With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we’re getting in the mood for love. According to Riva Greenberg, a fellow diabetes writer and advocate, the journey to finding love begins with loving yourself, which isn’t always easy with diabetes.
Riva is a frequent motivational speaker at some of the top diabetes conferences in the country (ADA, AADE, TCOYD), and she’ll also be a keynote speaker at this spring’s Weekend for Women event in North Carolina. She’s probably best-known for her position as the Huffington Post’s resident diabetes expert, but she’s also a published author of several books, including one about the power of self-love.
A Guest Post by Riva Greenberg
The ABC’s Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes is the title of a book I wrote. Each time I pick it up and read it I feel better. Its premise is the more you love and appreciate yourself the better you’ll do managing your diabetes. As Valentine’s Day approaches, I realize many of the book’s lessons — be forgiving rather than guilty, aim for good not perfect, let go of judgment and do what you love — are not just keys for managing diabetes, but for increasing our love quotient in general.
While some say you have to love yourself before someone else can love you, I don’t know. What I do know is letting yourself off the hook you hung for yourself a long time ago is a great Valentine’s to give yourself. I also know that for most of us loving ourselves is a journey. Here’s a bit of mine and a tip for ramping up your love-quotient:
I got diabetes at age 18 in 1972; it was like an odd social experiment. I was in my freshman year of college living away from home. My diagnosis came almost by accident, when the dorms at my college were unexpectedly closed to house athletes training to compete in the upcoming Olympics.
I boarded a bus in the wee hours to travel home. Waking up the next morning, sleep-deprived, I had an acute case of an odd symptom I’d been experiencing for months — vicious cramps in my calves. Screaming in pain, my mother rushed me to the doctor. A simple blood test in his office showed my blood sugar was 750 mg/dl and that I had type 1 diabetes.
Next thing I knew I was in the hospital. My clothes in a grey locker against the wall, I had a doctor who handed me two books to read about the complications he said were inevitable: heart attack, blindness, kidney disease and amputation. The one about blindness haunted my dreams.
I left the hospital and went back to school in a fog. My mental fog showed up as denial. My emotional fog began a silent mantra, “I’m damaged goods.” No one will ever love me enough to take this on.
I wasn’t too loving of myself back then; I was a shy, introspective kid. A turning point came in London. I was 38 years old and dating an Australian man living there. He knew I had diabetes and one night I awoke in his flat with low blood sugar. In the dark I maneuvered myself over his body toward the kitchen to find something sweet. “What’s happening?” he said. “I need sugar,” I said, whereupon he rolled back to sleep. I found two shortbread cookies in his kitchen, and the wisdom that I deserved my own love. If someone who professed to love me could leave me feeling so unsafe, then at least I needed to be on my own side.
I began to embrace both my diabetes and myself. Getting more serious about managing my diabetes and seeing the benefits, my confidence in, and appreciation for, myself grew. I gave up the last vestige of not being worthy of my own love, friendship, and any requirement diabetes asks of me to take care of it. (I gave up that boyfriend too ) I began to look at what I am and what I have, not what I wasn’t and lacked. I began to like what I saw.
Learning to love ourselves is a journey for most of us. There are also little steps you can take that may help, like the one at the end of this post. As for who would take me on with diabetes, I have been married now for nine years to a man who carries SweetTarts in his pockets in case I go low and who asks immediately if I stir in the night, “Are you OK?”
While I do love myself [most days ] I can tell you my husband’s love for me has also deepened my love for myself. It is as if we are circling a roundabout and when we pass each other we give and receive something the other needs [well, most days! ]
Here’s my Valentine’s gift to you. Ask yourself, “What one thing do I like about myself?” Write down the answer. Then ask yourself, “What else do I like about myself?” Write it down. Keep asking, keep writing. When you’re done put the list where you’ll see it.
Start doing more things that have you experience what you like about yourself more often, and do them with ‘zeal.’ Yes, the “Z” in my A,B,C book. So, end of the story or maybe just the beginning. Why not write that list for yourself on Valentine’s Day?
Each year profits from the “The ABC’s Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes” go to organizations making life better for PWDs. Those organizations include Diabetes Research Institute, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Diabetes Hands Foundation.