Monday, January 19, 2009

the real sucker punch: being diagnosed as an adult~

    i randomly found this article on about.com's site regarding adult-onset type 1 diabetes.  it's not magnificent, but it's comforting that someone out there felt it important enough to talk about the topic.  
     i was diagnosed last year (2008) on march 6th.  i'm not sure how i'll feel as my anniversary gets closer.  i tend to think that people who get diagnosed as adults do feel quite differently about it than people diagnosed as kids.  i'm not at all downplaying the emotions any of us feel having type 1, but there's a level of 'this is just the way it is' in people diagnosed as kids that i meet that isn't there as deeply in those diagnosed as adults.   hmm, perhaps a better, more honest word is....
denial.  
     yes, i think that while i jumped on it right away (ie, going from an at-the-time-of-diagnosis A1c of 15 to two months later of 7, only to then drop it below 6%) and just caring enough to understand it was not a disease to be 'played with', i still believed (and sometimes still do) that it's kind of unreal, kind of temporary ("there's a cure just around the corner!") like i'm working towards something, you know?  
    now, i still take my insulin religiously and feel that my diagnosis has, strangely enough (and you may not believe this) given me a deeper sense of joy for this life that i only thought was possible.  it gives you a sense of 'present moment, wonderful moment' (tich nat han); a sense of mortality that utterly transforms you in the best way possible---if you let it.  
but that still doesn't change the weird sensation that something is...off.  what to do with all of the memories without type 1?  super-pragmatics will just tell you to 'get over yourself, you're still you.'  but they're not getting the whole oddity of being diagnosed as an adult, are they?  it's not that i'm bitter (i just told you i feel joyful!) but it does mean you have a conciousness about the disease that is quite different from 'normal memories'---the kind lumped into the 'just another childhood memory' category---even if it's bad.  
perhaps what i am trying to say is that we do indeed have a resilience to even some of the worst experiences a life can have when we are children.  in fact, i will tell you that in my community health work in africa, i worked with some people who specialized in child-soldier counseling. their studies were currently showing that the children had the ability to 'bounce back' much better than the adult mercenaries.  controversial finding, huh?  goes against what we often believe---save the children!  at the time they were struggling with the issue of how to [possibly] suggest that some of the child-counseling funding might be transferred for more of the adult needs, as they did not transition and adjust as well; let alone get the same funding to assist with that.  because they were adults, it was assumed they had the coping skills to deal with what had happened.  it was assumed they understood how to 'get over it.'  on some level, it is the naive belief that adults are not...vulnerable.
      i am certainly not suggesting that getting diagnosed with type 1 is anywhere near to being a child soldier.  i am strictly commenting on the basic psychological adaptation skills that kiddos have compared to adults. but do you see what i am getting at?   life changes us enough, and when the only [physical] life you've ever known is drastically transformed into something completely new, it's a real double whammy. 
perhaps i am starting to sound depressed.  believe me, i'm not.  i'm just putting it out there that adults, it seems, tend to think [perhaps too much] about being type 1, about the meaning of being type 1, about how to be type 1 without acting type 1....diabetic.  i do prefer what some woman said in an article once: 
             
      i don't tell people i'm a type 1 diabetic.  i say i am a woman living with type 1 diabetes.

spoken like an adult who has thought through her feelings on the matter. 



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