How you feel
Who you love
Who you are
Words of wisdom from a good friend of mine.
This past month, I have been struggling to keep the depression and anxiety at bay, but there is a sadness quietly overtaking me. I can’t pinpoint any one direct cause, but certain circumstances have destroyed my spirit time and time again. Just when I think I have built up enough resilience to conquer another day, another stumbling block takes me down.
I feel way too much. When I see others hurting, it hurts me, too. And I am seeing so many hurting right now (myself included). I try to focus on the small successes. Just last month, I visited my endocrinologist and learned I had decreased my A1C (average blood sugar levels over the past three months) by phenomenal measures. It’s crazy to think that when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I had an A1C of 16.0 (that’s not functional, by the way), and now I have an A1C of 5.8.
All because four months ago, I was inspired by others with Type 1 diabetes and decided to create a strategy for improving my diet and exercise regimen. I’ve even jumped two sizes in the past year (but who’s to say that isn’t muscle? ;-)), but regardless of weight and body image, I stuck with my strategy (and even survived the holidays).
I’m supposed to be more susceptible to illnesses like the common cold and the flu (you know because diabetes suppresses the resilience of my immune system). But this is the first year in a while that I have not been sick prior to February. Those are definitely successes.
It’s Not Okay
And yet I can’t relish in my own physical resilience because my mental health is suffering. I cannot continue to be okay with how people are treated in this world. I acknowledge my own privilege in these matters, but as a quiet person, I am often the first one targeted for bullying and abuse. I’m not sure why that is – why people think it’s okay to take advantage of someone else because they can.
It’s not okay. There are certain circumstances outside of my control, so sometimes it feels as if all of my efforts to enact change and address maltreatment are for naught. I know when to cut my losses, but this is less about me and more about the people I care about. I do not want to give up on them.
I am stubborn. When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I thought about my years struggling with depression and how if I had chosen to end my life, I would have never met diabetes. I’m glad I met diabetes. I refuse to let it get the better of me. I have vowed to be resilient until my body has nothing more to give (and believe me, with the toll this disease takes on my physical well-being, that day could come sooner rather than later).
My best friend told me a long time ago to never apologize for who I am. And treating people better whether in a professional or social setting is something that’s important to me. It’s partly why I got into psychology at the onset of my career. I believe everyone deserves a chance. And just because I’m in a position of power does not mean I have the right to squash that chance. I can choose to do so. But in the end, it is a choice. And I choose to be better than that.
A few months ago, on a whim, I decided to join my friends for a zip lining course in the Shenandoah. This was part of my “being adventurous with diabetes” series. The last time I went zip lining was when I was 16 and visiting Europe during the summer. I was terrified. Yes, there was the diabetes to worry about, but as I’ve gotten older, I worry about things I didn’t worry about before like what if the line breaks, what if I fall out of my harness? Not the most rational, but I still went zip lining.
At one point, I almost took my guide with me when my backpack full of diabetes supplies got stuck on her harness during take-off. I was not the best at braking, either. My friends said I looked like a rocket coming down the line. So, when we got to the last line – the longest and fastest, I had a choice. I could play it safe and do the “starfish,” which is essentially sticking your arms and legs out to slow your speed, or I could tuck my legs underneath me and go speeding down the line with “cannonball.”
Considering how fast I had been going, I told my friends I was definitely doing starfish. I was the first of my friends to jump to the line. I looked down at the ants that were the rest of the group at the other end of the line. As soon as the guide strapped me in and gave me the go-ahead, I decided to take a risk. I tucked my legs underneath me and flew down the line cannonball-style.
It was the most fun I had all day. But when I saw the brake signal and tried to slow down, I was still going full speed. The rest of the group backed away from the tree – they seemed sure I was going to hit them (even though there was a safety in place). So, in a moment of panic, I tugged on the line and did a complete 180. I kept losing my grip on the line; I was being tossed in so many directions. I tried doing starfish but could only get one leg out at a time. Prior to hitting the tree, I regained my balance and pulled myself to safety.
If I had to do it again, I would still choose cannonball.