I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes for 41 years, almost 42. In all that time, I’ve never thought of myself as a “victim” of a chronic illness. Yes, I’ve had moments where I’ve briefly thought “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just forget about this for a while”, but it hasn’t got me down.
Last year, in an effort to hold on to and relive the thrill of adventure that I experienced when I was training for the 2010 Marathon des Sables, and then the event itself, I flippantly took myself off for some “adventure” at Wilsons Prom. Wilsons Promontory here in Victoria is where I had some fantastic adventures during my training. It is where I was doing non-stop, 62km walks, following a track that took in most of the beautiful coastline and the lighthouse at the bottom of The Prom. By the time of the event itself, I had done this arduous training adventure 15 or 20 times, bringing myself to a fine point of readiness for the Sahara Desert.
So last year, when I felt the memories of the experience were slipping away, I decided to recreate some of that adventure. Off I went, with little preparatory training, to do some of the overnight stuff. My intentions, though entirely innocent, were not well thought out and I almost came to major grief. Without going into details, I’ll just say that I almost died on a couple of occasions and it is very good luck indeed that I am still here to write these words. The first of these occasions I was able to explain away with a wave of the hand, still not accepting the reality of what had happened. But the second occasion finally caused me to pause and consider what I was doing.
A month ago I was again thinking of the glory days and then of the time I tried to recreate some of that experience. I found that the nightmare memories of last year, which are like reliving through hours of hellish hallucinations, were holding me back and stopping me from doing some of the things that I used to do without hesitation. Yes, I’m a little bit older now, but that shouldn’t be stopping me from the simple pleasure of camping. Yes, it’s been years since I’ve done any serious long distance walking, but that shouldn’t stop me from doing planned day walks of a careful distance. Why then was I even hesitating to go down to The Prom and camp?
After wondering about this for a long time, I finally settled on the answer. I was scared. And to be scared to do what was such a big part of that adventurous time not so long ago meant that I was letting type 1 diabetes determine what I could and could not do.
I was becoming a victim of type 1 diabetes.
For the first time in almost 42 years, I was feeling the fear and hesitation and constant thought, some of it negative, that goes with being a victim. I don’t have any other chronic illnesses, but I can now see better what happens when the chronic illness takes over. It is not a good situation to be in.
Last weekend I took a big step to get past this “victim” feeling. I took myself off to Wilsons Prom for two nights of camping. During that period I did a gentle day walk, not pushing the limits in any way, and was able to return back to the tent without any of the dramas that I had last year. It was all very careful, but it was also very safe and “normal”. I was able to get back on the horse without being thrown off again.
Mind you, using my BGL testing machine regularly throughout the weekend showed me that the chemistry surrounding type 1 diabetes has changed radically since those glory days five years ago. What worked then for the balance of food and insulin no longer applies. A couple of the readings I got on the BGL meter were quite confronting. But that now becomes part of my learning process as I rebuild my confidence again.
I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes for almost 42 years, but I have 25 or 30 years, or even more, to go yet. So it’s time to rebuild my confidence to where it was, then get on with the adventure.
Type 1 diabetes – it’s not fun and it’s not easy. But it is also not the whole story. There’s adventure out there yet to be found. Let’s do it!