“Oh, you have diabetes? Like the bad kind?”

How many times have I heard that response to my diabetes disclosure? Honestly, in the last 28 years, more times than I can count. People seem to respond to diabetes with a slate of replies, ranging from compassionate to cruel, from misinformed to supportive. Regardless of their perception of my disease, I need to be securely anchored in how I feel about it.

“Tell me more about the good kind?” I ask.

On days when diabetes is tough, I try to give myself permission to feel grouchy about it for a bit. If I give myself a “rage bolus” (which is a haphazardly calculated insulin taken in a fit of aggravation – not medically sound in any capacity but sometimes the ugh is so UGH), I let myself feel that “UGH!” in full. I work hard to view my glucose results as data points and not values of myself as a person. I let myself vent about the stuff that sucks because sometimes getting those feelings off my chest helps me let it go.

On days when diabetes is easy, I appreciate that ease. Sometimes that ease comes in the form of putting on a new CGM sensor that doesn’t hurt at all. Or the ease of a carb-free snack that requires nothing in the way of insulin-to-carbohydrate math equations. The ease of blood sugars that stay in range. Or the ease of conversation between two strangers who find out they have a lazy pancreas in common.

There are tough days. And there are easy days. In between those benchmarks are dozens of days that are just fine. The point is to remember to live in all of those days, because there is a life to be found after diagnosis, and it can be amazing.

I used to ask my mom about my diabetes and what my future might be like back when I was little, and she never struggled with her response. She always told me that life needed to be good and fun, and that no matter what happened, it needed to be worth living. That meant taking risks and not basing decisions entirely on fear and what ifs, not letting diabetes dictate what I could or couldn’t do. She positioned my disease as something serious but something conquerable, and when I ever came to the very end of things, I’d feel like I had truly lived.

It’s not me. Diabetes isn’t me. It’s not a hole in me or the whole of me. Diabetes doesn’t get credit for making me strong, and it won’t be blamed for making me scared. The best way I’ve found to find balance in life with my chronic illness is to accept that it’s going to assert itself as challenging a fair amount of the time, but life still goes on and life is still good.

“Oh, you have diabetes? Like the bad kind?”

I always smile when I respond.

“I don’t know of a good kind of diabetes, but my life? My life is the good kind. The all kinds of good kind.”

~

Kerri Sparling has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1986. She manages her diabetes and lives her life by the mantra “Diabetes doesn’t define me, but it helps explain me.” She is the creator of the diabetes blog Six Until Me and author of Balancing Diabetes. She currently lives in Rhode Island with her husband, daughter, and several ailing laptops.