What's good with diabetes?

What's good about having diabetes?

Without being ridiculously Pollyannaish about it, we can affirm that diabetes does do some positive things for you. This isn't just our idea. Many diabetics have written to us and told us about what they consider to be the advantages of diabetes.

For one thing, you learn the principles of good health. Until you're whammed with something dramatic like diabetes, you may just bumble along wrecking your health through bad habits, laziness, and ignorance. Diabetes teaches you the right way to live and gives you a reason for doing so. As one diabetic skier put it, "This disease, this condition will keep you healthy and fit for whatever your heart desires. I feel I'm better off because I'm not fat; never have I been out of shape, and I eat well and thoughtfully."

Diabetics often actually feel better than they did before having their disease. Young diabetics have reported to us that they do better in sports than their nondiabetic friends because they never eat junk food and always keep regular hours. They're in top-notch shape all the time. They also say they're less susceptible to the colds and flus that their friends pick up with seasonal regularity.

Diabetics often look better than their nondiabetic contemporaries. Conscientious diabetics are lean and vital and bright of eye and quick of step. People of the same age who don't have diabetes to goad them onto the path of healthful living often are pudgy, sallow, and lethargic.

Diabetes develops your self-discipline. Young persons who have diabetes and must assume responsibility for their own care develop a mature attitude of self-sufficiency at an early age. The discipline of following the diabetic way of life carries over to school and work and sports and creative endeavors. It can help make you a successful person in all areas of living. Sometimes diabetes even sparks ambition. We know a young diabetic woman who is a successful city attorney. She told us how her choice of a profession came about. "When I got diabetes in high school I knew I'd have it all the rest of my life. I realized it would be an expensive disease and I decided I wanted to always be able to take care of myself and take care of myself well whether I ever got married or not. That's why I worked hard to prepare myself for a good career."

And having diabetes makes you more compassionate toward others with problems. You learn how to give help gracefully and receive help without embarrassment or resentment. This, after all, is what puts the humanity in human beings. But perhaps best of all, diabetes makes you capable of change. To change is the hardest thing for people to do. That's why so many of us take the easy way out and stick in a rut for our entire lives, unable to rouse ourselves into action to make the changes that could make us into the persons we were meant to be.

Diabetes, because it requires changes, and rather dramatic changes at that, shows you that you can change. If you can change in one area, then you are capable of change in other areas. You can improve not only your health but your whole life.

But so much of the change seems to be giving up pleasures. How can I feel good about that?

We found that when June, in her early fits of depression, was ticking off all the pleasures she'd have to give up because of diabetes, what she was really ticking off were habits. Something like eating a sweet dessert was a habit that she considered a pleasure merely because she'd done it so often that it was a comforting part of her daily routine. The trick is to establish new good habits and turn them by constant use into pleasures. This is not as hard as you may think. Eating a delectable, juicy piece of fresh fruit can become as much of a habit-pleasure as eating a big, gloppy dessert. For many people a daily bike ride or after-dinner walk is a pleasurable habit, and it can become one for you, too.

Furthermore, when you're thinking of the things you have to give up because of diabetes, think of these: you have to give up ever waking up with a hangover, either of the cigarette or alcohol variety; you have to give up discovering on a shopping trip that you've ballooned another dress or suit size; and you have to give up feeling like a sluggish blob because of lack of exercise.

Finally, if, as you make the changes in your life, you still have moments of depression, try to keep in mind that it's part of the human condition to be depressed from time to time. There will be a natural tendency for you to lay your every woe on the doorstep of your diabetes. That's unfair to diabetes. Bad though it may be, it's not enough of a villain to be responsible for every dismal moment in your life. Even if you didn't have diabetes, you wouldn't be frisking around in a constant state of ecstasy. Though they call life the human comedy, it isn't all laughs for anybody.


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