Guest Blog by Dr. Swagata Nandi Dasgupta
I grew up in Kolkata, a sprawling metropolis in the Eastern part of India; a land of music, poetry, culture, theatre, education, strong political views,street food and quintessential sweetmeats like the rossogulla and misti doi (sweet curd).A land where a few isolated words align themselves into poetry and a heated argument sounds like a lyrical drama. I trained as a clinical psychologist, got married and moved and settled down with my husband, friend and soulmate amongst the glittering lights of Mumbai. Life in Mumbai was fast paced and I was able to secure a good job and soon began a thriving practice in one of the suburbs. Though it was a cultural change, I remained a Bengali, as we call ourselves, at heart and found my own little Calcutta right here.
As young, successful couples do, we moved into a bigger house and began the process of starting a family. It is then that disaster struck. It was the year 2012, as the cauldron lit up for the London Olympics, I had a miscarriage. And as if to rub salt into my wounds, I was now diagnosed a diabetic. I was horrified and depressed, not just because of the tragedy, but it dawned onto me that that I may not become a mother. Even if I did, my child may have learning difficulties. I may become blind, have nasty foot infections and might even lose a leg or even both, which I have seen happening to my neighbour. I may even may die early and not enjoy a peaceful retired life.
It was a feeling of shock and denial. I blamed myself, the decision to move to Mumbai, my new lifestyle, job, husband, neighbours, fate, friends and even the shopkeeper across the road for my state. My life had changed for ever and the forever effervescent, vivacious, a bit intellectual Bengali girl had transformed into a petulant, irritable and extremely pessimistic demon. This reflected in the way I dealt with doctors and was dissatisfied and changed doctors frequently because no one could cure me, at least that is what I thought.
I got a grip however, very religiously adhered to the diet, exercises and the medicines brought my blood sugar under control eventually. I have always been a good host and invited people over for sweet treats like sweets, cakes, pastries, chocolates and of course misti doi, without which my life was incomplete. I tortured myself seeing other people eat these as what I told them was that this made me happy, so people came over and fed themselves in an apparent act of altruism; but deep down I was torturing myself as my cravings were unbearable and it extended to other high carb foods like rice and potato. I felt embarrassed in social occasions and used to consider myself a problem when I refused sweets. Everyone took turns to lecture me, claiming to be experts, who reminded me over and over again that I was different and I felt shunned. But I religiously continued and was able to achieve very strict control of my blood sugar, because I was doing it for my unborn child. My sugar was fine, but I was destroyed and barren within.
Still things did not go to plan. I miscarried twice again. Now I was barren within and outside. After my third miscarriage, my husband and I decided to let go. We gave up the treatment for infertility. My blood sugar was reasonably under control and I decided to take some liberties. If I fancied a doughnut, then I skipped a meal. If I ate a sweet at a social occasion, which I love, I`d walk for an extra 15 minutes and when I checked my glucometer on Saturdays, it was always in the green. I know that my foodie days are over and I shall never be able to indulge again.
But who wishes to indulge? I have come a long way from my humble upbringing. I am not keen on diamonds or gold and not brand conscious either. I wish to do my job well, have a good family and be happy. The whole world wishes to stop indulging and lead a disciplined life. Diabetes has given me an opportunity to do that. I have developed a philosophical and fatalistic attitude to diabetes.
I believe that we always aim for perfection in life and this brings with it stress and unhappiness. The most important thing in life is to accept one`s imperfections and making the best out of it. The state of the mind is the most important and if we believe that we are well, then we are. So, today, I have learnt to welcome and embrace diabetes as a way of changing my direction in life and this is what I try to inculcate in people who need my help. Being a clinical psychologist, I am not new to mental disasters. I battle with these disasters every day, win some and lose some. But in a perverse way, my first disaster was very special. I wish I had met myself in 2012. This is my life.
The author is a practicing clinical psychologist in Mumbai, India