The discomfort of leadership

I’ve never felt like a leader, preferring instead to let others go to the forefront while I offer support from the rear.

I’m taking a lead in something I’m calling Emotional Diabetes, and in this role I often feel uncomfortable, self-conscious and alone. Who am I to forge into the daunting field of medical diagnoses? But then, why not me? There has to be someone who raises the issue that emotional neglect in childhood can cause diabetes later in life. I guess, at 63, I’m old enough to not give a damn what others think, including traditionally trained doctors. I know my body and I know what I’m going through aligns with peer-reviewed research.

Here are a few examples:

While these studies have addressed Type 1 diabetes, I also think they apply to those Type 2 diabetics who do not fall into the category of sedentary or consumers of high carbohydrate diets. These “skinny diabetics” pose a problem with diagnoses, and I am one of many who began with a diagnosis of Type 2 and then had was reassessed as Type 1. Basically, the medical community doesn’t seem to agree on any of this.

My history as a newspaper reporter, whose job involved reading scientific papers, has helped me to find out for myself what is screwing up my body. This myth I carried for years that my childhood was perfect was a casualty of this research, and I feel disloyalty to my folks when I realize they got parenting all wrong. I’m here today trying to make their spirits proud by stepping forward in a way they never could. I’m facing down medical convention. I could never have done this when my parents were alive. The shame and blame of being back-of-the-room kind of people, and having me speak out in this way, would have been unbearable.

That’s the trap many of us fall into, knowing something is wrong with our bodies and yet buying into family culture that insists nothing was wrong in our upbringing. And most certainly, any autoimmune illnesses, chronic anxiety or addictions we suffer from today can’t be blamed on anyone except ourselves. This brings a whole new layer of anxiety to our everyday life. It’s so tragic, leading many people to seek relief in drug, alcohol and other addictions.

There is hope. There are ways for those of us afflicted by long-term anxiety to improve our health. I’ve been able to eliminate glucose spikes that occurred during exertion by learning to stay present. While hiking a hill, I focused on the feeling of my feet on the ground, the cool air entering my throat and lungs and the sight of trees, leaves and the view. I thought about what was going outside by body and inside my body. The habitual tendency of recalling issues from the distant past vanished, as did those annoying glucose spikes.

I’ve also found my glucose level drops as I meditate about reliving my infancy. I imagined my mother looking at me with love, in a way she found difficult in real life. These mental images can cause my glucose to drop.

These bursts of knowledge boost my confidence that I’ve indeed learned that by changing my mindset, I can improve my health. And my natural inclination to help others leads me to write this blog. I was born with a gift for writing, a gift that my mother — a voracious reader — appreciated. So I think if she were alive now she’d admire the tenacity I demonstrate by going public with my story. Maybe she’d be grateful that today’s research sheds light on why she suffered migraine headaches or why Dad turned to alcohol when life got difficult. I may be imagining this, but I feel their spiritual backing. And lately, I sense that my mom and my recently deceased neighbour, who were both named Evelyn, are cheering me on.

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