Embracing the Best Friend You Never Asked For

I peed my pants in the 7th grade. Embarrassing to say the least. Even still, I tried to dismiss the obvious, that something was very wrong. I was using the restroom every 15 minutes, drinking abnormal amounts of liquid, insatiably hungry yet weighed only 74 pounds. If it weren’t for my mom taking me to see the doctor, I may have continued to push through thinking everything would return to normal if I just gave it some time. Well, things could never return to that previous normal. Type 1 diabetes does not ask permission, it simply lets itself in. There is nothing you can do about it, nothing you can change or reverse.

Initially I was grateful that it was me who was diagnosed and not my sister or cousin who was terrified of needles. I thought things would be relatively simple: count carbs, give insulin. Then a few months later I found myself paralyzed in fear about to give an insulin shot. I could not understand why it was suddenly difficult to give my shots, when I had never given it a second thought before. I would spend 15 minutes counting down “3, 2, 1…” over and over until I finally gave my shot. I think this is where my resentment of this disease started. It wasn’t until 10 years later I realized I was angry. Really angry.

For the first 4 years or so after my diagnosis I tried to do everything myself. I never reached out to others for support, I convinced myself that I had to be strong, and being strong meant not needing any help. For the first 10 years I did not allow myself to process the emotions that naturally come with being a diabetic. I did not want to be a burden to anyone and acted like I had everything under perfect control, that this disease was casual and nothing to worry about. Inadvertently while working through some other emotional distress I discovered I was incredibly angry at my diabetes. I never asked for it, I can’t ignore it (as much as I tried), and it seemed no matter how hard I tried I could never manage it the way I thought I should be able to after so long. Although not all at once, I realized the only way to live a full life with my diabetes was to embrace it.

My therapist told me once that pain + resistance = suffering. If you have to do the dishes that can be the pain, and procrastination and resistance of the pain only leads to suffering. If you just do the dishes then you are done, things are clean, and you have saved time and emotional distress. This is exactly the principle that I would like to share with all of you. Specifically, this has helped me embrace my diabetes. It is definitely a pain, but it is a part of me, a part that the less I hide the more accepted I feel. It is true that you can’t change your disease, and you can’t reverse your bodies auto-immune response, however, there IS something you can do about it. There are many things you can do about it. The first step is embracing your diabetes. It is with you every second of every day, it truly is the best friend you never asked for. Embrace it, embrace every moment, every high, every low, every good day and every bad day.

Once you stop putting your energy into hiding, ignoring, and pushing away your diabetes, you can spend that energy learning to love and take care of yourself. Diabetes is a dynamic journey, there will be ups and downs. I have had plenty of downs, but I strive for the ups. Forgive yourself, celebrate your efforts, and do the best you can with each moment. I still do not feel qualified to tell other diabetics how to take care of themselves, I am still a “bad diabetic” at times. I forget to dose until I have already eaten, I miscalculate, I get down on myself. I still mess up. Embrace that too. However, I have made leaps and bounds the past few years. I am much more attentive to my diabetes, I am trying to learn more, and I am not using my diabetes as an excuse to not live life to the fullest. I talk with my family and friends about my concerns and my improvements, I teach them about my diabetes so they know how to support me. It is okay if you cannot do everything alone. Please, do not do everything alone.

Alyssa Hurst
Type 1 diabetic going on 12 years. Studying Biology and projected to graduate in Spring 2022. I love reading, art, dancing, anime, cosplaying, plants, science, and being an aunt to my nieces and nephews. My favorite place I have ever been is South Korea, I hope to go again someday. I think it is important to take care of your responsibilities, and I also believe there is always childlike wonder to be found around you.

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