If a fire starts in the kitchen, which could happen at any time if I offer to cook, you can most often put it out pretty quickly. It’s a new, small, contained fire. It hasn’t yet had the opportunity to grow and destroy the home in its entirety.
I assume you, like me, would take steps to put the small fire out, and resume the risotto-making. You wouldn’t step back, watch the fire grow, think about how your dad’s house once burned to the ground, and assume that since the fire has started, there’s no stopping it.
While diabetes management has come a long way, those advances are rather irrelevant to the newly diagnosed diabetic. The doctor essentially lights a match with diabetic testing and sets fire to his patient with a diagnosis.
Feelings of overwhelm, fear, and panic are common upon finding out that you have any chronic illness. It’s difficult to avoid focusing on how this disease ravaged your mom or Uncle Fred back in the day. It’s frustrating to figure out how to manage one more thing in your already jam-packed life. It’s terrifying to think you might be taken from your children or your spouse too soon.
In the face of this, many newly-diagnosed diabetics just let the fire burn. I know because I was one of them (The Lies We Tell Ourselves). We allow the fear of what the fire will destroy to paralyze us, thereby allowing, and even participating in, the destruction.
The truth is that, for the most part, you can contain the fire. We know so much more today about effective treatment than Uncle Fred ever did. Medications, monitoring and management are evolving every day, but it’s not enough to have the extinguisher in your hand; you have to pull the pin and use it. It’s not enough to call the fire department; you have to give them your address.
You work hard to keep a roof over your family’s collective head because you know that shelter keeps your kids safe. You mow the lawn. You make the beds. And you know that the home can’t thrive if you let overwhelm prevent you from managing the space.
And so it is with you. You are the house. You are sturdy and strong and standing. But like all charming homes, you need a little extra upkeep right now. While blood sugar testing and carb counting are tedious and cumbersome, so too are gutter clearing and snow removal.
You no doubt did a few things to manage your home this morning without even thinking about them. You turned off the water when your shower was over. You closed the fridge after you grabbed your coffee creamer. You locked the front door before you left for work.
What’s one thing you can do to quell the diabetic flames today? Pick the salad instead of the burger for lunch. Update your Facebook status after you’ve checked your blood sugar. Don’t look for the parking spot as close to the entrance as you can get.
“Yeah, Jen, but you can do all of that and still end up on dialysis.” True. You can manage your diabetes perfectly, and still not have a perfect outcome. Just like you can manage your house beautifully and still lose it to a fire caused by bad wiring. But we don’t lay down our good judgment in life just because something might go wrong.
You and I…we have to try.
You can hire a home inspector before you buy the house to evaluate any fire risks. You can buy insurance. You can clean the lint screen. The steps you take, even the small ones (like turning down the burner so grease doesn’t splatter everywhere), lead to less fire-related devastation.
When it comes to our diabetes, we have to try. We have to test. We have to walk. We have to put out every little sugar fire we can. Then we have a greater likelihood that we’ll get to keep our feet. Continue to see. Drive by the dialysis center on our way to the movies.
As with any fire, you are not the only victim. Flames left unchecked burn your partner, your kids, and your friends. Your extinguisher is your blood sugar meter. Your fireman is your endocrinologist. Your water hose is your medication.
Take one step today that reaffirms your commitment to being stronger than diabetes. Because you are.