Advocating and Life Purpose

About a month ago, when we had Manny Hernandez—president of the Diabetes Hands Foundation—as a guest in our DSMA en Vivo radio show, I got reminded once again of why I do diabetes advocacy. He explained it very simply, very clearly, that many of us decide to advocate for others because we’re looking for purpose in life. We may have many things figured out, but sometimes we hit that wall where we start feeling there is something missing. And that’s when service comes in.

advocacyFrom my mom I learned a quote by Rabindranath Tagore that reads “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” From my mom I also learned compassion and the fact that thinking less of ourselves and more about others is what fuels our spirit. And when it comes to diabetes advocacy, I’ve discovered that throughout life’s challenges, being there for others makes it all easier for me.

Last year when my 5-year marriage ended, I went into advocacy mode full on. I tried to participate as much as I could, I gave my time and effort to the DSMA en Vivo radio show, I attended conferences and meet-ups, and that kept my mind from sinking into an abyss. So not only I was helping others, I was doing a great favor to myself.

As my life changes and improves, and I find myself in a much happier place after many years, I want to do more for the diabetes community. Sometimes I feel like I’m taking on too much, or that I’m promising things I may not be able to do; and that’s when I have to have faith in myself and believe that I’m as good as anyone else who wants to be there for people with diabetes.

Fortunately I’m not alone. I have an amazing group of people encouraging me and each other so we come up with initiatives and ways to help and raise the diabetes community voice. And when I get to interact with these people every day, I feel extremely lucky.

So I guess this is a thanks to all of you, members of the diabetes community, and especially to the leaders who have trusted me to be part of either advisory boards, committees and such. The rest of the work is in my hands and I will try to remind myself that this is my life’s purpose every single day. Because being a diabetes advocate is a blessing to me.

ADA Step Out Walk 2013

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I just signed up to participate in the American Diabetes Association’s Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes. I’d like to invite you to support me in my efforts by registering to walk with me or making a donation in support of my efforts.

Chances are, you also know someone who has been affected by diabetes and you already know how important it is to stop this disease.

By supporting me, you will help the American Diabetes Association provide community-based education programs, protect the rights of people with diabetes and fund critical research for a cure.

Will you join me by visiting my personal page and making a donation?

The power we have together far outweighs what I can do alone. Please join me in this great cause—it would mean so much to me!

Thank you!

When to Close the Door

not-listeningThis post was prompted by a conversation I was having with one of my friends from the diabetes community. She’s currently dealing with family members who are not giving her the support she needs, and instead of trying to help they decided to play diabetes police and remind her that she’s going to be another Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias who will probably never have children and die young. WRONG. That is just WRONG.

At first I was trying to understand where her family is coming from, probably saying things out of concern for her diabetes management, but then I put myself in her shoes and I certainly wouldn’t like my loved ones to remind me of the frailty of my life every chance they get. I’ve had the diabetes police around; the kind of people who instead of trying to help live in oblivion regarding the whole issue, and only pay attention when you put some extra food in your mouth. It is frustrating.

I remember I was still a kid when my mother taught me that I should stay away from anything or anyone that took my inner peace away… even if it was my own family. But how do you make that call? Not all of us have the luxury to tell our family to eff off and leave us alone, especially if we’re young and starting to figure out our life. But does that mean we have to take everything and just deal with it? NO.

I know most people mean well, and I also know some people just don’t know better. As a patient and an advocate I believe it is my duty to educate people so they have an idea of what I have to deal with on a daily basis. The problem is that some people are simply not open to that kind of discussion, and others are just plain stubborn when it comes to learning. So what do I do? In the words of Andrés López, a Colombian comedian, I say “deje así” which is basically just to give it up. But in this case giving up is not a bad thing… I just choose my peace instead of trying to knock my head against a hard wall.

We can educate people and try to make them understand as much as we can, but there comes a point when we have to ignore what they say and let it be. It’s hard, but more often than not, I believe managing a chronic condition requires a big deal of inner strength that can only be gathered if we shut people off when they just don’t get it.

You Really Learn the Hard Way

“If you are chronically down, it is a lifelong fight to keep from sinking. ”
—Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

I was first diagnosed with clinical depression a little after I turned 20 years old. What I thought was some kind of virus/infection with high fever and weakness unleashed one of the worse things I’ve had to deal with in my life. When you’re depressed (sick, not just sad) and you don’t know what’s happening to you, it’s one of the most frustrating feelings in the world. My depression was accompanied by severe anxiety which basically meant I was in a state of fear ALL DAY LONG. Try living like that for 2-3 weeks. There’s no rest, there’s no peace, nobody knows what’s wrong with you and you think you’re going to die.

After many urgent care visits to several doctors to treat the physical symptoms, the person who actually nailed it was my endocrinologist. I was already being treated for thyroid disease, was able to schedule an appointment, and when she examined me she said my body was fine but she was going to refer me to psychiatry right away because I needed first and foremost medication to calm down. She put me bromazepam, I slept for 2 weeks waking up only to eat and take my meds, and started my road to recovery through therapy. And that’s how it all began. It’s been 18 years and depression has become a part of my life. Sometimes it wins, sometimes I win… we learned to live with each other.

What’s interesting is that it took me 18 years to actually understand and accept the fact that this is probably something I’ll never get rid of and I’m OK with that. My current psychiatrist told me that unless they come up with some kind of vaccine, my type of depression will always require treatment to some extent; and by treatment I mean medication. Remission is a word I can’t really use in my depression vocabulary; years of mishaps and quitting treatment before its time make me prone to recurrence — take meds, feel good, quit meds, feel bad, etc. I wrote about this a while ago, how the doctor told me that in order to control my diabetes, I have to pay attention to my depression… nothing new there. Metformin, Fluoxetine, Bupropion — That’s my cocktail.

Remission is a word I can’t really use in my depression vocabulary; years of mishaps and quitting treatment before its time make me prone to recurrence.

The month of March was a challenging one for many reasons. I got so obsessed with it all, I slipped and didn’t take my meds for a few weeks. I knew I was under a lot of stress that was normal-ish, and then I felt myself falling back into that big black hole, so familiar, so scary. This time it was different because I didn’t let it take over, I recognized it for what it was and I got rid of my old thoughts of “oh, this is normal for me.” NO! It isn’t normal. After 18 years of living with depression I can finally see its ugly face showing up and I’m able to smash it before it comes through the door. And that is progress.

Like I said, it’s a constant struggle, and it will always be. But I’m fine with that.