Neil Greathouse, widely known as The Betes on social media, is a highly respected and widely recognized personality in the diabetes community. Not only is he a board-certified diabetes educator, but he is also the director of the acclaimed documentary Bike Beyond, which highlights the inspiring journey of an incredible group of individuals with type one diabetes as they cycle across the United States. In addition, he is a talented filmmaker who has made it his mission to share his experience living with type one diabetes on every social media platform available.
Neil's personal journey with type one diabetes began in 1992, when he was diagnosed with the condition after spending four years, seven months, and 11 days in training for the United States Air Force. Although he was discharged from the military as a result of his diagnosis, Neil's doctor reassured him that he could do anything with his life and that type one diabetes should not hold him back. Nevertheless, Neil struggled for years before finally reclaiming ownership of his life and health.
In an episode of the Reclaim Your Rise podcast, Neil reflected back on the aspects of his diagnosis that set him up for what he refers to as “the 7 years of darkness.”
1. Gaps in education from the start
"There are incredible endocrinologists out there. But at the time, what they did is they sent me home and they wrote a sliding scale down on a piece of notebook paper and said, if you're between this and this, take this, this and this.”
Neil's experience highlights importance of having access to proper education when first diagnosed with T1D. There are SO many factors that impact blood sugars, and without that knowledge, newly diagnosed individuals are set up to feel confused, overwhelmed, frustrated, and defeated.
2. Lack of support, relatability, and community”It's been really tricky to find somebody who is in the diabetes and the mental health space, you can find them separate. But I find a lot of us spend most of our time worried about the details of managing type one and we don't really think about the mental health side of it. And that has been very shocking. Most of us don't have a plan for that. Like how do we handle that? Cuz it's going to hit, like, that's just the reality of it. We will have to handle some of those feelings.”
The mental health aspect of T1D is just as important as the blood sugar management aspect, but many people don’t get the support they need and are left feeling isolated and alone with their challenges. We hear from many of the people we work with how good it feels just to talk to someone else who lives with T1D and really "gets it."
3. Personal mindset
"I do attribute a lot of the struggle with… maybe I was isolating myself cuz I was a little embarrassed by it. Didn't really understand it. You come back home and you feel like ‘maybe I've failed…’ You know, I was, I was leaving and going on this aviation career and never coming back.I, I was shooting for the sky. I was, I was aiming my sight's much higher and… at some point I think I was just in denial. Like, I'm just being really honest. I just didn't want it, didn't want to address it and thought, ‘I made it this far, I'll just kind of muscle my way through the rest of it.’"
Acceptance of T1D is a root cause that we see in so many coaching clients. You might go through the motions of managing your diabetes, but deep down if you are “muscling your way through it” like Neil did, then you probably haven’t full accepted your diagnosis. And that might be the one thing that’s holding you back from feeling the way you want to feel.
While many of us are told that diabetes won’t hold us back, there are important factors that need to be addressed in order for that to actually be possible. Unfortunately, Neil is not alone in this experience of struggling with T1D. Many people who come through Risely coaching programs have been through their own period darkness while grappling with their T1D diagnosis and the impact it has on their lives. Bottom line: T1D is a multifaceted condition and needs a multifaceted care strategy.
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