Ilze Alberts explains how her excellent management of Type 1 diabetes came about – through mind over body.
Ilze Alberts (58) lives in Johannesburg with her husband. She has two adult children.
Type 1 diabetes fell out of heaven and hit my body; unexpected, uninvited, and bringing only promises of devastation. It felt like the end, but in retrospect, it was really just the start of a new beginning. One that proved infinitely better than the original plan that I had in mind.
If you’re reading this, you might have Type 1, Type 2, or you might be pre-diabetic. I know how scary that can be. Our afflictions, though different, are much the same – especially in the way we need to handle them. Perhaps you’re feeling angry, confused, even depressed. Maybe you blame yourself. “Why has this happened to me? What now?” It is within this context that I share my story with you.
Unexpected change in direction
I was a blooming 21-year-old with big dreams ahead of me; healthy and filled with a zest for life. I was in my final year of studies at university, working towards becoming a teacher, but I had wanderlust. I decided to become a flight attendant, to explore the world.
When I went for the medical, they told me, “You have diabetes.” It was one of the most cataclysmic events of my life. I was terrified, but I knew the first step was education. This is what I learnt:
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system is activated to destroy the cells in the pancreas. The cause is unknown, and it cannot be cured or prevented.
- It occurs when the pancreas does not produce insulin.
- It is managed with insulin injections several times a day, or the use of an insulin pump.
- It represents around 10% of all cases of diabetes and is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions.
Finding the terrific in the terrible
Our biggest defeats often turn into our biggest victories. I would like to encourage you to find the terrific in your terrible. This requires that you apply your mind. I am not saying that your mind alone can be a substitute for the medication that you might need to take, but with the power of your mind, you can change the emotional and health impact it has on you.
Once I had educated myself and got the hang of things like the injections, correct eating, and regular exercise, I turned my attention – and still do – to the power of the mind to overcome challenges. I became aware, with lots of help, that my insulin dependency might well respond to the healing powers of my own mind.
I was so inspired to see the power that my mind had over my body. I began realising that my diabetes was not solely genetic, but also resulted from my unconscious perception that the condition somehow gave me more benefits than drawbacks, more pleasure than pain, and more positives than negatives. I wanted to know, “What is my hidden strategy? Why have I pulled this into my life?”
Over time, as I committed my mind to wisely take control of my diabetes, my body started to respond positively to my actions. It was a slow process; it didn’t happen overnight. But eventually, with sustained physical and mental commitments, conscious actions to take control of my diabetes, the impact of diabetes became less. My HB1Ac levels remained constantly under 6, and my body loved the healthy eating and regular physical exercise.
Even an integrative and healthy-ageing practitioner was impressed. He had this to say: “When I met Ilze as a patient four years ago, I was blown away. She mentioned she was a Type 1 diabetic. I stopped in disbelief and looked at the blood tests done prior to her consultation. There was no indication of any underlying diabetes. The level of glucose in the red blood cells over the last 90 days was normal. Even today, this remains the case. Her holistic approach to her being, her life and her health is astounding. It is a source of hope not only to others, but also motivates me as a medical doctor to focus more on all the preventative lifestyle factors, and not just the disease and the management of the symptoms, signs and complications.”
How diabetes saved my life
Ironically, diabetes is one of the best things that has happened to me, for the following reasons:
- I had to let go of my flight attendant plan. Instead, I studied psychology to master’s degree level, and I have practiced for over 30 years now. Today, I am also a life strategist, helping other people to create beautiful lives of their own. It gives me joy as I fulfil my purpose and live a life of meaning in serving others.
- I was blessed to have given birth to two wonderful children, Charne and Jacques, despite my illness. They are healthy and diabetes-free, with a lust for life. They watch what they eat and exercise regularly.
- I was widowed in my forties, but then met an extraordinary man, who is younger than me. One of the reasons he was attracted to me is because I am focused on empowering my life in all areas. We are happily married.
- I am healthy, and I am filled with energy and vitality.
- My health issues forced me to deal with the onslaught of bad food that we are exposed to. I exercise daily, eat very well, and I have a good body (according to my hubby).
- My friends and family have been inspired by my life and my example.
Mind over body
“Yes, but I have Type 2,” you might say. “So, what worked for you will not work for me.” Not so. Like me, what has happened is that your body has communicated to you, that you need to adjust your lifestyle to be healthier. Your body is doing all that it can to wake you up and show you how to live an inspired and magnificent life. That is actually a blessing:
- Has your illness added years to your life because you are forced to eat better and exercise?
- Has this saved you from a stroke or a heart attack?
- Have you helped your family because you have inspired them to live healthier?
- Do you find you want to make every moment count, because you see how precious and valuable your life is? If not, when will you start?
- Have you empowered your life by taking control, educating yourself, and focusing more on your family and the people that love you?
What is your big why?
You see, you need to have a big WHY, like I do – why is it so important to manage diabetes? If we don’t have this big why, the how will not appear. That is the big motivation. I desire to live my life with fulfilment, to live my vision, to make an impact on the world, to serve my family, to serve my clients, and I can only do that if I have a body that’s filled with health and vitality.
It became ever more apparent that I really wanted to be there for my husband, my children, my clients. I still do, as much as I ever did. My body is the vehicle through which I take my unique gift to the world (we all have one). If I don’t look after my body and my mind, then I cannot do this. How will you use your body’s response of trying to become well (manifest in your diabetes), to serve the people that you love, and the world?
I hope, with all my heart, that you see your life through new eyes because of my story. Our biggest stresses can be our biggest blessings. This is so true for me, because of my empowering journey with diabetes. May you, too, be inspired and motivated to live a beautiful life, and to powerfully share that with the world.