While I would love to have never been diagnosed with diabetes, having a chronic illness has taught me a lot and given me a lot of experiences that I would never want to give up.
I think the biggest thing I have learned from having diabetes is responsibility. Like I said in an earlier post, diabetic kids grow up fast and learn how to be responsible at a young age. While I do believe this took away some of my ability to just be a kid, the responsibility I learned from being diabetic has kept me out of a lot of trouble that many of my peers have gotten into.
Another important thing I have learned from having a chronic illness is empathy. I tend to put myself in other people’s shoes a lot, especially people that have any kind of health-related problem. I know what it feels like to have to perform at 100% when you feel like 30%, and I know that at any given time, most people are trying the best that they can.
I have also learned to fight for what I want, and to not let myself use diabetes as an excuse to not do what I want to do. One of my greatest personal diabetes accomplishments was living for 3.5 months in Ghana. It was hard! It was hard to find food to eat, clean water to drink, I had to bring ALL of my diabetes supplies with me, it was hard to get any exercise other than walking around, and on top of all of that it was ridiculously hot! Also, while I was there, I took a week long trip to Burkina Faso, during which I only had one small back pack full of stuff with me! Anyone that’s ever traveled with diabetes will know that it is hard to pack light! So, I’m pretty proud that I kicked diabetes’ butt that summer.
I have learned how to work the system. This also falls in the category of fighting for what I want. I have learned that with patience and perseverance, you CAN win the battle against the red tape of the health care system. Let me just tell you that the words “let me speak to your supervisor” are the 6 most effective words in the English language!
And, finally, I’ve met so many wonderful people! From my friends at diabetes camp, to people I’ve volunteered with, to an on-line community full of support, diabetes has taught me that there is SO much good left in humanity, even when it doesn’t always seem like there is!
So, in summary, even though it really stinks sometimes to have gotten diabetes, it almost makes up for it through all of the things it has given me.