it was an absolutely gorgeous day in april, i had just been at lacrosse practice, and absolutely not one thing was different than any other day when i pulled into my driveway. then i walked inside. my mom was standing in the mudroom, white as a ghost, phone in hand, silent.
i was a diabetic, they said. i needed to go in to the hospital right away, they said.
all i can remember after that, is sitting on the floor, looking at the ceiling, and trying to say words but just kinda…moving my mouth like a fish does when you stare at it in its bowl.
eventually, i went to my room and packed an over night bag. “what the hell do i bring to the hospital when i’m not sick? slippers?” i thought. mom and i drove to maine medical center. i turned the radio on. i think i said, “can i still go to bob’s game tomorrow?” bob was my boyfriend and the thought of missing one of his last lacrosse games of high school was more gut wrenching than the news i had just received. “we’ll see.” she said. “but it’s at fitzpatrick mom, that’s like, at the hospital. they have to let me go, i’m not sick.”
“sure, bub.” she said.
and so began the life of libby as a diabetic.
i went to the hospital for the night. i was really, really fucking angry. my best friend’s mom brought me a block of cheese. that’s why she’s my best friend. because her mom brings me cheese as an, “i’m sorry carbs can’t be your friend anymore” present. bob came and sat on the bed with me and we talked about dumb shit like ski movies and family guy. people were gentle with me. even the gigantic bald phlebotomist. it was like i was now damaged in some way. i was poked and prodded and told to go to the bathroom and teach myself how to stick a needle into my leg and my stomach and how to count carbs and subtract fiber. i was told i’d have to take this shot at this time and this shot at this time and prick my finger 6 times a day. 24 hours later, i was sitting in the bleachers for the 2nd half of bob’s game. all the mom’s stared at me. i was “sick” now.
that night, i was sitting at home, probably acting like someone had killed my dog, and suddenly, someone knocked on my door. my 7 best friends were all standing there. wide eyed, nervous, holding more cheese, and looking for hugs. so, we all sat, ate cheese, talked about the dance coming up, and i tried to explain that for forever now, i would be a little different. i think i probably cried until may or june.
i finished that year and the next as an allstate lacrosse player. i spent the summer in maryland and connecticut at recruitment tournaments, and when the fall arrived, i was voted captain of the soccer team and in the spring, captain of the lacrosse team, too. by the time i graduated, i had become an even better athlete than i had been pre-diabetes. i had gone 16 years with two legs and a competitive heart, that wasn’t changing because of a busted organ. or so i thought.
fast forward 8 years.
college came and went. i wasn’t an athlete anymore. i started partying. and i was getting kinda heavy. i totally forgot how to exercise without my soccer coach scaring the bananas out of me on a weekly basis and running me for simply looking in the wrong direction. when i graduated from elon where i had packed on a few college lbs, i needed a physical and emotional outlet. i had just moved to boston, had a new job, was going through a traumatic break-up, and my best friend lived in africa. i was a disaster. and that’s when i started running. i signed up for the BAA half marathon. the esplanade became my new boyfriend.
i needed to know i could kick ass at something on my own. i knew i was an athlete inside, but i was now a diabetic athlete. and i also was not the best diabetic in the world. a majority of my caloric intake was after 9pm, and in the shape of a hot delivery pizza. i probably went out 3-4 nights a week to get silly and meet guys. and i went to the gym because my roomies were also ex-athletes. i had no idea what to do in there. so, i figured the half would whip my chunky ass back into shape. unfortunately, while training for this big guy, i was diagnosed with a really rare muscle compartment disorder that meant that i would just…like, never be a runner. it hurt like HELL. i was crushed. finishing this race was one of the greatest accomplishments i had ever experienced in my life. but i knew i’d never be able to do it again. this was almost as emotionally draining as being dumped. honest to god. i had fallen madly in love with the runner’s high. i didn’t know what to do. how would i exercise if i couldn’t run. my blood sugars were all over the place, my weight was a fiesty, stubborn little bitch. and i just could not get myself together.
and that’s when i found yoga. since i had always been a team/contact sports kind of gal and if i wasn’t moving at 100 mph knocking bitches over left and right on a field of some sort, i didn’t think i was doing anything for my body. well, turns out that was a lie. what my body needed the most from me was to be quiet (funny, right?), composed, and making intentional movements with my muscles. not repeatedly pounding my big ol’ legs into punishing pavement. i could immediately sense the positive influence that it was having on me, and i could actually feel and see my body changing. not to mention, my blood sugars LOVED yoga. they immediately stopped flying off the handlebars and made managing them so much more…well, manageable.
none of my friends really did a lot of yoga so, at first, it was hard for me to feel super into it because i was a lone wolf in a vast forest of experienced, very bendy, very calm people. with time, i realized that this was actually the beauty of it. i had found a new challenge and it was no one else’s challenge but my own.
accepting that there were significant and personal roadblocks being presented to me from a physiological standpoint was a big challenge for me. of course i struggle with the obvious: i’m playing with a significant handicap – aka a dead organ inside of me. but what it all really boiled down to was accepting the facts. my blood sugars need me to be gentle with them, my muscles need to be worked but not abused, my bones need support, and my brain needed a break. once i finally wrapped my head around the fact that i’m not an invincible high school lax star anymore, or a marathon runner breaking joannie benoit’s records, and embraced what my body wanted me to be, i was exponentially happier than i had ever been in my entire life.
whatever the challenge, whatever the roadblock, whoever the haters are that are keeping you from something. an illness, a death, a breakup, an injury… don’t force yourself to keep up with a routine that’s doing more harm than good. taking a step back and accepting what hand you have been dealt whether it be temporary or permanent, make do with what you have and be grateful for it.