Overcoming the Monster

Overcoming the monster. This is the story I think we’d all, whether living with diabetes or not, like to tell.

This is the story I think we’d all, whether living with diabetes or not, like to tell.

Triumph over adversity. Victory in the face of defeat. Thriving in spite of illness.

This is the story many of us fear we won’t be able to tell. That big, bad, dark monster is just too strong. Try as we might we cannot control it. We might not even be able to manage life with it very well. We don’t have the power or the skill. Too much is unknown. Too much is variable. Ultimately, we all will die, whether it’s attributed to diabetes or not.

Trying to live this story can be very painful because along with triumph and victory we think we need perfection. Life with diabetes is anything but perfect. Out of this pain sprouts frustration. Then the question becomes who or what do we aim that frustration at? The doctor? The disease? Ourselves?


Overcoming the Monster is one of the seven basic plots identified by Christopher Booker in his book The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. This week I am looking at life with diabetes through the prism of these seven basic plots.


 

“We Are the Stories We Tell Ourselves”

There are many aspects to a story. What we should look for is the harmony between the aspects and not a resolution.

I was intrigued by the title of this TED Talk. “We are the stories we tell ourselves.”

It didn’t turn out to be what I expected. It’s mostly about how the speaker thinks about the stories he tells as a movie director. Two things stayed with me.

First, there are many levels to a story. You can look at the plot. Or you can look the psychological aspect of the story. Or the political aspect. Or the mythological aspect. A story is like a multifaceted gem. Each aspect reveals something different.

The same is true of life with diabetes. Something happens (the plot). It could be a diagnosis, a “good” day or a “bad” day, reaching a goal or failing to. We make sense of these events by the aspect(s) that we focus on at any given moment. Do we focus on our feelings about the event? Or the reasoning behind the action we take in response?

The aspects of a single story can be contradictory. A “good” day with diabetes can leave me feeling sad in the end when I realize that there’s no guarantee any other day will turn out the same. A “bad” day can make me determined and motivated to more consciously manage my health habits.

Second, what we should focus on is the harmony between the various aspects of the story–NOT the resolution of the story. Resolutions are limited. There is no happily ever after in diabetes. There is only tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. By focusing on the bigger, infinite issues we can go on and not be driven to an end point.


Ted Talk “We Are the Stories We Tell Ourselves” – Shekhar Kapur

Diabetes in the movies…

A lot of people only know about diabetes from the movies.

A lot of people only know about diabetes from the movies.

Julia Roberts’ character in Steel Magnolia gets mentioned often. The tragic young diabetic bride who dies giving birth.

But it’s Robert De Niro’s portrayal of William Joseph (“Wild Bill”) Donovan in The Good Shepard that sticks with me. Here’s a powerful man, he ran the OSS during World War II, being literally cut down by diabetes. He suffers amputations during the movie and characterizes diabetes as “undignified.”

That this disease not only preys on the weak but can also take down the mighty is truly terrifying.

Cinnamon, it’s a miracle cure…

Oh, if only there was a miracle cure. People living with diabetes would flock to it and this would all be solved.

Oh, if only there was a miracle cure. People living with diabetes would flock to it and this would all be solved.

Life with a chronic health condition is not something anyone wants to prolong. Just ask anyone who has asthma, or arthritis, or heart disease. By the way, the CDC reports that in 2012 about half of all adults in the US were living with more one or more chronic health condition. So it’s not hard to find someone who could speak to this idea.

To me this is such an odd idea: that there is somehow this one thing that will make diabetes and all its complications go away. This notion is like a fairy tale, the handsome prince miracle cure will save the poor distressed diabetic. And it reflects how little people, in general, understand about how our bodies work.

There are singular things that can threaten a person’s health. A virus or infection. A physical wound. But chronic conditions tend to be more degenerative in nature. A body part or functions deteriorates over time. It goes from good, to bad, to worst over time. And it’s not necessarily reversible.

Diabetes is a slippery slope. Even if a cure is discovered tomorrow it would likely halt the progression, but I doubt it will regenerate my failing beta-cells and islets.

You’re the reason healthcare is so expensive…

The medical landscape is complex. There is no one thing that is driving costs.

The estimated total economic cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 is $245 billion, a 41% increase from our previous estimate of $174 billion (in 2007 dollars).
 American Diabetes Association

Having diabetes requires a lot of expense. As with any chronic health issue, there’s the  cost of medication, medical supplies, medical tests, doctor’s visits. It all adds up.

The ADA in the study quoted above went on to say: “People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes.” So it’s not like I, as a person living with diabetes, am getting a free ride.

The medical landscape is complex. There is no one thing that is driving costs. Besides, if diabetes was the one cause what do you propose we do about that?