When you meet Naomi Ruperto, you wouldn’t think she had a care in the world. This 27 year-old is bubbly and friendly, exuding happiness and cheer to all she meets. You wouldn’t think that she has been living with type 1 diabetes for 15 years, experiencing all the hardship and frustration that goes with it. But when Naomi, better known as The Diabetic Diva, was diagnosed, she refused to let diabetes define her. She decided to embrace diabetes and make it a part of her life. Today, Naomi is a popular diabetes blogger, author, advocate, and Medtronic community manager.
Carb DM invited Naomi to the 2017 Mother Daughter weekend to tell her story and inspire teen girls with T1D along with their moms. Naomi shared everything from growing up as a missionary kid in India to life with her husband and dog, to her love for all things pink. She shared her experiences coping with T1D and the lessons she learned.
Life has not been all sunshine and roses for The Diabetic Diva. She has dealt with diabetes burnout as well as supporting her other family members through their own health challenges. But in true Naomi Ruperto fashion, she is still smiling and loving life. Yesterday we featured 10 Life Lessons from The Diabetic Diva; today, here are more of Naomi’s pearls of wisdom about coping with adversity and coming out on top.
(note: parts of Naomi’s speech have been edited for clarity)
Diabetes burnout happens… but you can get through it
I’ve had diabetes burnout. Everything just feels hard! But when I’m in burnout mode, I still pick up my lancet. I’ve never rebelled and not treated myself because I feel like crap when I don’t. But mentally, it was so hard to pick up the lancet. I was just worn out. It took 2 months and a bad A1C for me to look at my endocrinologist and say I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I felt like I couldn’t do this any more. I felt totally defeated.
Eventually I picked up my head to say, I’ve done 15 years, I can do 15 more. But I needed that time to feel devastated, and it helped me to move forward. For years I bottled things up. That’s why I wrote my first book, because I had all this inside me and I didn’t know what to do with it. I wasn’t comfortable talking to people because they didn’t know what I was going through. I would put on a happy face.
Over time, I found ways over time to release it and show it, and that helped me heal faster. I found a way to surround myself with people who I knew I could vent to in that moment, then move forward. Both moms and daughters, find ways to keep moving forward. It might be harder at different stages of your life, but tell yourself you’ll be okay. When you can’t say it to yourself, find someone who can say it for you and help you find a way to keep going forward.
There is always sunshine after the storm (aka the only constant is change)
What you’ll see is that you’re never going to be exactly where you are today, for the rest of your life. You’re going to go through so many different seasons. Forget diabetes for a second. As a teen, hormones, body changes, dating for the first time, that’s one thing. Then you throw in diabetes into the mix. There’s a whole other thing going on. You’re going to go through these seasons, these cycles. For me, that encourages me, because when I go through a hard season, I can say this will be temporary, things will get better. Things do get better. Do things become easy? No, but they become habits. They become part of your life.
Find the positive
The career I have today, a lot of the friends that I have today, is because of this diagnosis in my life. If you can take a step back and find the upside/downside situation, and find ways to bring the positivity out. Say what is different in a good way because of diabetes. That can truly help make the day-to-day grind just a little bit easier.
Be kind to your support team
My husband gave me permission to share this. Three years ago we got engaged, then a week later he drove himself to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. He had four very large blood clots in his heart. His lungs filled up with fluid and his kidneys were close to failure. He was 100 percent healthy before that day. He didn’t know what a flu felt like and he never saw a doctor. Then he ended up in the ICU for 1.5 months. For the first time, I learned what it was like to be a care partner. I thought that I knew about it from talking to my parents but I truly didn’t understand.
Girls, I just want you to know that the weight on your parents is heavy. Sometimes you can make the load a little lighter by being kinder to them. By thanking them. By being patient with them. It’s not your fault that the weight is on their shoulders, but it’s there. It’s not because you are sick, it’s because they love you. If you had anything else in your life, they would carry the same weight.
As my husband and I have gone through this journey, he has had 2 heart surgeries and has been to the ER more times than I can count. At one visit, the nurse recognized me and it broke my heart because my husband was the patient and they didn’t recognize him. I broke down into tears. Everything we had gone through hit me.
There are times, 15 yrs later, when I just stop and realize how hard this is and I need to just let those tears out. It is not safe to bottle them in, as a care person or as the person living with diabetes.
Over time, I’ve learned how to care for my husband and I’ve learned that everyone needs support differently. He does not need the kind of support that I need from him, and we’ve had to communicate about that. He’s had to work through his own guilt about having to wake me up in the middle of the night when he needs help. We’ve been working through it together and our marriage is so much stronger because of it.
I think if you really step back and look at how strong your relationships will be because of this disease, it doesn’t make it better, it doesn’t make it easy, but it makes it special. You can have this bond where you’re relying on someone, not just for a laugh. It’s your life in both of your hands. That is something you can take with great pleasure, with great responsibility. You can also say, I’ve got this life. It was not taken away. I’m here,managing my diabetes and I’m thriving with it. I’m thriving because of it. Because of the way that it shaped me as a person.
You never know what people are going through
My husband has just gotten an all clear from his doctor. We are so happy. He lives with a chronic illness now. I live with a chronic illness too. If you were to see pictures of us, if my pump were hidden, you would have no idea that I have insulin supplying my life. You would have no idea that he has a device that lives in his heart. We just look like a normal, happily newlywed married couple.
You never know what other people are going through. It’s not all about you. You’re not the only one who has something hard to deal with. You will walk past people every single day who need a smile or a word of encouragement because they are going through something life shattering as well. At times, you might have a little bit more. You might get other diagnosis in life. But we’re all still here. We’re all still making the effort to be the best people that we can be.
Take care of yourself
It’s so important that you take care of yourself both mentally and physically, whether you live with diabetes or care for someone that does. For the first 100 months living with diabetes, my mom gained 1 lb every month. When I would go low, she would eat a peanut butter sandwich with me. Not because she felt guilty, but at that time it was the only way she knew to support me. She knew that if I was sitting there, eating with someone else, it wasn’t just me going through it. She gained 100 lbs in 100 months.
Today she looks amazing and beautiful and strong and powerful, and it’s because she recognized that she needed to be able to take care of herself before she could take care of me. Now she is going to have a longer life because she’s back at a healthy weight. She had to learn that lesson the very hard way. She put her body through a lot. Whether visible or not, you might not be taking care of yourself mentally, but you need to do it.
Find ways to stay motivated on the journey. If you’re a teen, be a teen. Go on dates. Watch a movie. Get an ice cream cone. If you deprive yourself of those life experiences, you’ll find yourself asking yourself, Why did I miss out on the time that I had to really enjoy my life as a young one?
Diabetes made me grow up so fast. I knew I’d have to be responsible enough during a sleepover to be able to feel my symptoms and wake myself up. But you have to try being a normal teen. You need to remind yourself to stay present and enjoy the time that you have. There will be times that diabetes keeps you in, when you just can’t have fun with your friends. However, I promise you that another day will come. So you have to find that balance of taking care of yourself and not pushing yourself too hard, but also enjoying yourself and your life experiences.