“Don’t forget to take care of yourself” is one of my favorite pieces of parenting advice given by other parents. The unexpected life that unfolds before you as a parent can be overwhelming, so every once in a while, it’s important to focus on your own wellness. However, I can’t help but laugh at the thought of NOT taking care of myself, simply because, if I stopped, I’d be dead.
You see, I live with a chronic illness that doesn’t allow me to skip self-care. I have Type 1 diabetes, so naturally, I have this “me time” thing down to a science.
When I brought my first daughter home from the hospital, it was extremely difficult to accept that my health, not my child, was my number one priority. It was not an easy adjustment. But it’s probably safe to say that because I am a diabetic, I learned sooner than most moms that taking care of myself is not optional. It is a requirement.
I know this sounds strange, but I actually feel lucky to have been diagnosed with a disease that promotes self-care. If you do diabetes right, you get rewarded with a longer life and fewer disease-related complications. Diabetes gives me control over how long I get to enjoy this earth. In comparison, I’ve watched family members and friends fight through cancer, which lowered their body’s defenses and limited their abilities to continue life as they knew it. They didn’t have the options that I have. For me, it all comes down to how well I choose to treat my body. Admittedly, I don’t always comply with the strict diet rules that come along with Type 1. However, I know better than to abuse myself.
Of course, I didn’t always live as I do now. In college, I pretended diabetes didn’t exist. I ate whatever I wanted and consumed alcohol like a true party girl. I took “being young and dumb” to a completely new level. My endocrinologist even banned me from her office.
Luckily for me, I grew up and have been taking small steps every day that enable me to take control of my disease and my life.
Like most moms, my daily routine includes showering, brushing my teeth, taking care of my family, and working a full time job. However, it also includes other responsibilities like testing my blood sugars, counting carbs to determine how much insulin I need for everything I eat, and logging all of my meals, numbers and carb to insulin ratios so I can detect patterns and adjust as needed.
Then there are the smaller “blink-and-you’ll-miss it” features of my life like when driving my children to school, I pack juice boxes in the car. Not for them, but for me…just in case I feel a low blood sugar episode coming on while I’m driving. Or when I decide to go for a run and have to test my blood sugars first to ensure I won’t go into a coma along the way. I also need to be selective when packing snacks as I need food that will help balance my blood sugar without causing hyperglycemia.
In addition to eating well and exercising, I also enjoy risky adventures like skydiving. And as freaky as skydiving may be to a non-diabetic, the stress that comes from that excitement also affects my blood sugars negatively. So, even when planning to do something fun that gives me butterflies in my stomach, I always have to be prepared for my disease to challenge me.
My point is that even though I have a few more steps to complete each day, I don’t mind making certain accommodations for my disease. Type 1 diabetes does not define me, but it is a part of my life that needs to be acknowledged and taken care of on a daily basis. And as long as I continue to take the cliché parental advice and take care of myself, my illness won’t stop me from spending time with my two beautiful daughters, dancing with my husband, running a marathon or jumping out of an airplane.
Living with a chronic disease was not my choice, but living beyond Type 1 diabetes will forever be my goal.