Navigating that Punch
to the Gut
By Breezy Osborne-Wingfield
“Breezy, there aren’t many ways to say this. Riley has Type 1 diabetes and you need to drive to the emergency room right now to be admitted. This is not your fault. You cannot prevent Type 1.”
Aug. 21, 2018, is a day our family will never forget. What we hoped would be a pediatrician visit to chat about extreme bedwetting and excessive thirst turned into the day Riley was diagnosed with an incurable, unpreventable, autoimmune disorder that requires multiple daily insulin shots to live, and eight to twelve daily finger pricks to monitor blood sugar levels.
There is a grieving process that is real, for all of us—it’s like a “before and after” feeling. And a part of that process is “mom guilt.” The very first guilty thought that entered my mind was, “I’ve been feeding her too much mac ’n’ cheese.” Nope. Not possible. Type 1 diabetes happens when the immune system, the body’s system for fighting infection, attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. But still, no matter how many times I educate myself, I still feel immense guilt. And anger.
Why Riley? Why not me? Why anyone? All of this infused with Caregiver Exhaustion (partly from checking blood sugar levels up to five times a night) tends to take a toll on the body emotionally and physically. But wait ... I’m not the Type 1 diabetic. My baby has to live with this unpredictable disease of learning that if we miscalculate an insulin dosage it could kill her, that she always has her medical supply bag nearby, that approaching school or birthday parties is a bit different now, that we can do the same thing every single day and still have different results, or (this one really gets me) knowing that the reason why she has to wear her medical ID bracelet is for if she or we, her parents, are ever unconscious, the medical staff would know she needs insulin to survive.
Something that I’ve had to implement that has been a part of my therapies for anxiety, PTSD and eating disorders is giving myself grace, permission to be, as we are not superhuman yet we place this impossible, unrealistic expectation on ourselves, and also to always find something I am grateful for—both are still hard to navigate. Yet, I found gratitude in unlikely places: gratitude that I grew up with my dad being Type 2 diabetic (totally different from Type 1, but I have experience with needles and insulin); gratitude for Riley’s extreme hyperactivity level and sensory processing issues as they both played a major role in saving her life by literally burning off some of the high sugars pre-diagnosis; and gratitude for the emotional breakdowns we’ve had as caregivers and those of our Type 1 Warrior.
These breakdowns allow us to process what exactly each of us needs at that moment. My needs have fallen to the side, so getting creative on what fills my cup is challenging. Understanding Riley’s needs gives us a small glimpse into what she is feeling as we will never be able to put ourselves in her shoes. We don’t sugar coat things (no pun intended) and do speak in a way that lets her know it’s OK to feel all of these things that she is feeling. She is not expected to be anything but herself—something she is rolling with the punches to navigate all while having a great time tumbling at The Little Gym, cheering at school, studying crystals and rocks, making glitter slime, playing with her pups, memorizing every song she dances to and being the greatest Riley that she is.
The one book I keep on hand is “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown. No matter what is going on in my life, I can randomly open the book and flip to any page and somehow it magically applies to my life as if I’ve never read the book before—reminding me what courage is really all about...
Vulnerability is not winning or losing; It’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; It's our greatest measure of courage.—Brene Brown, “Rising Strong”
Breezy Osborne-Wingfield is a mom, wife, yoga teacher, owner of Barefoot Studio, an advocate for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and mental health awareness, and co-creator of the Riley’s Brave Love brand that supports her daughter’s diabetic medical supplies.