Living with 48 years of diabetes: What are the lessons learned in self-care? – Amy Jordan

Living with 48 years of diabetes: What are the lessons learned in self-care?

Diabetes is one of the top ten leading causes of death by disease in America.  Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, if unmanaged, can wreak havoc on your body and your life. At the same time, with some effort, diabetes can be a major force for a healthy lifestyle, boundary setting, and self-care.  I should know, I’ve been living with diabetes for more than 48 years. 

We already know that everything is a choice.  We also know that everything in our environment reflects our own life. I frequently hear people complaining about being overweight or not feeling well.

My first question is, how’s your diet?  Are you eating processed food and excess sugar?  My follow-up question is: What are you willing to do about it?  What action are you willing to take? What cause will you make for a different effect?”  I usually just get a blank stare in response.

To be clear, I am NOT a medical doctor, nutritionist, or licensed psychologist.  What I AM is a woman who’s had type 1 diabetes for a long time. I am also someone who overcame a deadly eating disorder and speed addiction. 

The truth be told, I am weirdly grateful for having type 1 diabetes, and here’s why:

I’m sure we all know people who want to lose weight, get healthy, exercise, etc.  These are wonderful intentions but if not put into practice they are meaningless.  Those same people then come back frustrated at a lack of wellness progress or dress sizes getting bigger, not smaller, albeit still unwilling to make the necessary life adjustments to get the desired results.

Experience living with diabetes is that if I do not keep on track with everything, I am not functional and risk serious health issues and even death.  Every morning it’s a choice.  The choice to skip the muffin at Starbucks.  The choice to get enough sleep, the choice to add salad instead of fries.

Maybe it’s age or a shift in priority, who knows.  The ever-present power of choice can be the biggest ally or our biggest downfall, It’s up to us.

As a recovering people pleaser, diabetes has also taught me self-care.  Gone are the days of guilt or meekness about health coming first.  I write in my award-winning book ‘Dance Because You Can,’ how the shame of diabetes permeated every life decision.  Hiding the condition as a young woman was paramount.  At the end of the day, this cost me my sight.  The need to fit in, seem ‘normal’ was ultimately my undoing.  The lack of boundaries left its scar.

With time and maturity come s change of perspective.  Along the way, I was determined to honor and respect my life in every way.  This meant telling people I was living with diabetes.  This meant letting go of the shame.  This meant knowing if the condition was ‘too much for people they weren’t my people.

The freedom in this realization permeated all aspects of daily life. Boundaries emerged and with them, confidence grew.  And guess what, my health improved by leaps and bounds.  Making sure my food and fitness goals are met is non-negotiable now.

Making sure I get enough sleep is a much bigger reward than pleasing anyone else’s needs.

At 52, I am confident if I did not have diabetes, I would not have manifested the current level of physical and emotional stability.

It’s a daily choice. Sitting down to a meal in a restaurant and skipping the bread and dessert is a choice. Scheduling non-negotiable workouts is a daily choice.  These actions result in heightened self-care and self-respect. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it when I am not feeling well.  The party, the food, the drinks are simply not usually worth the repercussions on my body and my mind.

As we celebrate National Diabetes Awareness Month and enter yet another holiday season the question remains: Is your well-being a bigger priority than the piece of pie?

It’s all boils down to one thing, choice.

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