Community Member Spotlight: Jai Smith
It is time to get to know some community members! We recently spoke with Jai Smith, an active community member on Type2Diabetes.com and our Facebook page. Jai posts frequently on Twitter and other platforms as well, always working to raise awareness and advocate for type 2 diabetes, and help others who are also managing life with type 2 diabetes. Below she shares her experiences dealing with misconceptions, the effects of diabetes on mental health, and her motivation to spread awareness.
I was diagnosed with diabetes in May 1995, at the age of 25. My diagnosis was very scary and confusing at the same time. The information that was given to me changed my life in 5 minutes. There are lots of misconceptions about type 2 diabetes. The No. 1 misconception is that type 2 diabetes is not serious and that it is not life-threatening. People also think it can go away – that is another misconception I hear a lot of the time. I wish people knew that we, as type 2 diabetics, face all the same issues as any other diabetics. We all are trying to stay alive, have to deal with the high drug costs, have pain associated with diabetes, and all deal with the mental, physical, and emotional issues that come with being a diabetic.
Navigating the type 2 diabetes journey
The most important thing I have learned is to always ask lots of questions at doctor's visits and to have a very good support system to help you go through this journey. Support will definitely be needed to keep you on track.
Lifestyle changes after diagnosis
I will be honest: I have good days and bad days when it comes to managing my diabetes. I try to watch my portions when I eat, as I eat lots of raw vegetables and fruits. I also exercise and walk. I walk at least 6 miles a day, or 3 if my body will allow me to. My lifestyle is very different from the past. I was not monitoring what I was eating, and I was not exercising at all.
Impact on mental health
Living with type 2 diabetes has been frustrating for me. It has tested and challenged my mental health. It is hard to manage diabetes if your mental state is not healthy. It affects everything you do and how you think when it comes to being diabetic.
I meditate, and I journal a lot – it always helps me to put things on paper. I have this strange method where I write how I am feeling or what is frustrating me down on paper. If the feeling is negative, I throw the paper away. If it is positive, I keep it and refer back to it. Throwing it away, for me, makes me feel like the problem has gone away. It takes my mind off the issue but helps me deal with it at the same time.
Family history ignites awareness
The deaths that diabetes has caused in my family made me start my awareness journey. My diabetes fight started when I realized that no one talks or knows anything about type 2 diabetes. There are lots of myths and stereotypes that are not true that people believe. You truly never know unless you are diabetic. There is still so much more that people do not know that we face as type 2 diabetics.
I find support in my awareness journey. I meet lots of people who have the same frustrations as I do being a diabetic. We share the same fears, pain, and frustrations. Unfortunately, I am on this journey myself, I have no one around me to share my experiences or story with.
My family history of diabetes has been very negative, as it has led to 3 deaths and 3 more relatives who have gotten limbs or body parts amputated. It has impacted me to break the cycle. I never want to end up in either one of these situations. So it weighs very heavy on me to push even harder to make my outcome different and not continue this same cycle.
Importance of sharing real experiences
I always tell people to be real about their experience with diabetes. Always be honest about what you are going through and how it has affected your life. When people talk about diabetes, they only mention the myths and stereotypes. We have to be very real and unfiltered. Someone may be going through the same thing you are dealing with, and your honesty could be very helpful to them.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, sleep apnea, RLS) in addition to your diabetes?