Diabetes, Resiliency and Superheroes
I have a fascination with superheroes.
Most of these characters have faced some kind of dramatic personal challenge or trauma, and their greatness is revealed in how they’ve overcome those obstacles to stand for something more. I think there are some parallels that can be drawn from those stories to how we live with Type 1 diabetes.
Superman, Daredevil, Wonder Woman and Batman are all icons for strength, but even these great superheroes felt misunderstood in the world because of their unique gifts. While I never thought I would characterize having Type 1 as having a superpower or “gift”, I often find myself downplaying what it takes to manage it day-to-day.
To those of us who are pancreatically challenged, it’s just “normal” to always have that mental CNN ticker tape running in the back of our minds - whether it’s related to our blood sugar levels, when we last ate, what we ate, what activity is ahead, how much insulin is on board, or where our low blood sugar treatment supplies are. It’s a LOT to keep track of. We literally have to think like a pancreas all the time, even if just to maintain some semblance of health and normalcy. And yet we do it all so quietly while still participating in life and activities with our friends and family who never have to think about such things.
I recently had the opportunity to speak to a large group about the realities of what it’s like to live with Type 1 diabetes – from diagnosis to day-to-day life scenarios, social situations, fears, school, family dynamics, going through airport security, dealing with ignorance, embarrassing situations, and beyond. They were astounded by how much is involved, how complicated it is, the mental aspects of it, and the sheer exhaustion of never getting a break from it.
They shared how incredibly impressed they were by the resiliency of people who can just “get up and deal with it” every day.
I’m sure most of you would agree that some days feel less heroic than others. After 27 years of living with diabetes and trying to balance the daily blood sugar fluctuations with my desire to live a normal life, I would do just about anything to have a day off. It’s a 24/7 condition which is rarely ever “steady state”. Sometimes I win, and sometimes diabetes wins. Whether it’s an injury, stress, travel, restaurant food, or exercise intensity - there is variability in ALL of it. So how can one reasonably expect to cope?
Whenever I get into a funk and need some inspiration, I go to my stash of favourite movies and remind myself that even superheroes get knocked down. They are not immune to setbacks. But what sets them apart is their resiliency and indomitable will. What defines them is not that they have fallen, but that they continue to get up - and never give up.
In the words of a man who once played Superman:
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
My hope for each of us on this journey with Type 1 is to remember that showing up and doing our best every day is already heroic. What we do is hard. And on the days when it’s not going so well, we need to remember to put our invisible cape on and know that we may be down, but never defeated.
Tomorrow is another day.