I hate snakes! They are creepy, crawly, slithery creatures with beady eyes and forked tongues who crawl on their bellies with their face to the ground. They hide away in dark creepy places ready to chomp, squeeze, or envenomate the unlucky who cross their path or look like lunch. I hate them to the point of phobia - they just give me the willies! Gaa-Ross!
Imagine my reaction when I learned that not only had to touch a snake, but own one, care for one and keep one alive or I would lose my life. That, my friend, is what getting a diagnosis of diabetes felt like to me. I got a snake and I had no choice in the matter. I didn't want it, I feared it (years of nursing will do that to you - you know what it is capable of), and the thought of it repulsed me. Yes, repulsed me. I didn't want this. I remember feeling pity for people I knew who had to bear such a burden and suffer with such a horrible plight. Diabetes was creepy, scary, and treacherous, with sharp pointy parts, strict feeding habits and the potential to kill me. How could I ever live my life with a thing I feared so much?
The thing about fear is that you can't stay in fight or flight mode 24/7. Fear can be a great change agent for a while, but eventually you even get used to constant fear. You get used to your snake. I sort of got used to mine. Some days I was so scared I did nothing but care for the snake. Other days I left the snake to fend for itself and took a break from carb counting, finger sticks and portion control. Neither extreme did much to make me a happy, well-adjusted person. Being an ER nurse during this time, I saw "snake victems" every day. Those unfortunate souls who hadn't managed their disease well or just by sheer bad luck were blind, missing toes and limbs, on dialysis, demented, crippled by stroke or heart disease, the list goes on and on. They didn't look happy. I feared that would be me.
My type A self eventually got so tired of not being the perfect diabetic with blood sugars normal every time. I beat myself up for not being a better snake handler. I didn't want the thing anymore and thought I would lose my mind as I swung between taking care of the snake and living my life as I wanted. By the grace of God a co-worker knew a licensed professional counselor that had helped her and encouraged me to talk to her. I ended up learning new ways to cope, new skills, and new ways of thinking. I think the first "aha" moment was that the snake and I were one in the same. It was now part of my life and I didn't want to hate part of me. Hating anything is exhausting and depleting. I had to learn how to love my snake. To love me. All of me.
The first thing was to get rid of the image of a snake thrust upon me (they still creep me out) and reframe my new reality. I now think of diabetes as a child I need to take care of; a beautiful, younger, fragile girl who needs some TLC, good food, medicine on time and a lot of understanding. It is much easier to care for that aspect of me and love her. That child has taught me many things, among them patience, acceptance, and tolerance. Most importantly, she taught me that I was worth it, my life is worth living, and I can chose not to be a victim. Life is much easier now that I am a caregiver and calling the shots (pun intended!). I am happy to hold her hand, test her blood sugar, feed her well, and enjoy the life we live together. It no longer feels like a burden, I don't hate anything about my life (well maybe when I don't have internet connectivity!). I can actually say I love having diabetes, because I can't hate a part of my life. It is just who I am and I accept that.