Canadians with type 1 and 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, Warren reflects on living with diabetes.
Sometimes the most exhilarating changes in life coincide with the most daunting developments. That’s how it was for Warren just two years ago, when he was 31. Change number one: he was promoted into a new area – quality assurance – with a new boss at the bank where he worked. A second, even more thrilling milestone was his upcoming marriage to Jessica, a young woman he had met at a previous job. Just three months before that important ceremony was to occur, a third, life-altering event landed with a thud. After a routine physical, he learned he had type 2 diabetes.
A new role, a new boss, a new marriage and, suddenly, a new struggle: diabetes. Having grown up in an active, healthy family, and having participated in competitive cheerleading from high school up to the age of 26, Warren was shocked and embarrassed by the diagnosis. How could he possibly tell everyone, he wondered? How could he have let himself get to this point? He confided in his fiancé, and she supported him. But he couldn’t bear to tell the rest of his family.
Warren is writing to himself after the diagnosis.
Congrats on the upcoming wedding! It’s going to be everything you wanted, and more. Your family, being big and very loud, will hijack a few moments. But honestly, when do they not? You are so concerned with making sure everyone else is being taken care of that you might forget about yourself. Please, please, please make sure to focus on you too, because the doctor has given you news you should absolutely not ignore. You’ve got type 2 diabetes. You need to make some changes to get it under control.
I know how you feel. You’re ashamed. YOU have let this happen. You have messed up. You are at fault. You have let everyone down.
You are pretty sure you know what will happen if you tell your family. There will be shock and concern, but most of all, disappointment. They’ll have questions: where did you go wrong? Are you watching your diet? Are you exercising often enough? And they’ll have answers, too: you should probably just lose some weight and everything will be okay.
The list of reactions could go on and on, but the only thing you know for sure is that you feel like you have failed. You’re experiencing overwhelming guilt and anxiety. You need to look at these feelings and realize they do not define you. They are not the rest of your life. You can deal with this, and thrive, but you’re going to need help.
Jessica will be your rock. Trust her. Confide in her. She will give you more hope than you can possibly muster on your own. Don’t be afraid to tell people about your diabetes. Most of them will be curious and want to talk about it. Every time you talk to someone new, you’ll feel a little bit better and more positive. Seek out opportunities to speak to others with type 2 diabetes. You will find comfort, knowing that they will not judge you.
You’re going to learn a ton, use the new knowledge, then ignore it, struggle a bit and then get back on the right path. In fact, accepting the changes you need to make won’t be all that difficult. The bigger challenge will be telling your family, which you and I still have not done, two years later. Why? You’ve always felt that you aren’t a perfect fit with the rest of your family. You are large and dark. They are blond and thin. If they learn you have diabetes, it seems as though it will make you even more the odd one out.
Muster the courage to share your condition. It would lift a huge weight from your mind. Secrets can be even harder to bear than health setbacks.
Enjoy the wedding and dance the night away.
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.