Back to Parents' Voices Getting the Hang of It

Getting the Hang of It

Think about learning to water ski. The skis feel ungainly. The life-jacket is bulky, the rope gets tangled. It feels unnatural. That is the first few weeks of living with diabetes. The tests and injections are still awkward; drawing insulin from the bottle makes you feel like you are all thumbs. Eating exactly on time, measuring macaroni, etc. It feels unnatural.

Then the boat starts to drag you through the water. You try to do everything you've been taught. Arms straight, legs together, lean back. All the while, the force of the water is overpowering. You can hardly breathe, and you can't see anything at all. That is the first few months at home learning to live with diabetes. It takes all your concentration and all your energy. You can't cope with anything else. You try to do everything you are supposed to do. But the responsibility and the relentless routine are overpowering.

Sometimes things go wrong and you fall face first in the water. Sometimes you pull your arms in and fall flat on your back. You may even forget to let go of the rope and think you are going to drown, but you don't. It may take many falls and many mistakes, but eventually you make it.

That is learning to cope with diabetes in your life. The first illness, the first Halloween, the first insulin reaction. Sometimes you think you just can't do it anymore. But you do. You just keep picking up the rope and trying again.

But then, everything goes right and there you are skimming along on top of the water. It feels wonderful. You can breathe. You can see the boat and the lake and the sunshine. All the effort has paid off.

That is accepting the diabetes and getting on with the rest of your life. Being able, once again to concentrate on work and family, on friends and fun. To go for a few hours at a time without diabetes crossing your mind. To do all the tasks as automatically as brushing your teeth and combing your hair and not think of them as extra chores any more.

Eventually you start to explore a little and see what your skis can do. It's scary the first time you cross the wake and skim up beside the boat. Then you try crossing back and forth behind the boat. You try different skis, faster boats. Sometimes you fall, but that's okay because you know you can always get back up again.

That is gaining confidence and independence in controlling your diabetes. Adjusting and mixing insulin, trying out new equipment and machines, seeing how much extra activity needs how much extra food. And sometimes you guess wrong and mess things up for a day or two, but you know you can get back into control.

And then one day you find yourself coaching people who have never skied before, and you see their fear and remember being there yourself. And they see how well you ski, and your confidence and example let them know if you can do it, so can they.

Lending an ear or a helping hand to other parents of children with diabetes is a wonderful way to repay everyone who helped and supported you. And giving enriches the giver as much as the receiver. It is a wonderful way to make new friends with whom you have so very much in common.

So go ahead. Grab the rope. Accept the challenge. It won't be long before you are an expert too!

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Last Updated: Wednesday March 16, 2005 16:44:52
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