In Montana, November means that the open-toed sandals are a firmly poor decision, blanket scarves are the best way to transition from bedtime to meeting time, and light snowfall in the morning is expected. As the weather dips cooler, the spirit of this month nudges us closer to ourselves and each other. It is a beautiful transition to the Christmas season, which I’m half feeling “Not yet, I haven’t jumped in all the leaves” and half feeling, “Bring it on, Christmas!” We don’t have to make a decision yet, thank goodness, so in the meantime we’re welcome to firmly nestle into the month of giving thanks - and the month of pie! So much pie.
There is so much in front of us, and inside of us, to be thankful for. Unfortunately, chronic illness can get in the way. There isn’t much room for thankfulness when your insulin pump dies at 3 AM, in scary lows, or in the fear of complications with the uncertainty of what follows. In the effort to slow down and accept myself for where and who I am in this moment, it can be a fun experiment to put “things I’m thankful for” and “the worst parts of diabetes” into the same sentence. A sort of mashup that feels perfectly honest and just right for me. Perhaps some parts of this will feel right for you too.
I am thankful for the kindness I feel after emerging from burnout. Diabetes burnout has many forms, and whether it’s expressed through a rock-bottom meltdown or a gently growing apathy that hovers over my days, it’s very real and very hard. Burnout happens almost daily for me, where I’ve already checked myself so many times throughout the day and made so many decisions for myself, and have been so present for my body, that I have very little left by the time I get home. The burnout is an opportunity for me to put my head on my husband’s shoulder and accept a hug. In that moment, I’m forgiven from all of the hardships I’ve put myself through, and all of the shit that diabetes hands us. I am reminded of how difficult it is to manage this disease. I am surprised at my husband's quiet resilience and the willingness to do what he can to make it easier for me. I am honored by how much support I have around me, and the fact that in a self-managed disease I get to choose how to pull myself out from the slumps.
I am thankful for the hard workouts that help me feel strong and capable and like my abs are finally poking through. I’m also thankful for the workouts where my blood sugar crashes, I have to leave the gym class 10 minutes in due to a plummeting blood sugar, or the workouts that cause an adrenaline spike so high I have to stop. Throwing up halfway through a run because you’re pushing so hard? Feels kind of satisfying. Throwing up halfway through a run because your blood sugar is 400? Totally sucks. There is very little good in the latter situation, but it’s an exercise in self-love, in accepting my body where it is at that time, and to encourage myself to try again tomorrow.
I am thankful for the Diabetes Online Community (the DOC) and the privilege of having a safe space to share. There are so many different ways to live with chronic illness, and I am not beyond the incredible power of hearing "me too" from a new friend. I hope that this holiday season brings us many more "me toos," so that we can continue to see our strengths in one another. Happy Thanksgiving!