Diabetes: I wish I could be happy

How could you not be happy on a candy floss day like this one?

 

I’m never happy.

It dawned on me just now as I drove home. It’s a glorious day, the best kind; the sun is shining, the trees look like candy floss, heavy with blossom, and the streets are filled with busy families on their way to tennis, drama clubs, or ballet. I’m one of them. Two years ago I would have rejoiced in a day like today. I would have dug out my sandals, planned a barbeque for lunch, and invited friends for cocktails. I’d have walked in the sun, breathed the air, and revelled in my life. It’s just that kind of day.

I was happy.

I don’t have a dream house, but my home is exactly what I need. I’m no longer 29, but I’m content with my age, my body, my skin. I might have liked a couple more kids, but the two I have are perfect. I wish I earned more money, but what I have seems to work for now. Life is good.

But I’m still not happy.

When I was younger, I used to fret about what might happen, or what hadn’t happened yet. Ambition was a burden, leaving me dissatisfied with my lot, never happy with the status quo. I guess that’s what keeps you going, driving to learn more, to succeed more, to achieve more. It’s human nature, but it sometimes prevents a reflection on what is good about your life. I was like that.

As I grew older, and saw more of the world, I came to realise that, whilst I would always strive for more in my work, and look forward to what the future might bring, what I have right now is good. Great, in fact, if I take the time to appreciate it. I’m aware that much of what I do is envied by others, and I don’t take that for granted.

You see, it’s comparative. There will always be someone with a bigger house, a shinier kitchen, a newer car. But glance in the other direction and you’ll see someone with less. It was the same in school. There was always a girl who got better grades, but mine were always good enough. And besides, a bigger house brings more irritating junk, and a brand new kitchen is disappointingly imperfect when the coffee rings start to appear.

So why am I no longer happy?

Because carefree no longer exists for me. Where I used to park my worries and savour the walk through a perfect day like this one, there is now a stone around my neck that I cannot shake. I carry it everywhere with me. It gets in the way of the beautiful view, spoils the cut of my summer dresses, and digs into me when I lie down in the warm grass.

I can’t take it off to sleep, I can’t ask someone else to carry it for a while; it’s part of me now, like a scar that fades, but will never be quite gone. I can learn to live with it, but it will always be ugly and uncomfortable. It demands my attention relentlessly, drawing me away from the sunshine, the candy floss, and the cocktails. I can fight to stay amongst the trees, but I know that I will never quite make it to the long grass.

Diabetes has taken a chunk of my happiness that I will never be able to fill. I will experience the most joyous occasions, the most exhilarating days, the most wonderful of friends in my life, and yet there will always be a piece of happiness missing, held within the stone, irretrievable for all its intimacy.

I wish I could be happy.

28 thoughts on “Diabetes: I wish I could be happy”

  1. Oh Helen, it’s such a shame to read this. You are a total inspiration to many of us and I am sorry you’re not happy, that you are not able to be. I hope, one day, not very far away, that you will be able to share this burden so it’s not so heavy, that medicine can catch up. Lots of love to you. And may I say what a credit you and your daughter are to this condition. XX

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  2. Everyone deserves to be happy, however, when something enters your life, something unexpected, it is so easy to get dragged in and down and I completely understand how you must be feeling. Not because I have the same issues as you, just different ones. I am so sorry to read this. The hardest thing for you must be to find a silver lining in all of this. I know this is here to stay for you, I just hope that time helps and you get through and find a way xx

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  3. You know what I think that happiness or at least the “right” to it is a really modern phenomena. I am sure that my mum never thought it was her right to be happy all the time! But, I do want to share with you some tips I have for living in the now, which is how I deal with my illness and a child with a longterm condition.

