Choosing To Be Free
I make a conscious choice every day to be happy, grateful, and always wear a smile, but what about the darker days? Those days happen, but sometimes it is hard to see the stars in the dark of night. I hide myself away when it gets dark, and I think thoughts that are just as dark, dimming my usually bright light. I get so frustrated at the world, and so overwhelmed. Lately that darkness is from within, and a fear has manifested itself, slowly consuming me. It is controlling even the very way I manage my type 1 diabetes.
I generally believe that I am pretty successful in all aspects of my life — I do well in school, I am involved on my college campus and in my community, I have a lovely family and great friends, and I work hard towards my ambitious dreams. So why is it that I suffer from high blood sugar so often? Why do I take such a passive approach to the management of type 1 diabetes?
It is fear. Not only that, it is an irrational fear that has only grown stronger, taking control of my thoughts and actions. I have denied the fear for a while, hoping things will magically get better. But my blood sugars are still out of control. Nothing will change unless I get aggressive and take my control back. They always say the first step to change is admitting there is a problem in the first place. Being the perfectionist I am, always putting my best face forward, highlighting only the highs on social media, and always making sure everything in my life is, well, perfect, admitting there is a problem is so hard.
I am irrationally afraid of having low blood sugar and going low to the point of passing out. I fear the feelings that hypoglycemia brings: Lethargy, weakness, not being able to focus or concentrate on anything (even right in front of me), the shakiness, the dizziness, the blurry vision, and an emptiness in my head that I am not quite sure how to describe. Is low blood sugar an uncomfortable feeling? Definitely, yes. Is it a temporary, manageable state? Yes. But my own mind has come to fear the possibility of dangerously low blood sugars so much, that I give in to fear often; it sometimes means less insulin for meals, the excessive use of temporary basal rates, the “forgetting” to bolus to make sure my sugars stay “stable” throughout the night, the sloppy habits go on. I make excuses like, “I just can’t afford to go low right now, I’m on my way to class”, even if I am nowhere near hypoglycemia. I make excuses and I play it safe. I play it so safe and so passively, that it becomes detrimental; all because I am afraid of a what-if.
This fear plagues my thoughts, always in the back of my mind. That fear whispers to me at eight in the morning before leaving for class to make sure I have enough snacks in my bag, or at five in the evening to take 3.5 units of insulin instead of 4.5 units of insulin for dinner. I battle inwardly with myself, all the time. I know it is wrong. I know it is only hurting me. I know I have to do better. I know.
This is one of the loneliest, most hopeless feelings in the world. What do you do when you are your own worst enemy?
Just take more insulin. Just be more aggressive. Just stop overthinking. These are the obvious answers, but all so much easier said than done. It is so hard to break a habit, especially one that has re-wired your entire brain to think a certain way. But it is time to break through my mental barrier. It has to be; I am at my end.
I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I have to be selfish for myself again, advocating for myself, taking back control, being aggressive, loving myself, being kind to myself, and being fearless. All. The. Time. I have to, and I know that. I have to actively, consciously think this way until a new habit forms. Food and insulin are not my enemies, but my friends.
Every day is a new day, and I must pace myself. Even when the fear whispers to stop, and even when the fear whispers to give in, I have to keep trying and keep pushing through it. Fear, simply, stands for: Forget everything and run, or face everything and rise. I have to make the choice to face my fear, and I hope one day the whispers will stop. Until then, I have to keep fighting for myself every single day, on top of living my life every day as usual. Those who live with a chronic condition know this is not easy, but nothing worth fighting for is ever easy.
It is time to stop feeling sorry for myself, and just face the reality. Yes, Type 1 Diabetes sucks, and yes I can sit around comparing myself to others, feeling jealous and bitter and sad and self-loathing. Everyone around me has a working body and they do not even think twice about what they eat. Well, what does this do? Those thoughts only hurt myself, and it is not very kind of myself.
My body works too. It is not a burden; it just works a little differently than everyone else’s. I should be proud to be who I am, to be different. A good friend once told me that Type 1 Diabetes, in a very strange way of thinking, is an asset. I am more in tune with and listen to my body better than most people. I understand nutrition and how carbohydrates and food works better than most people. I understand the science, anatomy, and physiology behind endocrine systems better than most people. And I always have a granola bar to give to somebody when they happen to need it.
Whatever you believe in or do not believe in, you were given this life, this body for a reason. The way every DNA sequence, every chromosome, every trillions of proteins, and every biochemical pathway came together is so intricate, beautiful, and purposeful.
My very being came together in this way for many reasons, and I know what they are, what my reason for living is. Diabetes is only a part of my story. Just that. A part. It doesn’t define me, or my life story. I will not let type 1 diabetes control me anymore. My body is mine and mine only. This is the only one I will ever get and it is beautiful. It is strong. It is loving. It is creative. It is brave. It is kind. It is courageous. It is happy. It is fearless. It has been through things that most others will not ever go through. But it won’t ever give in, not any longer.
There will be days ahead where diabetes will continue to test me, but a cheesy quote once told me that if you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit. And just as I ace my organic chemistry tests, I will ace these tests too, and come out on top.
I am grateful every day. On the darker days, when it can be harder to see the stars, I am still grateful deep down. I read this often as a reminder for me. A reminder to choose the strength I know I have, even on my weakest day. There are positive things happening every day, and new habits forming. I am grateful every day.