To some, it might seem like I have the perfect life. I teach yoga in exotic locations, have a stable, loving relationship, support my friends, keep in touch with my family and do my best to practice what I preach.
But life does have its challenges: I have late onset adult Type 1 diabetes. And that’s the kind that can’t be cured.
That hasn't always been easy. In fact, last year I was convinced I could manage the disease through diet and yoga alone. My parents and friends were concerned, but I insisted I knew what I was doing. I kept telling myself that it’d be OK.
Not only was I not OK — I was starving myself. I was living on a total of six foods, dragging myself up and down hills to try and get my levels under control, and on the edge of hospitalization.
Trying to control Type 1 diabetes through limiting the foods that increase your blood sugar without insulin or medication can be dangerous. While it may work for Type 2 — I’ve met many people with a Type 2 diagnosis who have mitigated the disease with diet and exercise — with Type 1, it’s a whole different ballgame.
Adjusting to dining out with friends has also been difficult. Inevitably people want to know why I'm eating a small salad and adding my own boiled egg, or why I've brought my own food: “Are you on a diet? Why don’t you eat more? Are you getting enough calories?”
After explaining that I take basal insulin to augment the small amount of insulin my body still produces, I wonder what people say behind closed doors: "Isn't she taking it to the extreme with her diet? I’ve heard you can eat whatever you want when you’re on insulin." If only that were true.
While many of my friends can’t imagine saying no to dessert, my question to them is always: If your life depended on changing your diet, wouldn’t you do anything — no matter how challenging?
In the last nine months, I’ve had to be tough on myself. But in spite of all the struggles, I’ve found the positives in living with a chronic disease: I’ve made new friends, learned to ask for help, embraced discipline and made sure that I squeeze the juice out of every single moment.
I’m convinced that anyone living with a chronic disease can also feel better if they take the time to reinforce simple, positive habits throughout the day. Here are the seven things that have really helped me to stay grounded and positive:
- Wake at sunrise and take a few moments to feel grateful.
- Stay physical and active.
- Eat fresh, wholesome organic foods regularly.
- Let out your inner artist: draw, sing, dance, write.
- Stay in touch with friends. Be loving and loyal, and ask for help.
- Sleep when you’re tired. Eat when you’re hungry. And laugh and cry when you need to.
- Explore life’s deeper meaning. Understanding yourself and your relationship with creation is vital to being able to accept whatever comes along.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock