My Real Life with T1D
It was a huge shock when our 18-month-old son was diagnosed with type one diabetes. I was not prepared to overhear the words of a nurse as my toddler and I were waiting in our assigned hospital room, “Get an IV started on the diabetic in room 4”. Wait, I thought, we’re in room 4!
The whole thing felt like a bad dream. It did not seem real. I did not know how to process the fact that our whole life had just changed. I didn’t even know that kids this young could get diabetes despite my previous training as a nurse. This disease wasn’t even remotely on my radar and I had missed all the signs until it was almost too late. When he was diagnosed his blood sugar was 66 and he was in DKA.
While he was receiving care on the unit, we attended diabetes training so we could safely care for him at home. I realized how much I didn’t know about this disease as we sat listening to the nurses and doctors and dieticians talk about things like carbs and boluses and nighttime lows in our training. I now had to check my toddler’s blood sugar at all times of the day and night, give him frequent needles, plus I had to count everything he put, or didn’t put, into his mouth. I had to do all this while somehow taking care of all the other needs in our family.
I remember trying to figure out how I was going to handle all of this
... it felt so big. I knew I needed to figure it out fast as I had 3 young children and a husband who needed me. And to make it all even more challenging, my 7-year-old daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease just 6 short months later.
At some point, I went into what I would call “nursing mode” so that the huge weight of it all didn’t overwhelm me and shut me down. When I worked as a nurse, this was a place reserved for people that had horrible things going on but needed me to care for them. It was essentially a place where I stopped all emotion in order to get a difficult job done.
That became my strategy. That was how I handled years of chronic conditions and still cared for my children; I went into nursing mode.
Finally, my health started to crash.
The problem with that strategy was that it made me lose connection with my own needs. I never took care of myself beyond the basics. I remember our family doctor having a conversation with me because she noticed I was constantly helping my kids but never made an appointment for myself. In fact she started the conversation with “Well, if it isn’t the mom who always takes care of her kids but never herself.” Ouch!
But regardless of what she thought, I felt I didn’t have the “luxury” of taking care of myself. That was reserved for the mothers who didn’t have kids with chronic conditions. I would feel guilty if I thought about caring for myself because I somehow envisioned my own self-care taking away from caring for my children, especially my son with T1D.
I didn’t understand the principle about giving myself oxygen first so that I would be able to help others with their oxygen needs.
Finally, after many oxygen-less years, my health started to crash. I became depressed and was always tired and had migraines all the time.
The best version of me.
Things got so bad that I was forced to reach past the traditional medical system who had no answers and I started seeing a functional medicine doctor. I was basically told that I had to care for myself and was given strategies to get better. As I began making positive diet and lifestyle changes and prioritizing self-care, I very quickly started to feel better. And I noticed that as I felt better, things within my family life also got better. Instead of the old, tired, depleted version of myself, my family now got the best version of me. The version that was energetic and positive and full of life. I was now able to give to my family from a place of overflow instead of depletion and what a tremendous difference that has made -both to myself and to them.