Diabetes campaigns here in Australia never cease to disappoint me. They always tend to focus on the negatives, such as the complications and the hard hitting statistics which instil fear. Our campaigns lack positivity, and don’t do those of us living with the condition a lot of justice.
In my humble opinion, a campaign for Diabetes Week is simple. One where we encourage people living with the condition to share their stories in order to help raise awareness. Diabetes UK always seems to do this very well, with positive, empowering campaigns that actually engage and involve people with diabetes.
Before I start getting depressed about the awful complication-themed Australian diabetes week next month, I thought I’d add my two cents worth to Diabetes UK’s fantastic campaign for Diabetes Week, Setting the Record Straight. Here goes…
1) A diagnosis does not mean that you’ll develop complications. I heard a lot about complications in the Australian media during the first year or so after my diagnosis. I remember feeling horrified about that possibility, and even writing myself off because of my diabetes in conversations. It took me a long time to realise that this was in fact, not true.
I still remember a fantastic quote I found somewhere on the internet that went something like “you might feel like crap today, but complications can take years to develop.” It’s a great perspective and it always reminds me that it’s never too late.
2) Diabetes takes time to get right. A LOT of time. After I was first diagnosed, I remember talking to others in the context that I would eventually get it sorted. Once I had everything figured out, I wouldn’t need to test my BGLs so often and I wouldn’t be having so many hypos. Six years later, I’m still trying to get it right!
My diabetes educator reminded me recently that “even though we want to do as much as we can straight away, it takes time to get it right and you need to be patient.” Be kind to yourself.
3) You don’t have to turn your life upside down or give up everything! Magazines are full of ways to change your life and feel better overnight and blah blah blah. Doctors talk as though change can happen with a wave of the magic wand. It’s completely unrealistic. I’ve made a lot of small, gradual changes to my diet and my routine since I was diagnosed. But I haven’t compromised on the things I love. I don’t do dedicated exercise, because I don’t enjoy it. I still eat chocolate. I still drink lots of coffee. I don’t peel the skin off my takeaway chicken. I still enjoy myself at Christmas time.
A colleague recently told me that “it’s easier said than done.” While I do agree, I reminded her that it doesn’t mean that you have to be unhappy.
4) Finally, I’m loving the Faces of Diabetes campaign that’s going round on social media. Because there are actual human beings behind the condition, and it’s important to keep that in mind when advocating. You can get your picture here.
Happy Diabetes Week to those of you in the UK! You can find out more at diabetes.org.uk and by following #DiabetesWeek on social media.