Being Diagnosed with Diabetes Made Me Feel Like a Failure

My name is Lee and I have diabetes. I was diagnosed 1 day before my 30th birthday, after spending the last 6 years trying to so hard to evade, what feels like to me, a death sentence. My mom has diabetes. My dad has diabetes. Many of my aunts and uncles do. One of my grandmothers did too. There are likely undiagnosed folks in my family who never go to the doctor. The genetic marker is pretty strong and perversave in my family. And yet, getting this diagnosis left me with feelings of extreme guilt, failure, and self loathing. I was literally disgusted with myself and still struggle with these feelings, although with food, being more active, and small dosage of meds, have managed to get my numbers into normal ranges for non diabetics. And I feel the need to explain all of that to you, so you don’t think I’m a failure or disgusting too. Which disgusts me even more. I am overweight. I have been for awhile. I haven’t been in what doctors describe as normal weight ranges for my height since I was 17 or 18. I have lost weight, but losing weight is difficult for me. I am pretty active, I eat well 65-75% of the time, and so simply changing those things, without dramatic changes, makes it harder for me to tip the scale. I could definitely do better (oh shit, there goes my self loathing trying to explain to you so you don’t judge me). To lose weight, I need to dramatically change my diet, workout sooo much, and I have done this a couple times… And passed out or almost passed out a couple times. My doctor at the time, who has been my favorite doctor ever, and the first to ever tell me this, told me that maybe my body was happy at then 191 lbs (after passing out and injuring my knee, which meant less intense exercise & fighting depression/anxiety, I put on 20 lbs and was devastated, so I went to see her) and that I should learn to accept me. Maybe for once in my life not think about food or dieting. At that time, I did not have diabetes. I was pre-diabetic, 5 years earlier, but had completely turned that shit around. I was stunned at her suggestion, every doctor before her had treated me as a walking case of disease. I wasn’t sure what to do with that info and to be honest, was still completely scared of gaining weight and diabetes. Fast forward to a move to Wisconsin 1.5 years later, and I’m sitting in a doctor’s office hearing that my A1C is just barely over the marker at 6.6 and I’m diabetic. I felt the warm rush of shame over me and felt the heaviness and largeness of my belly, the jiggle of my arms, and the enormity of what I must do to overcome this. I was exhausted. The doctor was amazing. She was reassuring. And so kind. But I was just so mad at myself. Let’s stop here. Maybe you’re struggling to understand why this had such an impact on me. So I’m going to explain. “Diabetes” is a marker for the overweight woman who tries to love herself. It’s ok to love yourself, so long as you’re healthy, and also let’s not forget that weight automatically makes you unhealthy in everyone’s eyes. Doctors have spent many an appointment blaming any illness you have on weight. I also watched my mother’s struggles with weight and diabetes. How I was afraid I would lose her so many times. How she was mistreated and abused, and I vowed to never be that way whether it was consciously or not. And here I am, diabetic and a bit overweight, and with a touch of self loathing. Despite all my efforts – being strong physically and mentally, that I do workout, I walk everywhere, that I can keep my numbers under control – that all people will see is a failure who got diabetes. Similarly, how people blame people for having certain mental illnesses, I see people doing that with Diabetes, especially type 2, and I have internalized these messages. I’m not proud. But it helps me understand where these feelings come from and deal with them. Wanna know something heartbreaking? If you Google depression or shame and diabetes, you will find tons of articles and support groups about these two co-occurring diagnoses. When I first was diagnosed I searched for this support. I needed to know I was not alone. And so many people carry the shame of the diagnosis. We know when people ask “type 1 or 2” they are sizing us up to see if it was our fault or not. People live in secrecy and tell no one (one of my tactics) for fear of judgement. And then if you already struggle with body image and/or weight loss, there is an additional complexity in that relationship. The added pressure of judging every bite into your mouth adds an additional element of self deprecation. Every person who loses weight and you cannot seem to budge the scale adds another layer of shame. Every fat shamer on body positive websites who states you are promoting obesity, heart disease and diabetes. And I can see why people give up altogether on managing it; this is exhausting. I, myself, have not stepped into a gym in 2 weeks. Sure, I’m still averaging 3-4 miles of walking each day, lifting heavy things, went to a kickboxing class, running, and my blood sugar levels are doing great. Fall is here, so my running season is about to pick up. But I am feeling the shame. Everyone around me seems to be dropping pounds and everyone celebrates that. But losing weight is increasingly becoming harder for me. No one is gonna celebrate that “hey, I’ve not lost a pound, despite lots of attempts, but my blood sugar levels are normal and I’m healthy, despite being my heaviest!” Someone, somewhere will try to give me weight loss tips, further reinforcing my fear that is what is important, reminding me of failure. But perhaps, someone somewhere, will also be inspired. And begin to come to grips with that you can truly be healthy at any size. And larger bodies can run and move and play. And even if you do get a disease, it doesn’t mean it is your fault, and you may manage it wonderfully, and still have a larger body. And that’s ok. Cause that is where I hope I’m headed. And so for that reason I say, “hey, I’ve not lost a pound, despite lots of attempts, but my blood sugar levels are normal and I’m healthy, despite being my heaviest!”

Author: Lee

Just a woman who laughs a little too loudly, making people constantly stare, states her mind always, sings offkey, embraces her afrocentricity, and drops the F-Bomb entirely too much. My hobbies include honing my highly sensitive person skills, trying to find that poor, rare man that can love all of this and I, him, overthinking, fighting for injustices, and listening to old school R&B and neosoul while drinking wine and cooking in my kitchen. I love the other two bloggers here with all my heart and happy to be doing this blog with them!

3 thoughts on “Being Diagnosed with Diabetes Made Me Feel Like a Failure”

  1. I love this! I haven’t been diagnosed but I know what’s it’s like to be pre-diabetic in a family full of diabetics. You are amazing for sharing and taking it one day at a time 💜

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I Have Diabetic for a year My sugars are actually very good but i have sufferd in other ways with nerve damage in my leg and my hands somedays it gets me down but i try and be positiveX KEEP YOUR CHIN UP

    Like

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