Me, My Parents, and My Diabetes
Parents all struggle with letting go as their kids grow up. My mother and father are classic overprotective parents—at least, they have been since I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
It happened when I was just 2 years old, so I haven't known them to be anything but protective. After my diagnosis, my mother quit her job as a hospital engineer to take full-time care of me and my diabetes. My parents interviewed different preschools until they found the only school where teachers were willing to do my blood test three times a day. I had to be cared for constantly.
If I was paler than usual, quieter than usual, or crying more than usual, then it was time for a blood test. It was a constant risk caring for me, because I didn't know my body well enough to know if I was okay. My father, who was often away at work and saw me less than my mother did, treated me with even more care than my mom did.
A couple of years ago my father dragged the family to a dietitian in an effort to improve "all of our eating habits." But all I heard was him obsessing about my pear-shaped figure and the extra weight I carried.
"I just can't help thinking that the gain in weight and her higher A1C is due to her quitting swim team," he told the dietitian. "And on top of that, I come home and she's always baking some sort of cake or cookies."
When my parents tried to help me eat right to control my diabetes, it just felt like they were complaining about my weight. "Maybe you shouldn't eat that. You're putting on a bit of weight," Dad would say to me at dinner.
His love and care for my health and diabetes was suffocating, and I felt as if that tiny pocket of extra weight on my lower stomach was creeping up and wrapping around my neck in an effort to strangle me.
Diet, exercise, and my diabetes remain an issue in my house. But I have taken up dance as a new way to exercise. I've made changes in my diet. My parents still question me, and we still have fights, but I feel more confident in caring for myself and knowing I have control.
As I'm managing my health better, I'm also taking more responsibility over my life. My problems with diabetes aren't my main focus anymore. My parents permit me to make more of my own decisions. I'll even be spending two weeks in Spain this summer.
It's this added freedom that has pushed me to really take control of my diabetes. As I am approaching a life in college away from the watchful eye of my parents, they have shifted more of the burden onto me. I now control almost every aspect of my diabetes. I realize that it's never going to disappear, and I may never have perfect control, but it's the support and freedom my parents have given me that's taught me it's worth trying.
Julie Hooper is a 17-year-old high school senior who plans to go to college next year.
Send your Reflections story to Diabetes Forecast at 2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 900, Arlington, VA 22202; or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.