By: Meagan Esler
The first thing I would have said to that frightened 18-year-old girl back in 1994 is, “It’s not your fault.’ You didn’t do anything wrong. You weren’t out breaking mirrors, spitting on leprechauns, or walking under ladders. Your body simply turned on itself. Your immune system decided to attack the wrong guys and here we are.
You are not weak. You can, and you will, do this. You are going to find out how strong you really are. At times you are going to want to give up. Don’t. At times you are going to decide you can deny diabetes the time of day. Don’t. It becomes dangerous if you pretend it isn’t there.
This lengthy journey is going to take restraint. Restraint when people, even some that care about you, say dumb and offensive things. Restraint when you want to eat with your friends or family but your blood sugars are 400 and you have to wait until they decide to play nice before you can dig in. Restraint not to curse at the television, computer, or radio every time they claim something wrong about diabetes and spread more hurtful misinformation. Diabetes will teach you how to brush the little things off. It will teach you how to pick your battles. Some things are worth your curse words and attention, and some are not.
Good things will come out of all of this. I know it will seem bleak for a while, but hang in there.
You are going to meet the most amazing people along the way. There will be times in the beginning that you’ll feel alone, but don’t despair. Your funny, patient, adorable, and kind future husband will be unfazed by the “D” word. He’ll accept you for every high and low blood sugar that comes along with your hand. Your friends will be like family, even the online ones (sorry teenage Meagan, you may have no idea what online means yet since it is 1994, but oh, boy, will you ever!). Those online friends will get you through some rough times. They’ll even have you smiling along the way.
You’ll learn not to really mind those finger sticks and multiple daily shots, I promise. I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but in a few years you will have to double check yourself to see if you took your morning shots. It will become such a routine that you will actually have to try to remember whether you took them or not. It won’t be fun, but you will get used to all of this. A diagnosis of diabetes is not an easy one. Life will change, but it will absolutely be worth living.
You will have a good life, even when diabetes makes it hard. You will laugh hard and often despite diabetes.
A few more words of advice in closing: Please test your blood sugars, it’s the only way to be sure of what is going on in there. Don’t skip shots or pretend you’re normal, you won’t feel normal when your blood sugars hit the roof. Remember to eat after you take your shots; low blood sugars are as dangerous as things get for people with diabetes. Lastly, don’t be ashamed. There is truly nothing to be ashamed of. Be proud of yourself, you are so much stronger than you know.