10 years ago today, I was diagnosed with diabetes. 10 years is a long time to live with any chronic illness…It never goes away. It is sometimes terrifying. It is sometimes sad. It is sometimes just running in the background, unnoticed. But it’s always, always there.
I’ve always been an avid journaler and when I was diagnosed, I wrote down everything about how I felt about it as it was happening. When I thought about living for 10 years with diabetes, I wanted to remember what it was like at the beginning, when I was first diagnosed.
I had no idea that re-reading these journals would be like re-experiencing a trauma. With more distance and more knowledge about diabetes, I now realize that I received pretty terrible medical care. I was misdiagnosed as having Type 2 Diabetes (presumably) because I was not thin. Even when it was confirmed that I actually had Type 1 Diabetes, I was treated with medications intended for Type 2 diabetes for 6 months before finally getting a semblance of proper medical care.
At that time in my life, I was pretty vulnerable. I had serious problems with body image, self-esteem, and depression. No one took the time to explain that this wasn’t my fault. No one told me that this was not a sure-fire death sentence. No one referred me to a diabetic educator or mental health professional or even an endocrinologist.
Looking back on it all, I actually feel quite angry. I deserved so much better.
But you know what? I am surviving. I’m still here. Yes, diabetes is still a pain in the ass. Yes, I still struggle with highs and lows and sometimes guilt and shame. But diabetes doesn’t define what I can do or who I am. It’s just one part of me. In some ways, I’m grateful for it. It makes it impossible to ignore my body. It gives me opportunities to be strong and brave.
The night I got diagnosed, I watched the Chronicles of Narnia and wrote this quote in my journal:
I don’t know what might have happened if my diagnosis and early treatment would have gone differently. Maybe I would have felt less embarrassment and shame. Maybe I would have had better-managed blood sugars for years following my diagnosis. Ultimately what might have been is not important. What is coming, on the other hand, is another matter entirely.
I’ve got this.