Thursday, 25 August 2016

Back to Basics #4: I Am An Athlete

Rio 2016 has got me thinking.

You know how most athletes spend their whole lives training for the Olympics, they enter a world of un-sociable training hours, strict diets and constant lifestyle adjustments. Well I guess I can call myself an athlete with my sport being Type One Diabetes. Apart from there are a few differences.. shocker, right?
I was thrust into my sport, at the age of four without my (or parental) consent. I had no choice to play this sport, yet I have to train every single minute of every single day, I have to put up with the consequences when I get injured and I can't back down even when I'm begging the universe for no more. I can’t decide one day that I’ve had enough and I don’t want to play anymore. Just like an athlete, I have a high dose of resilience, I'm not one to back down easily.

The thing with athletes is that they are training for a purpose, they aspire to win. My purpose, I hear you ask? To survive, to reach a level of health that those without diabetes often take for granted.

I find myself infatuated with how athletes feel once they have won a gold medal. Let's talk about a phenomenon called 'The Winner Effect', in summary - once an athlete has won a gold medal, essentially their purpose is fulfilled and they begin to question 'what do I do next?', this is a known and proven cause of clinical depression in athletes. The focus of 'the winner effect' is 'what do you do once your purpose is fulfilled?' and 'who do you become?'. Thus adds to the idea that winning can be blinding and dangerous. I relate to this strongly in terms of how I feel day to day with diabetes. I spend a 'good diabetes day' wondering when it's going to go wrong. For what it's worth I really struggle with celebrating my small wins. 

My aspiration is not to win gold, but to be good at what I do and achieve my goals. To have an A1C of <6.5 and to have blood sugars that are 80% within my target range (4-7mmol). Harsh aspirations? Potentially. Realistic achievements? Absolutely. When people talk about the positives of diabetes, this is one. I am an athlete in my own health and I could not be prouder. I get to do something I love every day, I get to take care of myself.

It's difficult. You can't apply the idea that 'dreams+hard work=success' because the nature of diabetes is that sometimes, no matter how hard you work, your bloods will not play ball. It’s important that we adopt the attitude of 'I will do my best and it will be enough' andI am a winner, I just didn’t win today. It is truly exhausting to try your best and not have the outcomes and results you ultimately deserve, but we have to persist.

Should we concentrate less on the overall goal and celebrate the small victories? Yes - amen to that.

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Amber xx

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