Here it is. Day one of D-Blog Week 2011!
I try to teach my daughters to empathize with others. I feel this is an incredibly important ability to have in this world. The ability to imagine what someone else might be feeling given their unique circumstances is a powerful skill. This skill, once honed, results in compassion. And a little compassion goes a long way for someone living with an invisible disease like type 1 diabetes.
Both my girls are walking their own path in this world. I have the great honour to walk beside them right now -- to share in their triumphs and trials as any parent of young children does. A lot of their experiences I can relate to. I was once 5 and 7 years old. I do have a few points of reference. But there are some things I am unable to relate to as much as I would like. For Jenna, it is how it feels to have type 1 diabetes.
I do know what it’s like to have a chronic illness and I have drawn from my own experiences plenty of times while attempting to relate to Jenna. I am asthmatic. My asthma was less than adequately controlled for the majority of my childhood. It was exacerbated by allergens and my living environment usually included some of the worst offenders. Therefore, more often than not my breathing was compromised to some degree. So, in this respect, I can understand what it is like to feel less than stellar most of the time. It makes being a cheerful, happy, light-hearted, energetic kid rather difficult at times.
I would imagine this is similar to how it can feel when a child has a high or low blood sugar. It can make you feel pretty rotten. You may find it difficult to be patient, civil and even-tempered when you are battling a blood sugar that doesn’t want to descend from the stratosphere or is plummeting through the floor. You might get a little punchy or find it hard to want to cooperate. Not that diabetes can be used as an excuse for nasty behaviour. But it certainly needs to be taken into consideration, particularly with young children who haven’t yet developed enough self-awareness and insight to be able to identify how they are feeling and associate it with a cause.
While I can relate to feeling misunderstood for behaviour resulting from the physical trials of a chronic illness, I can’t relate specifically to how it feels to be hyper or hypoglycemic. Barring a diagnosis of type 1 or type 2 diabetes in my future, I will never know how it feels to have a fuzzy-toothed blood sugar of 15 or higher. And while I have gone a long time between meals and had a blood sugar ring in at around 4.8, I have never felt the kick-in-the-ass of a 2.1.
So who do I look to for insight into how this disease can make my daughter feel? Why the adult, type 1 members of the DOC, of course! This is why I reached out to the online community to begin with. They help me to understand what my daughter goes through as she endures the daily highs and lows. I have learned a great deal from this group of people. I read their blogs and find little snippets of information that help me to empathize with my little girl. I have gained enough insight that I am able to offer some compassion and comfort to Jenna when diabetes has been particularly difficult and left her feeling chewed up and spit out. I was unaware until recently that if someone with diabetes has had a stubborn high for a prolonged time it can leave her feeling exhausted and sluggish for a day or so afterward! This, I understand, can be the case after a bad low as well -- something to keep in mind when the number on the meter says things are back to normal but your child still seems out of sorts.
It is this kind of information that I would not have known had it not been for the communication I have with so many type 1 PWD who are willing to share their experiences with me. This is like gold to the parent of a child with diabetes. I am forever grateful to them.
Another benefit I have gained by observing and getting to know these amazing adults living with type 1 diabetes and living well, is the comforting assurance that my daughter will be okay. Somehow, through it all, she will be okay with this unpredictable, naughty, impossible-to-tame “pet monkey” along for the ride.
And that is truly priceless.
And that is truly priceless.