When I first started working on this post, it was going to be all about control. How diabetes had made me a bit (maybe more than a bit) controlling. How it was hard for me to sometimes let go.
I blame my discipline and structure on growing up with diabetes. Now blame seems like I view control as a negative trait. Is control a bad thing? Don’t we want to be in control? Don’t we want to control our diabetes? But when is too much, too much? Too much control?
Yes, too much. Too much of anything is not good. At least in my humble opinion.
So back to control and the impact it has had on my life. Let’s start with how we acquire control.
Was I born a controlling person? Did I learn it from my overly controlling mother? Was I genetically predisposed and just became more controlling overtime via learned behaviours? Or did my diabetes cause me to become controlling? Or was I given diabetes because I am so controlling and would be able to handle it?
I don’t know. Plain and simple. I wish I could sit here and easily type the answers to these questions. But I cannot. I don’t know.
I suppose, control comes from all the above. Since my mom was so controlling, I am sure I inherited some of that trait, watched her control me and others, and then got a condition (diabetes) that really tested my sense of control. There you go.
Let’s talk about the diabetes thing a bit more. Control and diabetes. Some will say that you have to control your diabetes. You cannot let it control you. Which literally, makes sense. I want to be in control of a disease that could kill me if I did not care for it and me. That’s pretty clear cut.
And I do not want diabetes to take over my life. I want to live my life to the fullest in a healthy and meaningful way.
So where does that leave control?
I remember as a child, having to eat meals and snacks at the same time every single day. It was like clock work. I would monitor the dials on my watch. My mother had put clocks all over the house and in the car.
I was on insulin injections (glass syringes, beef insulin and NPH), and we did not have blood testing (drops of urine in a test tube). There was not much precision in treating diabetes. Which is why eating at the same time, day in and day out was key. It was the only way to avoid low bloodsugars.
So that is what I did.
I, also, weighed my food like a maniac. My mother would place a scale on top of my dinner plate. The book of numbers was next to it. I had the same number of carbs, fruit, vegetables, protein, and fat every single day (broken down into meals).
The doctors had scared me and my mother into obsession. “If you don’t do as we say, you will die by the age of 12”. I remember this so clearly from an early age on (I was diagnosed at the age of 4). “And no sugar of any sort for Michele”.
This was the hardest part for me. I so badly would want a piece of cake at a birthday party or an ice cream with friends at the local ice cream shop. But whenever I tried to sneak a treat, I would get caught. Someone would see me and call my mom. And I would endure pretty intense punishment when I got home (would be called abuse nowadays).
Between the fear of dying from not caring for my diabetes and the fear of being punished if I tried to sneak a treat, my sense of control (or lack of) was tested often.
As time went by, I learned that when my sugars were in a good range, I did feel much better (even though I could not test them via blood – we had urine testing – I could tell). I had the energy to play with other kids, to do my schoolwork, to be me.
And I felt like I was contributing to that feeling of well being by eating healthy and exercising even as young as eight years old. It empowered me to feel like I was doing something to keep my diabetes under control.
And when my diabetes did not cooperate, I felt like control had been lost. As a child and teenager I did not like that feeling. I felt like a failure. My parents and the doctors would get after me if they saw high tests in my log book. “Why did you let this happen” were the exact words of my childhood endocrinologist. “You will die,” chimed in my mother. Die?
It was all fear based. That word “die” always scared me. I did not want to die. No way.
But I remember the word “die” and the associated feelings which propelled me to try and grasp even tighter control over diabetes and my whole life.
I must admit that I went through periods as a teenager where I became obsessed with testing bloodsugars (twenty times a day), measuring food like crazy and not eating if I could not measure), eating only extremely healthily and exercising too intensely. I thought I was in control. My diabetes looked great. hA1c was excellent. But I had lost control of my life.
And all this control bottomed out on me. I could only keep that pace up for so long. I was exhaused and started rebelling against control. After a long run, I would go and eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Testing? Nah…I don’t need to test today. Measuring food. Not today And I even had a few days where I skimped on my insulin. I did not want to deal with my diabetes anymore. I was worn out. I did not care.
I was rebelling. I felt horrible, physically and mentally. This whole idea of control had taken over my life. And it went beyond diabetes. It was my whole life.
To this day, I am not sure what clicked inside of me to help me regain control. I was a Senior in high school and just knew I could not go on this way. This way of living was consuming me. I had no energy. I felt horrible. Depression was setting in. I needed help.
I finally worked up the courage to ask my mother for help. I told her I needed to talk to someone. Luckily, my mom agreed. My father did not. And to this day, he will not talk about my diabetes. He views it as a weakness (another story for another time).
Therapy started and worked wonders. I went to individual therapy for years (my parents denied going to family therapy) and started to see changes over time. It took lots of hard work and dedication. More work than my diabetes or anything else in my life.
But I learned so much about my diabetes, my self, and my diabetes. Totally worth it. Saved my life.
I will always struggle with control and sometimes see it popping up. I want to control my husband or my kids decisions or behaviors, and then I realize. Stop. You cannot do that. They have the right to make their own decisions and live their own lives. And so do I.
Or I will get caught up figuring out what to eat. What is healthy? How many carbs? How much fat? Healthy fat? And then I stop. Take a step back. And approach it differently. Calmly, and not obsessively. And Allowing treats like Hershey chocolate kisses or ice cream with my kids is necessity. I don’t feel guilty for doing it.
Taking charge of my diabetes and doing the best I can without going too extreme is key for me. Yes, I am a diabetic, but I am, also, a human being. I am not perfect. No one is perfect.
Realizing that there are going to be bumps in the road. That is part of life whether or not you have diabetes. And diabetes may create a few more bumps, but that makes me a stronger person.
And letting go of some of the control. Recognizing that a little control goes a long way.
Have a good day….and try letting go a bit….