Living a More Convenient Truth—12 Years In
On the eve of the anniversary of my type 1 diabetes diagnosis, and after managing it for exactly 12 years today, (January 5), I am taking control of it in a whole new way. After graduating from college this past May, moving away from my parents to another state, and getting my first full-time job, I am now completely independent.
2015 was new for me in this way. It was the first time I was on my own, managing myself and my condition completely alone. I had been managing it physically and emotionally my whole life, and have continued to, of course. (Self-management was always one of my strong suits.)
2015 also marked a newness for me in how I felt about my condition. For the first time in almost a decade, I felt resolved with myself. I formed a new acceptance about the way my body functions. For me, acceptance didn’t happen overnight. As a perfectionist, I had already found it difficult to appease myself, to be good enough for myself. But when new challenges appeared in 2015, I surprised myself with a courage I didn’t know I had.
Though I had said it many times before, (and even posted about it on social media), I finally meant it. I finally felt like I was enough. I was living the personal truth I had wanted for myself the whole time.
At the university I attended, we were required to take a health and wellness course, in which I learned I am an introvert with extroverted tendencies. I gather my energy internally. I had always been a thinker, but that marked a time in my life where my thought patterns began to make more sense. The relationship I have with myself is one I have struggled with in the past, and that’s hard to admit. It’s hard to admit that you’re vulnerable, and even more embarrassing to admit that you’ve made yourself more vulnerable. I was emotionally neglectful of my condition for many years, on and off. I worried, and I sometimes had anxiety about managing it. In some ways, I was kind to myself about it, but mostly, I had been harsh.
I’m a mostly happy person, but no one is perfect, and I’m not exempt. Imperfection is a rewarding human flaw, which is another thing I began to teach myself in the past few years especially. More so, it was a lesson I believed as the truth, which is what mattered most.
As a child, I didn’t like meeting people with type 1 diabetes, because, to me, it felt like everything was more real, or sad, or something. Accepting my own palette of circumstance did not come easily, but with courage and determination—this year especially—I managed to prove to myself that I was a warrior and not only believed in self-acceptance, but moreover, I deserved it. I deserved to feel comfortable and confident about my own body. I deserved to have someone that would feel comfortable and confident with me. I deserved love, from myself and others.
There’s a quotation from C.S. Lewis that I tend to quote to keep me motivated and feeling assured: “You don’t have a soul. You have a body. You are a soul.”
Though I have an autoimmune disease, and I have felt like my body has betrayed me, this quote makes me feel balanced. It reminds me that what I have in my heart means more than what I lack in beta cells and a functioning pancreas.
The internal battles I have had with myself have been the toughest, affecting me both physically and mentally. I have not stopped fighting, nor have I relinquished control to this disease, but I have become a more valuable asset to myself in the past few years. I have become a person I can rely on, a person I feel comfortable with, a person I want others to feel comfortable with, and to love.
In order to love others, I believe you have to love yourself. I think most people feel this way. I can honestly say that at 22 years old, I have never been more passionate about life. I have never been a better friend to myself, and I have never been more open to change. Change is constant; it can be surprising and quite beautiful. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my diagnosis, and in these 22 years on earth, it’s that.
Life’s a journey, and like the good hobbits I admire in film—especially those played by the charming Martin Freeman—I have eliminated weakness as a personal detriment. Having type 1 diabetes is not the bad part of myself. I refuse to let it be. I refuse to be angry, and I promise to be happy and to not worry.
Abandoning weakness can open you up to great adventure, allowing you to discover your personal strengths. That is the biggest lesson I have learned in living with type 1 diabetes. I have been good to it, and managed it well. I have also had weakness; I have resented my condition, and ignored it in some ways. But after much thought and many lessons, I reiterate the following with confidence:
I am not my condition. I am me, and I am so happy to be living this thought as my continuing truth. I no longer feel like I have to deal with myself, or anyone who loves me has to deal with me. Making connections with others is rewarding. My heart has always been so full, and in 2016 I am determined to share more love with the world, and with those whom I love. I am patient and look forward to accepting love from others, and continue to accept it from myself.
Here’s to many more years, and to those newly diagnosed, or celebrating your own diaversary—I hope you find similar courage in yourself. You are beautiful, and you are so much more than the condition you manage.
Read Life After College Graduation by Julia Flaherty.