It seems that in diabetes, we spend a lot of time looking back. 

But there is nothing we can do about what has happened before this moment. There is nothing we can do about days, weeks, years, decades of doing less diabetes than we would like to. There is nothing we can change about using less advanced tech, or less sophisticated insulins. There is nothing we can do about years of not seeing diabetes healthcare professionals, or seeing health professionals who weren’t giving us the best care. There is nothing we can do about missed screening appointments. There is nothing we can do about forgotten boluses and the days of above range glucose levels. 

There is nothing we can do about the time before a diagnosis of a diabetes-related complication, and equally, there is nothing we can do about the time before a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. 

That time is behind us, and no amount of regret, or wishing we’d done things differently, or even ambivalence about it, can change where we are right here, right now.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons that the blame and shame that is intrinsically tied up in proclamations of ‘If only you had <insert whatever in the past we didn’t do>’ are so damaging. Because instead of focusing on what can be done now, and in the future, we are dragged back to what we didn’t do earlier. 

Those myriad inspirational quotes and memes we see on every social media feed and in posters on office walls about not being defined by the past don’t seem to have made their way to diabetes thinking. Instead, we are faced with heads shaking, fingers pointing, and knuckles being rapped for what are considered failings of our diabetes-past. And our own judgement as well of our own shortcomings.

Of course, we can learn from our history – we can reach back and remember things that we know work and things that don’t, and use those moving forward. But living with regrets will not change the outlook. And regrets will not help with our diabetes present, and how it might shape our diabetes-future.

Dealing with today’s diabetes is already a lot. A. Lot. Looking backwards and seeing a shopping list of missteps just adds extra burden. Really, all we have in our arsenal is what we can do right now, and perhaps the hope of what might be around the corner.  That’s what we have. And that’s what we can do. 

Frank Modell cartoon from New Yorker, 1964.