Forgiveness of self and forgiveness of others leads to resilience. This is something that my professor said the other night in my Foundations of Family Therapy class. It stuck in my head and I have been thinking about it ever since.
The thing that stood out to me the most about this sentence was the idea of forgiveness of self. When I was in college, I was meeting regularly with a therapist. One of the things that I learned from talking to him was that whenever something would go wrong in my life — and at the time, it was, of course, a relationship with a boy — I immediately thought that it had to be my fault. I often thought to myself, “What did I do? What did I do wrong?” I had placed this undue responsibility for things on myself and I couldn’t figure out why that was.
Eventually I figured out that it was a thought pattern that had been ingrained in me since I was diagnosed with diabetes. Every time I had a high or low blood sugar, I would analyze what went wrong and what I could have done to prevent it.
It took me a long time after coming to that revelation to break the habit of so much self-blame when it came to managing my diabetes. I slowly worked my way out of the pattern of thinking that I was always responsible when something didn’t go the way I wanted. Of course, I don’t completely let myself off the hook when I do something that doesn’t work out but it’s not my automatic assumption. So part of it is recognizing the areas where I need to take responsibility and forgive myself for making unwise choices because, hey, I’m human, and then recognizing the areas where I don’t need to take responsibility because, hey, I have diabetes. Shit happens and not all the shitty stuff is my fault.
This is something that I still see so often in social media. There is so much self-blame that goes on in diabetes management. Our medical community doesn’t help the situation. The entire way that diabetes management is set up is very focused on what the patient does (or did), versus what the diabetes is doing. But once I learned to quit blaming myself when something went wrong, I think that it made the mental aspect of managing my diabetes a little bit easier because I didn’t take things personally. I think it’s helped make me more resilient in the area of diabetes burnout because I don’t view a high blood sugar as a personal attack on my character. I don’t like having a high blood sugar, and of course I don’t like having diabetes and I don’t like the way that diabetes makes me physically feel.
I’m not perfect in doing this all the time. And sometimes when I do know that I did something wrong, I either get overly aggressive in how I feel about it (i.e. “How stupid can I be?!”) or I completely dismiss anything and I don’t learn from what happened. That’s why the idea of self-forgiveness really resonated with me. There is still so much responsibility in diabetes, despite the fact that we live with an unpredictable disease. I think remembering that I’m only human and sometimes I’m going to choose to make choices that didn’t work out. And although diabetes is not a person and not really something I need to forgive, I think it’s important to be forgiving and understanding of the situation. It doesn’t necessarily making life with diabetes easier, but I do think that working on this has made it a little easier to be resilient in the face of all the challenges.