I faced enough difficulties in my life?”
Cindy is writing to her younger self at this moment.
Well, the moment has arrived. You thought you were going to escape this terrible disease and be different from Mom, but you did not. Why did this happen?
The first pinprick… You hate this already!! You feel sad about where the disease will lead. You worry you might slip back into depression. You’ve gone through so much with your son… Isn’t that enough? Is this disease more punishment for being a terrible mother? You are perpetually challenged with negative experiences and often feel you have no joy in your life. Diabetes feels like more evidence that a dark cloud is forever following you.
Cindy, take charge of your life! You are going to find this hard to believe, but managing diabetes will empower you. You will determine your destiny. You will lose 38 pounds, hit the gym almost every day and feel better than you did in your 40s. You will become a truly different, authentically confident person. Goodbye doormat!
I’m not saying this path will be without bumps. But you have the self-reflective tools you learned in managing depression. You list your thoughts and feelings, and the cascade of concerns that they trigger. Then you question the accuracy of those associations. For example, just because your blood sugar level is not where it is supposed to be, and you feel defeated, that does not mean that you are a poor performer or a failure.
This form of self-therapy will help you overcome a tendency to catastrophize your experiences and uncover the strength and determination that prevailed during your recovery from depression. This is the life-changing event you have needed to live a healthier way of life. Forget about your family members: you are different.
You’ve always had a negative impression of yourself. I see the true reality of the person who you have become; full of strength, courage and determination. Shed all of the baggage you have been carrying around with you for so many years.
I’ll close with saying how proud I am of you. You have overcome unimaginable circumstances throughout your life. You will learn to live with diabetes. You will look better and feel energized, your passion and zest for life will return.
Congratulations Cindy… you did it.
This story has been edited by Ellyn Spragins and shared with support from Novo Nordisk Canada. The views and opinions expressed are not representative of Novo Nordisk, and should not be considered treatment advice. Novo Nordisk has permission to share this letter and included personal details.