Tell your story: there is connection and healing in your narrative

National Tell a Story Day is on April 27th each year in the United States and encourages people to share their personal stories.  Regardless of the specific details, or our natural giftedness in storytelling we all share the same diagnosis, we each have our own story. Within this story, we remember the day we were diagnosed, from the little details like the layout of the doctor’s office to the life-changing words spoken that lead to the start of a whole new way of living. These thoughts have created and molded a story that you might think are concrete, yet we are here to tell you that those stories are as fluid as water and can be reshaped! 

With a new diagnosis comes hundreds of questions, like How did this happen? and Where did I go wrong? Among these questions, there are new tasks that are nonetheless challenging. A newly Diabetic must turn into an expert overnight and learn how to understand their most ideal blood glucose level and readjust their diet and lifestyle accordingly. 

However, with all the questions and the terms that one searches to answer and understand, most claim that the toughest task is easily the first one: accepting their diagnosis and telling others. But, why should we share our story? 

Well, that explanation cannot be better explained by anyone other than American inspirational speaker and life coach, Iyanla Vanzant who claims, “It’s important that we share our experiences with other people. Your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. When you tell your story, you free yourself and give other people permission to acknowledge their own story.”

Who is the listener?

It is beneficial to share our stories with a variety of people in our lives.  Sharing your story is a connection and support that can be shared with anyone from a stranger, to a family member.  Depending on who you share with, there are different benefits.  For example, a person with a shared experience, such as someone else who has been diagnosed with type 2 can help you learn about and understand your experience better. A journal publication discusses their review of the benefits of storytelling in a health context stating, 

“Storytelling (ST) has emerged as an instrument that helps us in the learning and management of the disease, by taking advantage of the teachings transmitted by other patients who have gone through the same illness: sharing experiences. The use of ST can serve as a means, establishing a network of trust and equality among participants, allowing a way of expression that would eliminate the stigmatization of suffering from a disease. In addition, telling stories can be a vehicle that breaks resistance to the messages promoting a healthy lifestyle, or that dilutes them to face behavioral changes facilitating the incorporation of new behaviors that improve health or overcome the disease”. 

A person without this specific shared experience can gain empathy and understanding of someone else's experiences. Making more connections and inspiring much needed awareness or even changes that could be made in regards to the story. For example, someone sharing their type 2 story to someone without, can help that person raise awareness in their community, with their children, family and friends and maybe even prevent others from getting type 2 in the future. 

Additionally, it could cause changes in the way they appreciate, share, and strive for a healthy and balanced lifestyle.  Most importantly it gives us a glimpse into another person's experience. All the while, the person sharing their story has the greatest benefit.  Storytelling facilitates support for the disease by allowing the patient to examine their emotions and problem-solving strategies, set objectives and exchange social support. 

Reshaping your story

The verbal act of telling your story to others helps one make sense of why certain events happened the way they did. However, it is once one shares the same story over and over again does the process of reshaping that story begins.

Not all stories are positive, some make us embarrassed, anxious, or sad.  Find the takeaway or lesson from your story that is positive or that has the potential to make meaning in a healthy way. You might find a way to forgive through storytelling or even realize a hidden talent you have by shifting your viewpoint when you recount and retell. 

It has been said that one can make sense of who they are from telling their story, but no one said that you can not readjust that story to create the best version of yourself. So, as difficult as the path you walked was, you have walked it and now it is your time to look back and readjust and reshape your story! 

Here are a couple of tips in order to help you reshape your story: 

  1. Examine your habits - pay attention to the negative habits or the habits that you want to change. Once the negative habits are identified, take note of them and start creating better ones.
  2. Practice the new habits on a daily basis - remember, this is for you! So, don’t go easy on yourself and remember that every day matters. 
  3. Start taking risks - it’s comfortable staying in our comfort zone, but this is where most of the negative habits also live. So, throw off the blanket and jump out there! Only once you get out there can you start getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. 
  4. Strengthen your inner circle - Pick up the phone and call that dear friend you have been meaning to call for ages now. Once you start surrounding yourself with good people who love you, your rewritten stories will grow in a new and nurturing environment. 

Whether your story is verbal, written or shared through another creative medium, storytelling is an important part of our life journey.  Let storytelling increase your positive emotions, improve memory and empathy and help you connect with others.  Let your story guide you through your successes and failures with type 2 and propel you forward.  Share your story today in our online community, Winning Type 2 Diabetes Together.