On some days living with a chronic disease and all its complexities for 15 years has the ability to force me into hiding.
Some challenges I’ve overcome, like the fear of being accepted despite my illness and the fear of actually taking medications into my blood several times per day. But, I’ve been through many worst-case scenarios, and sometimes that enhances the fear that type 1 diabetes is going to get the best of me: I’ve been through about 20 insulin shock comas (I’ve lost count), a few episodes of ketoacidosis, pump failures, insulin resistance that exacerbates those stubborn high glucose readings, and extremely challenging pregnancies that turned into severe pre-eclampsia with emergency surgeries.
It’s understandable why I’m afraid, but that doesn’t mean I must be paralyzed by it.
There was a long stretch of time where I allowed diabetes to keep me in a constant state of anxiety. Something so simple as going for long walks was impossible because I was afraid my glucose would drop too low and I’d faint. For a while, I even accepted that my doctors told me to never carry a pregnancy because it was too dangerous for both me and my babies.
I lived each day just to get through it, because I assumed diabetes would kill me sooner rather than later. It led to me actually sabotaging my health with eating disorders and un-checked glucose levels, because I didn’t feel I held any real fight against it. I spent some years of this precious life simply surviving versus living. I was existing, but not doing anything that I wanted to do, because I was too afraid to do it. I am sad now that I wasted those years.
In 2008, I started researching how to take back control over my life. I didn’t want to be a slave to this disease. I certainly didn’t want the only thing mentioned in my obituary to be “she was diabetic.” I talked to others living with diabetes, considered alternatives to medication constraints, spoke out about the things that haunted my mind on a daily basis. Talking about my concerns and trying small ways to overcome my apprehension was the first step.
I really let go of the fear when I published my second book in 2008, because in that one I publicly explored living with this disease. It’s a terrifying idea to put your soul into words and leave it up to total strangers to evaluate. Now, I openly express my struggles and victories, hoping to help someone else get a hold of that dread and to look it straight in the face. I call it Greeting the Reaper. He and I have a sort of agreement now.
I watch my almost two-year-old daughter and am learning from her. She is cautious in new situations and will grasp tightly to my hand until she can make sense of what’s going on around her. Then, she eases her grip and responds naturally to the situation without any thought about other people’s judgments. She eventually runs free with the new knowledge, using it on a daily basis. If she likes the outcome of the new idea, it will become a part of her life. I think those of us in the diabetic world can take a few notes from her.
Here I am, a mother and role model for my children, taking lessons from them on how to live my own life. If I want to accomplish something, all I have to do is set a plan on how to make it happen despite any trepidation. I have to research options, accept certain aspects, work with my gut instinct on situations, and do what I feel is right. What are the materials that I need? What potential negatives should I prepare for? Sometimes it’s a matter of good old trial and error. I try every day to face these demons and take the reins of my life. No matter how long or short my time is here, I hope I can make something of it.
Being afraid is an emotion every person deals with at some point. Being brave is being afraid, but doing it anyway. I strive to be brave; heroic even. I fight to become the best person that I can, despite any obstacles that happen along the way. I hope to come out stronger on the other side of any battle. My children deserve a hero for a mother and I deserve to be happy.