never in my life have i considered myself to be a truly “free” spirit. i love rules. i really like not pushing buttons, and i get pretty jazzed about staying comfortably between the lines of practicality and societal expectations. i’ve never done anything radical or terribly controversial, i’ve never been arrested, done crazy drugs, and the one time i got grounded as a kid was when i lied about throwing away a banana. i’m not saying i am an angel by any stretch of the imagination. i have a tattoo and i’ve stolen copious amount of beer glasses from bars, so i’ve got some decent street cred.
all of said orderly behavior aside, when i was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a 17 -year – old, i think there was an expectation that i would rebel to some extent. that i would totally wig out and go off the grid. not take care of myself, and have a shitty attitude. but no, like i said, i prefer to be orderly, and diabetes was all about following a code of conduct: prick your finger now, don’t eat that, exercise today, be afraid of things, stab your thigh with this needle, you’re fragile now, you can’t sleep in anymore, but be yourself!, etc. i thought that by nodding and smiling and following my hypothetical checklist day after day i would just…be fine…eventually, right?
a few years later, i was at elon, and suddenly, i was having a meltdown the size of africa. my boyfriend at the time didn’t have a clue what to do with me because i was suddenly sobbing like a madwoman and throwing pillows against the wall. i had just gone for a run, gotten a bad low, then was told that the alcohol at his fraternity’s party that night would be exclusively jungle juice. i was acting as if someone had told me that a law was being passed to ban puppies, oreos, and babies from existing. didn’t everybody in his fraternity care that i can’t drink jungle juice? how could i possibly persevere through this kind of devastating news? how embarrassing i was for being unable to binge drink red kool-aid and everclear out of an industrial-sized trash bin.
the next day, many inconsolable hours later, i realized that though i had never rebelled against having diabetes, i certainly had not accepted it yet. inside, i was battling some pretty gnarly demons, and clearly they were starting to intensify. tiny triggers were beginning to taunt me. tell me that i was “broken” and “restricted” from being as free with my choices as everyone else. the rage component was starting to kick in, as was the self-doubt, and a lack of confidence that i would ever be able to truly be as “normal” as i once was.
this lead me to reflect (for like, the next 4 years) on the fact that for no more than 24 – hours after my diagnosis had i allowed myself to experience any emotions that come with the news of being told that my life would be different forever. not once had i removed myself from my routine to better understand what having diabetes would mean. i didn’t yell, i was never furious, i never looked up at greater beings to ask why the hell i had to be dealt this shitty card. all i had done, was simply take 2 insulin pens and a test kit from maine medical center and said, “thank you for your time, i must be going now. i have a lacrosse game tomorrow, and college to get in to. WAIT, i can still eat cheese, right? okay, cool. deuces!”
diabetes is something that no one will every truly understand. it’s incurable, it’s cause is unknown, it’s invisible, and it is what you make it. for me, it was just kind of this thing that sucked, but if all it meant was that i had to test 5 times a day to not have my normal life interrupted, then fuck it, i’d do it. however, nowhere along the line was i willing to sacrifice an ounce of my typical self to be labeled as “sick”, “weak”, or “incapable.” so, when i finally would encounter situations where a giant, diabetes-related stop sign smacked me in the face, i would crumble.
as i got older (i’m literally a million now), and away from an environment leaving little room for independent thinking (#college), i started to realize that one way for me to cope, was to lighten up. to stop telling myself i had to live by a set of rules and not be spontaneous and free spirited. if this set of rules was so important, then i was going to start to push back on it a little bit. force it to adapt with me. i wanted to make sure that i was a person living with diabetes, not “a diabetic.” i couldn’t deal with the weight of worry and misunderstanding anymore. so, i went on the pump. this seems counter-intuitive because i was committing to attach a disgusting apparatus to my person at all times. my person that i already struggled to be super duper in love with (…heyyyy cellulite!) the concept of vanity had to go out the window – singleness for forever became a distinct possibility. but for me, removing the guessing game from diabetes was a step in the direction of true liberation. i was in the driver’s seat now, i had the control. what’s that song? “free your mind and the rest will follow…”
my all time favorite example of freeing myself from diabetes, is when i go skiing; my favorite activity in the whole universe. especially if it’s with my main man, my daddio. i grew up skiing, so it’s something i know i’m very comfortable with. i am also 1,000% never ever going to change the fact that i ski the way i do, have the routine that i do, and if diabetes thinks it’s getting in the way of that it can go pound sand. however, i used to panic about my blood sugar while skiing, and think stupid shit like: i’m going to be stuck on the chairlift for 900 hours with no idea what was going on internally and i’d become some legendary medical air lift rescue situation. aggressive and irrational, sure. but still… no thanks. now, i test before i go for my first run, make sure i’m running a little high, put my meter away, put a tube of glucose tabs in my pocket and carry on with my bad self. diabetes will not be seen or heard of until at least lunch time. freedom will be experienced to the highest degree, and, if only for a few hours, i will forget that i have something going on inside of me that, every other day, is allowed to steal my mental attention.
finding ways to feel this sense of lightness and freedom is so critical to embracing challenges in our lives. sometimes we just need to get the hell away from whatever it is that’s bogging us down, making us heavy, confused, or out of touch with ourselves. whether it’s grief, illness, a bad day at work, hormones, or a disappointing conversation, sometimes we need to let ourselves forget we’re hurting – if only just for one hot flipping second. if we constantly allow the parts of our lives that we can’t necessarily get rid of (but maybe can control?) dictate our ability to live the way we want to, we’ll exhaust ourselves. everyone is dealt a unique, and often taxing hand, but we also all have an inner spirit that drives us to get out there, be a little crazy, and enjoy our journey down to the very last drop. resolve to listen to that inner light when you feel it getting antsy. sometimes, we just have to return to that inner voice within us, let it shout from the mountain tops what it wants, give in to it, and hopefully everything else will fall into place.