    If things are not hard at this very moment, I relax in it. All the way. I remind myself, I am happy in this moment, no pain, no explosions, nothing bad is happening to me RIGHT NOW. I do not think on past or future. Just the now. And I do each task thoughtfully and well. Start laundry. Answer emails. Laugh at a cat video.
    If things ARE hard at this very moment, then I breathe deeply and remind myself, “This moment will pass. This moment will pass.” And I respond to each moment as it come.s
    If there is a pause in the commotion,, then I go back to the first one, “nothing bad is happening to me right now.” And I breathe.
    Once you practice this, you’ll start to notice that the really bad moments are actually very brief, and you can leave them in that moment and not let the dread/fear/expectation of the next one cause you to lose the good ones that are happening right now.
    The calm moments are often spoiled by the future fear or reliving the past moments in your head. This is what I have managed to stop. I only think on the hard moments during two times: When I am in them and reacting/working to get through them. And when I am actively planning my actions for those moments

    This is how I get through my days, otherwise the fear or what if would be paralising

    Reply
    • That’s very wise Jen. I have totally changed my outlook on life since our diagnosis, to exactly this. I don’t panic about what might happen any more, and I do trust my own ability to get through the stressful things when they happen. I think my feelings on this post on Saturday morning were more that it’s impossible to shake diabetes tasks for more than an hour at a time, and therefore it pervades everything that we do. In a park, we can’t just relax and swing, because we’ll need to remember to check blood sugar more often. On a hot day, insulin works faster, so we’ll need to remember to check blood sugar more often. If we go swimming in the afternoon, blood sugar might drop in the middle of the night, so I’ll need to remember to set alarms. It’s a constant stream of task-related input to my consciousness that forms the very necessary backdrop to absolutely every single thing I do. In fact, the only time I ‘forget’ is when she’s at school, because there’s nothing I can do then. The sadness then come from knowing that she has this ALL the time. She never gets to switch off the voice, the reminders of all the tasks she needs to undertake. It’s such an odd condition from that point of view – you can prevent most of the really bad stuff from happening, but only if you are constantly thinking about it. And that kind of mental input distracts you from focusing on the good stuff. It demands that you never forget it, and that’s what I’m struggling with at the moment. I’m sure there must be a way around it, and I’m usually pretty good at focusing on the positives these days, but I just can’t find a way through this one at the moment.

      Thank you though, for your comment – it’s really helping me to think things through. Hopefully an aha moment is just round the corner 🙂

      Reply
  4. Reading this post is humbling and my heart breaks for what you are all going through, but I agree with Jen. From your reply I know you are able to do that, but I guess it is still just…. hard. Like Anya says, I hope medicine catches up or some miracle occurs, so that this is not endless for you and your beautiful girl.
    Lots of love, Liska x

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  5. I look back at photos from 3 years ago, from before Meningitis and loss, and they make me saddest of all because we have lost that innocence. You grieve for the life you had before, but you can never get it back. I think happiness is about taking what you are left with and seeing the joy in it. I keep all those smiles every 15th of the month because I have to remind myself that we do have happy. There are moments when we forget, just for a moment or a minute or two, where we live in the ‘right here.right now’. Don’t lose sight of that, hold it dear, and take away the fact that it exists as proof that it will continue to exist. You have so much, sometimes it’s just impossible to see it.

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    • Thanks Jenny. Your insight is so helpful. You’ve been an inspiration, and I know that we are lucky. I just need to find a way to deal with the millstone sometimes x

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  6. I can appreciate this post so very much Helen and I too wish that I couldn’t. Our life was turned upside down a couple of weeks ago and I wonder if it will ever be the same again. The difference, I suppose, is that my daughter has something that she CAN (possibly) get better from, although it will be a long uphill battle. I guess your lovely girl cannot strive for that. I’m sorry you’re experiencing this but I do understand. The heavy weight that I’m dragging around at the moment colour everything in my world too. I try to savour the lighter moments so that they will carry me through in the heavier ones. Take care and now that you’re not alone. x x

    Reply
    • I’ve just seen Suzanne, I’m so sorry. Thank you for talking to me about it, and for putting it out there. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through all of this, it’s that so many people are dealing with their own struggles, and just getting on with it. Talking about it always helps, and knowing others are there too is such a comfort. Good luck with your lovely daughter x

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  7. So sorry to read this. I can’t imagine what it must feel like, apart from I know that if it was one of my kids I would be on edge and worrying at all times, meaning little time for happiness. I hope in years to come you are able to feel happier. You have achieved so much in those two years and done amazing things in raising awareness of Type 1 Diabetes. And it looks like you have a daughter who is happy and still managing to achieve so much and that’s thanks to all your support and hard work.

