I was recently asked what advice I would give a parent of a child newly diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It has been a number of years since I fell into that category but I can sadly remember it all like it was yesterday. That being said, it was an easy question to answer and comes in the form of three pieces of advice.
First and foremost, live your life four hours at a time. Do not worry about six hours from now. Do not worry about tomorrow. Live life in four hour time slots–nothing more.
Chances are high that your child is using a rapid acting insulin. They basically last four hours. Look at readings inside the four hour window. Look at food and activity in that four hour period. If you see a reading that is in range for that four hour period give yourself a high-five! You did fabulously! If you see something out of range during that four hours then begin to problem solve. What can you learn? Did you learn that your child is producing a small amount of insulin now and doesn’t need as much insulin for that food at the moment? Did you learn that not all slices of bread are the same number of carbohydrates? Did you learn that hockey practice before supper changes the amount of food and insulin your child needs?
Four hours. Its simple. Its manageable…and for an overloaded parental mind, really it is more than enough to handle.
My second piece of advice is to find a support system and use it! Let parents, partners, friends, and people from support groups (online and in real life) help! Share with them, unload on them, and again…use them. Some people will “get it” more than others and that is okay but find a way to lean on even those who may not get it but are willing to learn, listen or take over for even an hour. You deserve the break. You cannot be the very best external pancreas that you can be without a break and an outlet. Its okay to ask for help or even see a counselor. Many families with diabetes have to turn to someone along the way. Its okay to do this.
Finally, cry in the shower. Go ahead! Stand in that shower and let it all out. Let go of the big girl/boy pants, crumble and let that strong shell crack for just a little while. Allow yourself to feel the pain and frustration that comes from a diagnosis of diabetes for your child. Allow yourself to feel the anger and hurt. Allow yourself to grieve while the water washes away a bit of the pain so that you can be strong again once you step back into the real world.
You can do this. There will be bumps. There will be victories. The landscape of your life, and that of your child, has changed forever. This doesn’t mean that he/she will never achieve their dreams or live a long and full life. It means that your perspective will shift a little (or maybe a lot). You will find new friendships that will bring you through the worst of times and celebrate with you in the best of times. Life will be different but it can still be amazing…just four hours at a time.