In June, Country music singer and fellow type 1 diabetic, Ben Rue, got Rob Marciano from Good Morning America up on a mechanical bull to raise awareness for #BuckOffDiabetes, a fundraising campaign sponsored by Roche Diabetes Care’s new Accu-Chek Guide.
As much as I love a good press appearance that showcases morning news show lovers (cough…me.) the faces of type 1 diabetics and what we are capable of, I naturally wanted to get to know Ben a little better.
As a woman that loves advocating for and telling the stories of other women, I can sometimes miss the opportunity to chat with dudes, especially ones that live in the spotlight! So I reached out to Ben to get a little deeper into his story, and hear more directly from him about what his experience with t1d is like.
I know that a lot of my male (identifying) friends with t1d often feel pressure to be tough guys, and I also know that on social media, they’re not as active about some of the most critical issues regarding burnout and mental health (everyone but you, Rob Howe from @diabetesdoingthings).
So here goes!
First things first, I asked Ben to describe his relationship with himself as a person living with diabetes. His answer was adorable.
A blessing in disguise.
Then we dove into a bit of his backstory so I could see where that optimistic attitude stemmed from.
I was 14 years old when I was first diagnosed. My mother is a nurse and used to bring home stuff to test on her kids for fun. I have two brothers. So one day she brought home a blood glucose meter and tested me and my brothers, and my brothers were normal 80-120, but mine was 555. Initially I thought I had won a prize for getting the highest number, but then I saw my mom tear up and I knew everything was about to change.
But like most kids who go through this very bizarre awakening, Ben has recognized that there’s been a big evolution over the years…
The way I look at my diagnosis now is different than when I was diagnosed. At first I viewed it as a hurdle – I caught myself trying to escape from people to test my blood sugar or take my shots because I was embarrassed. But now I view it as a blessing in disguise – living with diabetes has made me focus on my health, given me a broader perspective on life, and has introduced me to so many great people who are also living with diabetes.
With all things chronic, whether it’s anxiety, or pain, or grief, or diabetes, our relationships with our reality can ebb and flow. There are good days and bad days, but the older we get, the more we try to accept our normal and make our lives around this “thing” as beautiful as possible. That’s not to say our goals and aspirations aren’t frequently impacted by living with t1d, though. I asked Ben if his t1d ever influenced what he wanted to be when he grew up.
Well, I grew up wanting to play sports. So when I was first diagnosed, I thought it was going to change everything I wanted to do, and everything I wanted to be. I did have to adjust to the lifestyle of checking my blood sugar every day, and letting my teammates and coaches know when I needed a break, but my type 1 didn’t slow me down. I went to a camp when I was first diagnosed called Chris Dudley basketball camp (for kids with diabetes), which really changed my perspective. I realized that there were other kids like me who could play sports AND be diabetic. Don’t get me wrong, it still can be a struggle (even now at 31 years old!), but I have a different attitude towards it. It’s all about management and keeping on track.
I would imagine then, that as a successful musician, you have your moments where t1d leaks its way into your writing or your performances? It is, no matter how we slice it, a big part of who we are.
Yes! My music is my microphone to share my views and thoughts with the world. Being type 1 has stood in my way, but does not define who I am. I connect with fans who are diabetic, and have had people open up to me about how they appreciate my openness with my condition.
Ok, so at this point I was convinced that this guy is just built out of sunshine and butterflies and really good manners (just like every other Southern gentleman out there, right?!) So I did what skeptical New Yorkers do, and I asked if he’d ever had any moments on stage that scared him or challenged him. And if so, how did he handle it.
Managing my type 1 diabetes while touring the country can be challenging. I have to pay attention to what I eat and drink and also make sure to test my blood sugar regularly. Luckily I have not had anything go wrong, but I think that is because I’ve focused on making managing my diabetes a priority in my life. I test before, sometimes during, and after my shows. And make sure my band knows what to do if I ever get low.
But emotionally, all of this awareness and being on top of things can be draining and emotionally taxing. So what’s your go to way to combat burnout?
Whenever I seem to feel frustrated about living with type 1 diabetes, I just remember all of the other wonderful things in my life like my wife, my family, my friends and the inspiring community (and all the amazing things that have happened in my life because of being diabetic!)
Singing and playing guitar has been a great outlet for me. But most importantly, my family and friends have been great in helping to keep me humble and thankful for every great opportunity that has come my way.
Ben mentioned his family over and over, which is so incredibly sweet and lovely. We all know that this disease can be heavy if we carry it on our own shoulders, so it’s important to build a fortress of support around us to keep us sane(ish, lol)
My wife, my family and my band are all part of my support system. My wife is a nurse and is very well educated on everything and helps keep me accountable. I’ve also developed a great relationship with everyone and they’ve all learned that sometimes I just need a minute, or just need to talk about a frustration I have when it comes to managing my diabetes. They’ve all been really supportive and help to keep me on track.
I’d describe it as a love/hate relationship. I love that it made me focus on my health but there are definitely days where I am frustrated. More love than hate, though.
And now for the kicker, because I’m a nudge that will constantly try to force los hombres in my life to talk to me more about how they’re feeling, I asked Ben what advice he’d give to another guy who might be struggling to take care of himself and his diabetes. Especially if he’s between the age of 16 and 30 and wants to just be considered “a normal dude”. Again, his answer was adorable.
Who wants to be a normal dude anyway? That’s boring! Just be confident in who you are, you’re made to be great. Surround yourself with people who like you for you.
And there you have it, folks! An inside look at the mind and heart and pancreas the one and only Ben Rue. If you want to learn more about the #BuckOffDiabetes you can visit the AccuCheck website here.
Also, check out Ben on Spotify!