What motivates people to manage their diabetes well? Probably many things rush to mind, but likely not the one thing I have discovered may be the most powerful. It’s something we never talk about, hear about or read about regarding diabetes management, and yet can be more compelling than fear, guilt, threats, worry, shame, acceptance, perfection, a positive attitude and chasing target numbers. It is pride.
I know this because of a key event in my life, one that had nothing to do with diabetes. I got married. I was 48 and had lived with diabetes for 30 years, sometimes well, sometimes not so well. Having a loving partner whom I would now make my life with, I wanted to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible. So I changed my ways. I did everything I could to learn more, take more positive actions and get my blood sugar in tighter control.
The visible results were fairly dramatic: Already near my target weight I got fitter, my cholesterol improved and my A1cs dropped into the 5s and have remained there. Yet, the invisible result was unexpected and even more dramatic. I no longer resented diabetes but befriended it, because I was proud of how I was managing it. Managing my diabetes well on a daily basis also showed me how strong, courageous, committed, responsible, resourceful, flexible and smart I am. My newfound pride sneakily made me want to continue to manage my diabetes well. So every day I wake now, I meet diabetes’ challenge willingly, knowing that I can, and will, do my best.
Pride is like an intravenous drip continuously providing nourishment and support, as in: good control, liking how I look in my clothes, feeling fit and strong from my exercise, having cardiologists praise my heart, ophthalmologists my eyes, seeing love and praise reflected back to me in my husband’s eyes, and managing my diabetes with gumption and grace, even with diabetes’ inconsistencies. Pride has given me something else too, the desire and assuredness to help others manage their diabetes better. So, over the past few years I changed my life once again. Today I share my experience and learning from the podium at health fairs; from my living room chair through my web blog; and at New York City’s Mt. Sinai hospital where I mentor a young girl still finding her way, and her pride. This is the rhythm of my life now and it has never beat so sweetly.
Pride is a powerful motivating force for managing diabetes foremost because it feels good. It’s also a natural by-product of doing well and is self-perpetuating ⎯ when you feel proud you want to sustain the feeling, and you do this by continuing to manage diabetes well. While we’re all eager for scientists and technology to create a closed-loop artificial pancreas, it gives one pause to think that pride may the equivalent on the emotional side.
Lastly, for me pride does not “go before a fall” as in the biblical sentiment, but I do bow before others. When someone reaches for my hand to thank me for inspiring them or I see a flash of insight in others’ eyes that will help them regain their power, it is pride that put me in their path. Each day pride inspires me to ‘thrive’ with diabetes rather than ‘survive’ with diabetes and to show others what’s possible. Until there is a cure, I believe pride is the antidote to diabetes.