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Strong Enough

My name is Diana and I am 30 years old. I was diagnosed with Diabetes Type 2 in 2010, the summer before my junior year in college and then re-diagnosed December 2019 with Diabetes Type 1.  From the first day of my diagnosis, I’ve had many ups and down and more downs than ups might I add. I’ve cried, been happy, frustrated, annoyed, depressed, angry, I’ve felt alone, unloved, exhausted, I’ve had low self-worth and low self-esteem. After 10 years, I finally learned that I am worthy, I can be loved, I am not defected, and I am more than what I had let diabetes define me for many years.

I still remember the day I was diagnosed. I had gone to my doctors’ office by myself (my little sister waited in the waiting room). In that office when I was told I had Diabetes Type 2, I felt lost, confused and did not have a real understanding of what diabetes meant and what diabetes was going to mean to me. I ended up doing what my doctor asked of me, but I felt numb and like I was simply going through the motions of everything. I took classes to help me understand my diagnosis and since I am a good student, I learned a lot, but I was 20 years old and did not understand why I needed to learn about diabetes, let alone accept diabetes into my life.

One of the most painful memories I have of being diagnosed with diabetes is as follows: Two weeks after I was diagnosed, I returned to my doctor’s office (with my mom this time). My doctor introduced me to a glucose meter, test strips and lancets. I learned that in order to have my sugars in control, I had to use these tools on a daily basis, multiple times a day. I was then educated on how I was going to have to use the tools. I immediately broke down crying. I remember yelling out with big, fat tears rolling down my face looking to my mom and with such fear yelling at her “Please don’t let them do this! Please mom, I don’t want to do this! Mom! Please, I don’t want to do this! I can’t do this!” I remember my mom looking at me with sadness and hurt in her eyes and not being able to say a word. All she could do was hug me and let me cry and cry with me. Remembering this memory as I write it constricts my throat and fills my eyes with tears because those feelings are still raw, and they still sting. I still hate that my diabetes has that effect on me.

I ended up returning to undergraduate school and tried to forget about my chronic illness. The last two years of college I tried to bury my diagnosis deep within me so that I didn’t have to think about it. In my last year of college, it was too much and I went into a deep depression. I ended up seeing a therapist and got “better” but still had not accepted my diagnosis and definitely still did not want to have it. I felt tied to the diabetes, trapped, alone and angry because I felt that diabetes had ruined my life. The last thing I wanted was to be defined by my diabetes and for it to only be the thing that identified me and made me, me. Having diabetes felt like there was no room for anything else. I was consumed by it and in a negative way. I hated myself for it but felt like I couldn’t get away from it even when I tried.

Years went by and I tried (in all honesty, I certainly didn’t give it my 100%) to control my sugars. I tried to tolerate it and I had my good days and bad months that turned into years. There was a time in 2018 when I started going to the gym religiously, working out 3-4 days a week for 2-3 hours each time, lifting weights and doing cardio. Although I looked amazing and gained self-confidence cause damn, I looked good, my blood sugars were still high. Every time I managed to have the courage to check my sugars, it would let me down. It would infuriate me so much. It felt like nothing I was doing was enough and I felt like I was not doing anything right. After 4 months, I stopped going to the gym and returned to wanting to forget about my diabetes.

In January 2019, I started talking to a therapist about my struggles with managing my diabetes. After many months with her, she helped me realize that I was still grieving the life I had lost when I was diagnosed. She identified that what was stopping me from accepting my diabetes was my lack of emotion for it. I then realized that I never let myself cry about it because I didn’t want it to have that power over me. I wanted to control my emotions and I didn’t want my diabetes controlling them. My therapist gave me permission to cry about my diagnosis. It was hard at first but once I let myself cry when I needed to cry, I was so surprised by how many tears would roll down my face. I cried many times but mainly when I was alone because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to cry with others around me, even my family. Allowing myself to cry how I cried made me realize that I didn’t know how much unresolved emotion I had about being diagnosed. I slowly, very slowly, began to accept my diagnosis and learned that yes, diabetes is an identifier, but it doesn’t identify all of me. I am still Diana, social worker, fur mom, sister, daughter, fiance, friend, cousin, co-worker, etc.

In the past, when my family or friends tried to ask me about my diabetes, I would shut them down, I would downplay it, I would quickly change the subject or act like everything was fine. But I had been trying to do it by myself for 9 years and I hadn’t made any progress. I knew this way of thinking needed to change, especially if I wanted to be a mother and especially if I wanted to live a long time with a good quality of life.

After many therapy sessions, I realized that I didn’t have to do it by myself. I realized that I had friends and family who wanted to know all of me and not just the good parts. I realized that they weren’t going to leave me, give up or stop loving me. I realized that they wanted me live a good life and they wanted to support me and I was finally at a place that I was able to let them do that. Having this support and understanding helped me so much when I was re-diagnosed to have Diabetes Type 1 because that was such a huge change for me. All the learning, emotions, more needles, new habits I needed to form and supplies I needed to get used to like my insulin pump.

My relationship with my diabetes isn’t perfect and it’s not something I would wish on even my worst enemy. The fact of the matter is that my diabetes isn’t going anywhere (especially now b being a Type 1), it’s always going to be a part of me and day after day, I have to accept it and not let it have control of me again. Every day, every meal, every snack, every outing, every hang out, every party with my diabetes is a battle and a struggle. I know I have to constantly fight all my temptations and cravings but it’s a fight I want to fight because I know that even though diabetes is a part of my life, I can still live and enjoy my life and all the good it has to offer. 

I hope I continue to remain strong and love my diabetes to continue loving me. 

I hope my story gives you hope and strength that you can do it and that it will be okay and that its okay to not be okay sometimes. We can and will live a good life.

Diana

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