Once upon a time, I was just your average 22 year old. I had just finished my collegiate swimming career, graduated college, and I would have considered myself to be a healthy individual who was in the best shape of their 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, stupidly, googled my symptoms and found that there were a million things that could be wrong with me. It really turned me off from wanting to talk to my doctor. As I sat in the doctor’s office, I spent more than half my appointment debating whether or not I should tell her all of my symptoms. Finally, at the very end of my appointment, I decided I might as well tell her what was going on. She ordered blood and urine tests, and assured me that there was nothing to be alarmed about; that it was probably just my thyroid. Feeling silly, and a bit relieved, I returned to work. I had pretty much forgotten all about my appointment as the afternoon went on.
But then I got the call.
I remember the lab technician speaking in what seemed like a foreign language. After I grasped that something was really wrong with me, my mind started racing. I couldn’t seem to understand what was going or how it happened. 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. When I hung up the phone, 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 the heck I was a diabetic. Spoiler alert: there’s no way to figure it out, and sometimes after 22 years together, your pancreas just decides to call it quits.
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, being diagnosed at your age is 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 insulin shots, you’re going to have serious complications that could kill you. They explain to you the differences between the two types of insulin you have now been prescribed. They show you how to test your blood sugar and how to give yourself your those insulin shots. They set up appointments for you with a dietician who shows you how to count carbohydrates and the importance of eating a balanced diet, even though it feels like you can’t eat anything anymore. You learn that you will soon have to see an endocrinologist every three months who will help you manage your diabetes, and that they’ve scheduled your first appointment with this new doctor. Then, after what seems like the LONGEST doctor’s appointment of your life, they send you on your way to fill your prescriptions and your new life begins.
They tell you a lot of things at your first appointment, but there’s also a lot of things they don’t tell you about life as a newly diagnosed Type 1 Diabetic.
How sad and depressed you feel, and then how guilty you feel for feeling that way 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. They don’t tell you how weird that makes you feel because no one has actually died, and those feelings make you even more confused. How it feels like no one understands what you’re going through despite having the most supportive family, friends, and co-workers around.
They don’t tell you the about the financial burden you now have, and that insulin will sometimes cost more than your rent.
They don’t tell you that six months after you find out about your diagnosis, you’re still going to have breakdowns because this new life doesn’t seem fair. They don’t tell you about the days where it feels like you want to quit. That some days this disease feels like too much to handle, and giving yourself that next shot becomes almost impossible. There’s so much they don’t tell you at that first appointment that you’re left to deal with on your own. Feeling overwhelmed is an understatement.
The first couple months after my diagnosis were some of my darkest days. I felt like I was in such a low place in my life, and that nothing was ever going to go right. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone about how I was feeling so sad and so upset and so lost. It felt like people thought I was overreacting, and that made me feel even more closed off to the people around me. My doctor never prepared me for how lonely and isolating your diagnosis can make you feel. Eventually, you’ll find the strength to carry all those feelings with you and you’ll continue on with your life. You’ll start doing things that make you happy again, and you’ll try your best to forget that you’re sick. Everything will turn around and life will appear normal again.
One day soon, this new life will all become routine. You’ll make new habits associated with this new life, and soon the only difference between you and everyone else is that you have to take a couple shots throughout the day. You’ll get a job that you love and that you’re good at. Your family and friends will still love and support you that same way they did before. You’re still going to be the same sassy, sarcastic person you were before because you didn’t let your broken pancreas get the best of you. And that my friends, is all that matters when it comes to fighting this disease.