Kujaribu — “To Try”

WRITTEN BY: Elisabeth Fraser


Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Elisabeth’s blog: The 4Ts — Tanzania, Travel, Teaching and Type 1.

Can do anything, should do everything?

One of my biggest struggles in coming to terms with having a chronic illness, is how much do I let it change me? Whatever you battle in life, we bombard ourselves and each other with positive affirmations about never giving up, and within the diabetes community we are no different. I follow a number of inspiring organisations and individuals who constantly remind and prove to the world that we Type 1s are capable of living full and rich lives, but some days I need to take a step away from the positivity, and come to grips with my reality.

We are told that we can do anything. I was told this within minutes of diagnosis when I was in hospital by my nurses, doctors and diabetes educators. I was encouraged and supported in continuing with my travel plans to Africa, began a new, intense job, continued hiking, travelling; on the outside I didn’t change anything about my life except for the blood tests and injections. I was determined not to let diabetes “beat me.” Yet on the inside, the pressure of this attitude takes its toll, and burnout has become real. I have learned that you can never beat chronic illness, but it doesn’t have to beat you, it’s about acceptance and balance.

I am coming to realise, yes I can do anything, but I don’t have to do everything. While I was in tears on the phone, my Mum recently said to me, “You don’t have to prove anything to anyone.” The burden she lifted from my shoulders in speaking these words, instead of a constant bombardment of positive “You can do it!”, was a moment of realisation for me. It might be declining a hike because my blood sugars are high, stopping for a rest when my sugars are low, or taking time off work, because I am exhausted, it’s okay. This illness is a part of me, and there are days when it will limit me. Accepting that I have a serious illness and that I may not always be able to do everything has lifted a huge weight from my shoulders. I still hope to achieve all my goals and dreams, it might just sometimes take a little longer, or may be more difficult for me than others, and that’s okay.


Read A Young Woman Joins the Tanzanian Diabetic Youth Alliance by Rukia Mbwana.

Elisabeth Fraser

Elisabeth was diagnosed 6 weeks before taking a teaching job in Tanzania (East Africa). She grew up in New Zealand but lived in Australia before moving to Tanzania. Type 1 diabetes does not define her, but it certainly adds its share of challenges to her daily life. It has also changed the way she sees the world. You can follow her journey on her blog: The 4Ts — Tanzania, Travel, Teaching and Type 1.