I have been welcomed in like a new family member to this amazing team at IDS. The instant connection I feel with the team reminds me of the bonds people with diabetes (PWD) form with others who live life with diabetes.

These social connections are vital to our health and ability to cope with the challenges life and diabetes bring. One of the reasons I love working in diabetes is the opportunity it brings to bear witness to the perseverance and grit I see in PWD. I have often wondered over the past year if people with diabetes were adjusting to the pandemic quicker than most? They themselves have had to cope with the new diagnosis, adjust their entire lives around demanding regimens, and accept that diabetes isn’t going away. They have had to endure all these changes even though others seem to go on about their lives without thought or concern for how their pancreas functions. In addition to all of this, they live in a world that chronically invalidates what it takes to manage diabetes. People think they know what diabetes is and how it should be managed, but really have no idea.

Day in and day out, PWD are fitting diabetes into their lives and doing constant mental gymnastics behind the scenes: continual blood sugar monitoring, endless carb counting, site rotation, sleep interruption from beeps and alerts, and riding the waves of blood sugar fluctuations. All of these invisible efforts go largely unnoticed while they simultaneously live life alongside everyone else who is not doing these things. I mean, who has to live their life everyday and function for an organ in their body because it stopped working properly?! And all of this heroic, extraordinary effort goes unseen! Or worse, is just what’s expected. The internalization of blood sugar fluctuations wears on a person, mentally and emotionally, especially when their blood sugars don’t accurately reflect their hard work in addition to everyday life they are also managing in a given day.

Over the past fifteen years, it has been an honor and a privilege to work with people with diabetes, providing some of the emotional validation and accurate reflection they deeply deserve. The grind of diabetes is actually what I call “emotional grit”.  As I reflect on my own life, having had Type 1 diabetes for 21 years, I know how meaningful it is to have people in my life who get it, see me, and validate the boulders of imperfect blood sugars off my back when all of my heroic efforts don’t line up with “perfect” blood sugars. If diabetes could only go on a resume or be compensated in a meaningful way for all the work that goes into the heroic assignment of managing diabetes, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, year after year. To endure facing diabetes everyday, for a lifetime, building a support system of people who get it or at least have some reverence and respect for what it means to live with diabetes is key to our ability to flourish with this chronic illness.

It is my hope that this newsletter bit brings some encouragement and validation to those reading. It’s a privilege to use my voice to lift up the downtrodden and to educate about the vital skills that sustain PWD for the long term. I will be writing additional newsletter pieces in the future and will continue to speak on the importance of mindset to help us cope. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about the mental health services I provide, feel free to contact me at kristi.paguio@gmail.com or refer to the meet the staff page on the IDS website (integrateddiabetes.com) for more information.