As you read the title to this blog you may be thinking, what benefits? Diabetes, a chronic illness I have been unwillingly saddled with, has benefits? Well the answer is yes. Diabetes can have benefits, but only if you make it have benefits. And if you could make something that isn't so great actually have positive effects on your life, why wouldn't you?
An easy way to transform your diabetes into something good and one that I've found very effective is giving back. There are millions of people out there going through what you once went through, and they aren't going to want to hear any reassuring words from anyone without diabetes. Giving back isn't as difficult a process as you may think. It can be something as simple as telling your story--on Facebook, on a blog, at lunch--anywhere where someone will see or hear it. There are some websites, including JDRF, where you can sign up to become a mentor. Or, you can do what I did and spend some time volunteering at your local hospital in the endocrinology center. It was there and in the PICU, where newly diagnosed children and some non-compliant veteran diabetics were, that I got to go and speak to parents, patients, and whoever else wanted to listen about my experiences with diabetes. And most importantly, they got to see I was a fully functioning 21 year old girl, who goes away to college and everything.
Maybe you're not at the stage where you're ready to give back yet. Maybe you're still in need of giving back to yourself. Or hey, maybe you just don't have that much free time. Don't fret. There are still many other ways to use diabetes to your advantage. Something incredibly simple that really anyone can do is reflection. Just sit and think: how will having diabetes impact my life in a positive way? Now don't be stubborn, because it can. Take out a pen and paper and jot down these ideas to get you started: You will have more self-discipline than others. This will especially come in handy if you're going away to college--trust me. Also, you will be more capable of dealing with crisis, which you will inevitably encounter in life. Once you get yourself in a positive mindset and dwell on these ideas, more will keep coming. And this list will come in handy in more ways than you think (hint hint: college essays).
The last method I'll discuss, although there are dozens more I'm not touching on, is one that's truly close to my heart. When I'm having my darkest diabetes days and can't bring myself to appreciate one single way that it has benefitted me, this one never fails. And that's the summer camp for children with diabetes I attented for 15 years. Whether you're a teenager, a kid, or a young adult, working at or attending a camp for other people with diabetes is bound to be a positive experience. Even if the wilderness atmosphere isn't your thing, there are tons of other camps--day camps, camps in urban areas, etc. Maybe you're not the social type, or maybe you're a homebody. But just one summer of spending a considerable amount of time among others with diabetes will show you how many poeple out there are going through what you go through. And the experience may do for you what it did for me--turn into a lifelong, life-changing experience during which you gain a second home and a second family. Or, in the very least, it will open your eyes to the fact that you are not alone, and that some people have been exactly where you are--and have been beyond it.