This past weekend, by all accounts, should have been a wonderful weekend. And in many ways, it was. I spent some quality time with cool friends, and I met some even cooler people. I finally visited the Big Apple and learned that Broadway is a street, not a place (this one may haunt me for a while).
But while I was gallivanting through New York City completely overwhelmed yet in awe of Central Park, Times Square and the darkness of the skyscrapers, others were hurting. On Sunday, I received some heartbreaking news, and out of respect for the parties involved, I will not disclose here. But needless to say, it’s the kind of news that brings someone like me to tears on the spot.
And on that same day, a woman at a gas station banged a bathroom door into my head (on accident, of course, but it hurt like hell – I still have a tender bruise). The weather was raining and overcast, and we were at the beach. Mother Nature couldn’t have been crueler (okay, I suppose a hurricane would have done it). My blood sugar levels were all over the place — from severe highs to severe lows.
Physically, I felt depleted and weak. Emotionally, I was hurting. And I was fortunate I was surrounded by such amazing people who let me process my emotions in my own time and even acknowledge that while I wanted to blame myself, I had done my best to be the most supportive friend I could be, and that was enough. When I returned to the sunny skies of DC on Monday, I received more bad news.
Life could be so cruel. Except it wasn’t. I had many people hurting in my life, but I also knew my loved ones were safe. And as much as I wanted to be angry or depressed or hurt or numb, I felt relieved. And I knew going forward I would do everything I could to be supportive not only to those hurting, but those affected by that hurt.
Then my friend texted me this:
And make sure to take care of yourself. That’s the most important thing. It is hard to take care of yourself when everyone around you seems to need your energy. Go take a bubble bath, or snuggle Norm, or go get your nails done… something to help you relax and start your week on the right track.
I have some amazing friends. And it’s those amazing friends that have kept me going during difficult times.
Every Day is a Battle
I may have written about depression just a month ago, but there was a time when I used to have suicidal tendencies and participate in destructive behavior. When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I continued these habits for a while, partly as a coping mechanism and partly as denial. And then my friends noticed. I could feel the pain on their faces.
I had a choice: let diabetes get the better of me or fight it to the death.
When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I had a harrowing thought while lying alone in my hospital bed: if I had succeeded in killing myself three years ago, then I would have never met diabetes.
It may have been a few months or even years before I fully grasped the heaviness of that statement. But given time and the support of my network, I realized I wanted to live. Diabetes tried to take my life from me. It continues to threaten my very existence on the daily, and every day, I get up and go into battle. I do some exercises to build strength and endurance, and then I put on my armor and live to see another day.
So, when depression comes creeping up behind me and pulls away the armor, it can be difficult to see why I would continue to fight. It’s too much. Wouldn’t it just be easier to let go and admit defeat?
I’m a sore loser. I may be better at masking it now, but I don’t like to lose. I despise second place.
When I was in elementary school, I attended a neighbor’s birthday party, and we played “pin the tail on the donkey.” Her mom wrapped bandannas around our heads so it covered our eyes, and then spun us around a few times and sent us in the direction of the wall where a picture of a donkey was taped. Whoever pinned their tail closest to where the donkey’s tail should have been won.
As soon as the mom put my bandanna on, I realized I could see bits of the wall just by looking down. So, when the mom spun me around, I knew exactly where to pin that tail. I had a choice. I could cheat and win that gold medal or close my eyes and take my chances.
I decided to cheat. But I didn’t want to make it obvious so I pinned my tail a little to the left of where it should have been. And I won. Usually my Catholic upbringing would have made me feel so guilty that I would have confessed immediately. Not on that day. For some reason, I felt no remorse. I wanted that medal, and I proudly wore it home.
In some ways, I feel diabetes cheated me out of a life I should have had. I’ll never know why it picked me. So, I decided I would, in turn, cheat diabetes and depression out of their end game. I will control where I put that tail. I won’t take my chances.
I will, instead, embrace opportunity.
(And if I hadn’t taken the opportunity to meet diabetes, I would have never met all the wonderful people and animals since then, including Norm, or ever seen such awe-inspiring places like New York City.)