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    • She is, thanks Sarah, and that’s my mission. I hate to feel like I’m ‘banging on’ about diabetes, but if I can change perceptions of it even a little, it at least feels like I’m doing something that will help her for the long term.

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  8. I have no idea what it’s like living with a diabetic child, but know that when one daughter was seriously ill at the age of 10 that I floundered and didn’t think I had it in me to get through everything that needed to be done. Looking back, I know that I am a stronger person because of her illness. All you can do is remind yourself every day that you are doing the best you can by being there for your gorgeous girl whenever she needs you. You’re also raising awareness for the condition and should be congratulated for all your hard work. Take pleasure in the smallest of things and treasure every moment that isn’t troublesome. Thinking of you x

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    • You’re completely right, of course. Thank you for sharing that – perspective is always so helpful when you’re trying to come to terms with something difficult. I haven’t been in a place to apply it until now, but I’m hoping that now the initial storm is settling (though there will be many many more flurries), I can spend some time fathoming how to be happy from a different vantage point.

      Reply
  9. It’s funny (not haha) how a few of us are going through particularly tricky times right now – can’t even say it must be the weather… 😉
    Just trying to make light of it of course, because I don’t know what else to do. I don’t feel particularly ‘light’ at the moment, but I know it will pass, and that’s the best bit to focus on. I also know though, like you, that it won’t actually properly pass, that there’s always a ‘something’ there, and that it is relentless. Like you, I also see a child ‘without’, and I see how easy that life is, and a part of me longs for that easyness all the time, and yet it’s out of reach. We can’t do anything except accept the way it is, and carry on carrying on. Shall I pop round with a bottle later?! 😀

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  10. My dear Helen, I am so sorry to hear that you are sad. I think this is what happens actually. The things that happen when we don’t expect makes us unhappy. I know what you mean though and with so many of your words I resonate too…I blame my depression for all this. I am incapable to feel happy despite all the good things in my life…We always want more from life and this is what makes us so unhappy. I am fortunate to have a great circle of friends that always pick me up when I am down though. I wish we were all happy and that the illnesses didn’t exist but…Lots of love to you! I miss yoxxxx

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  11. I’ve had this page open on my computer for a couple of days wondering how to reply. I can’t imagine how worrying and stressful life is at the moment for you, but to an outsider you seem to cope amazingly well and not let diabetes stop you doing anything. You should be very proud of yourself and your family. I really hope things get better soon. xx

    Reply
    • Thanks Emma. Sometimes it’s entirely manageable, though irritating, sometimes it really is very difficult indeed, and exhausting. The trouble is you never know what you’re going to get until you see it, so you always have to be on your guard. I think that’s the most tiring, and frustrating thing about living with diabetes – you just can never relax because it’s alway one step ahead of you. x

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  12. Great post, and one which resonates. Having met you a few times, I’ve always thought of you as a person who is very comfortable in their skin, with their outlook and with their life. I guess it shows that people can put on a happy face and get on with it, even if things aren’t quite right, and they can do so very well.
    Hope all is well.

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    • Oh it’s so true isn’t it? What you see on the outside of a person is not always what is going on inside, and I suppose all of us have our own personal crises we don’t talk much about. Flipping bloggers, eh, getting it all out there? 😉

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  13. Interesting read, a lot of which sounded familiar, not through diabetes but just through my depression which has been prevalent all my life, As i have got older i have managed to control it a lot more, I always try to look on the upside ( not easy when you have depression) my depression has been good for me though ! If i didn’t have it i would be off boozing and partying and whatnot – as it is it makes me look after myself in a way i probably wouldn’t if i were erm dare i say it…normal, although i am not sure what normal is anymore

    thanks for writing this i enjoyed reading it

    Tristan

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  14. So sorry to read this, know that you are not alone and I hope medicine catches us, I have an unwell relative currently and relate to the pain and constant worry x

    Reply

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