So, three months after my diagnosis with type 2 diabetes, I feel that I am motoring along quite well. And that makes me a wee bit uneasy.
I have lived with myself for over 57 years and so I know myself quite well and when things are motoring along just fine, I can have a tendency to get a bit bored. And when I get bored, I have been known to do something daft, just to relieve the monotony and add a frisson of excitement. Not the most intelligent approach to boredom I know, but there you are.
I also feel that as my new lifestyle becomes embedded into my normality, I may stop paying attention to my diet in particular and things will start to slowly creep back to where they were. Both of these reasons are combining to make me feel a small bit nervous and worry that I am about to fall off the wagon. However, I am hoping that the miracle of my weight loss may balance my self-sabotaging tendency (and yes, I see what I did there).
Now lest you get too excited, let me state that my weight loss has been steady and (I feel) reasonably slow. I have lost just over a stone in three months. But my body is much happier now that is it not lugging around as much useless blubber as before. My knees are stronger, I can walk further and I can climb stairs, lots of stairs, without sounding like I am about to collapse from lack of oxygen.
My happier body brings me onto another interesting aspect of developing midlife (well midlife if I achieve 120 years on the planet, but you know what I mean) type 2 diabetes – and that’s guilt. Yes, guilt. As in ‘My name is Barbara Scully and I am guilty of damaging my previously healthy body’. And I don’t say that to be flippant. Guilt is something I know a lot about and it is a damaging, destructive emotion. It is also the first cousin of that other master of darkness – shame.
In my first column of this series I wrote about how I was a happy fatty for the last number of years. I described how I loved myself so much that I indulged freely in treats and things that I enjoyed. I am all about body positivity and as the mother of three daughters I have spent much of the last 30 years teaching them that they are so much more than their physical selves. I rail against the constant focus on women’s bodies, so that no matter what you achieve in life, you had better look good while doing it otherwise it ain’t worth a fig. As a woman you had better not age either because that is another thing that will make you invisible. I call bullshit on all that. And I still do.
But I am now coming to the realisation that, while I still totally support body positivity, it should not overshadow the responsibility we all have to ourselves to remain well and strong, particularly as we get older. I was lucky enough to have been given a healthy, fully functioning body and the fact is that I neglected it. I thought I was being kind to myself, but now I have to wonder, was I? Is being lazy being kind to yourself? As I wrote previously, I knew I was fat. I also knew I was unfit. And the thing I am wrestling with right now is that I also knew that being unfit is unhealthy and is not something you can keep putting off dealing with. Being unfit and fat puts pressure on your body and in the end something will give.
I knew that I had a family history of diabetes which put me more at risk of developing the disease. I am not stupid and still I did nothing until I was forced to. I could have avoided this disease. I didn’t and so I now owe it to my body to help it put this condition into remission. I am honestly ashamed that it has taken me this long to take my health seriously.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that they day I got my diagnosis of type 2 diabetes many people got diagnoses that were much worse. Diagnoses that plunged them into a health crisis and meant they had no choice but to put all their trust in their doctors, medications, surgeries and treatments in order to regain their health. I have lost friends to cancer and have others who are fighting with everything they have to stay alive. Type 2 diabetes is a serious and long-term illness but it is not life threatening and it is one over which I have total control over as long as I continue with the huge changes to my lifestyle.
Thursday, November 14 is World Diabetes Day. If you are reading this and thinking ‘That sounds like me’, I would urge you to go to your GP and arrange a blood test. The problem with diabetes is that you can have it for years with no major symptoms and during that time the high levels of sugar in your blood is possibly damaging your heart, your eyes, your feet and your kidneys. Remember also that I somehow fast-tracked myself straight from normal blood sugar levels to full diabetes in 18 months.
Losing weight and getting active is not about how you look – although clothes will sit better and feel better – it is about staying healthy. And as my GP said to me on the day of diagnosis, “You get away with it Barbara, until you stop getting away with it”. So just because you are getting away with it now doesn’t mean you always will. And if my story can help even one person to take their health more seriously than they had been doing, my guilt will be somewhat assuaged.
For more information on World Diabetes Day November 14, check out worlddiabetesday.org or diabetes.ie
Health & Living