Once upon a time, I was just your average 22 year old. I had just finished my collegiate swimming career, graduated college, and I thought I was the healthiest I’d ever be in my life. Little did I know that in three months, my life would change completely. In the weeks leading up to my yearly physical, I knew something wrong. I, very stupidly, googled my symptoms, and after self-diagnosing myself with a few conditions, I concluded that something WAS actually wrong. As I sat in the doctor’s office that next week, I spent more than half my appointment debating on whether or not I should tell my doctor all of my symptoms. At the very end of my appointment, I decided I might as well tell her what I was experiencing. She ordered a blood and urine test, and assured me that there was nothing to be alarmed about; that it was probably just my thyroid. Feeling silly for worrying so much, I returned to work and pretty much forgot all about my appointment.
But then, I got that phone call. I remember the lab technician speaking in what seemed like a foreign language, and after I grasped that something was REALLY wrong with me, my mind started racing. I remember asking her if she could ‘dumb it down for me’ because I didn’t have a clear diagnosis. That’s when she said: “Your test results show that you’re a diabetic.” I thanked her for my results and then scheduled another doctor’s appointment for the following afternoon. I hung up the phone and that’s when I lost it. I called my mom, my dad, and my sister. I sat in my boss’s office and bawled, and I tried to figure out how I could possibly be a diabetic. Spoiler alert: there’s no way to figure it out. Sometimes after 22 years together, your pancreas just stops producing insulin.
Now there’s lot of things they tell you when you’re first diagnosed. That it’s okay to be angry. That even though most people would consider you to be too old to be diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic, it’s more common than you think. They tell you that you are now insulin dependent and that will never change. That if you don’t give yourself your shots, you’re going to have serious complications that could kill you. They show you all the new medicines you have to take now. They show you how to test your blood sugar and give yourself insulin injections. They set you up with a dietician who will show you how to count carbohydrates. You learn that now you will have to see a doctor every three months, and that they scheduled your appointment with your new endocrinologist. Then after what seems like the LONGEST doctor’s appointment of your life, they send you on your way with your new prescriptions and your new life.
Then it sinks in. All the things they don’t tell you in your first appointment after being diagnosed. How sad and depressed you feel, and then how guilty you feel because even though your new disease can be life threatening, others have it far worse. That you’ll spend the next two weeks crying on the phone to your mom every night. That you’ll go through all of the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Which, honestly, seems weird because no one died. Then you feel even worse because you feel like no one understands what you’re going through despite the best family, friends, and co-workers around. They don’t tell you the financial burden you now have, and that insulin will sometimes cost more than your rent. They don’t tell you that six months from now you’re still going to have breakdowns because this just doesn’t seem fair. They don’t tell you that some days you’re going to want to quit. That some days it becomes all too much, and giving yourself that next shot seems almost impossible. Looking back on it all, this list just seems to scratch the surface.
For me, the first couple months after finding out that I was Type 1 were some of my darkest. I felt like I was in such a low place in my life, and it seemed like nothing was ever going to go right. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone about how I was feeling so sad and lost. I felt like people thought I was overreacting, and that made me feel even more closed off. I can’t really explain how I got over it. I don’t think you really ever do. I think you just somehow find the strength to carry those feelings with you, and continue on with your life. You start doing things that make you happy again, and you try your best to forget that you’re living with an incurable disease.
One day, it’ll all become routine. You’ll get in the habit and the only difference between you and everyone else is that you have to take a couple shots throughout the day. Everything will turn around and life will become ~normal~ again. You’ll get a job that you love, and that you’re good at. Your family and friends will still love you and support you. You’re still going to be the same sassy, sarcastic person you were before because you didn’t let Type 1 Diabetes get the best of you; and that’s all that matters when it comes to fighting this disease.