The most important lesson I learned my first semester of college is that you simply can’t do everything on your own, especially in terms of diabetes.
College is truly a growing period, and with growth comes growing pains. I finally had to admit to myself that I needed help with my diabetes. I didn’t need it from my parents; I needed it from an older mentor who had lived with diabetes for a lot longer than I have. I’m so lucky to have more than one number like that in my cell phone. I called the person who has been my “diabetes person” for as long as I can remember, Natalie.
Natalie was there when I was first put on an insulin pump and has been here ever since. I remember when I was around 12 or 13, my mom called Natalie because I was having a difficult time with my diabetes and she wanted to know if Natalie could just hang out and talk to me. Natalie was there in a flash, and she took me out to The Cheesecake Factory. I remember we got sliders (the mini burgers) and just talked. It all came out so easy, no pressure.
That’s the exact same thing I got when I called Natalie this semester. I attempted to sound like I had everything under control. That I was just, you know, frustrated with diabetes not cooperating. The act didn’t last long; 10 minutes into the conversation I was holding back three months worth of tears and frustration from highs, lows, and more highs (along with a boatload of other college drama).
The truth is, I felt like I had somehow failed. That because my numbers weren’t where I wanted, I was some sort of “diabetic fraud” who wasn’t worthy of giving anyone advice. In a nutshell, Natalie told me to chill out. That in the midst of overthinking every single thing I did wrong, I hadn’t given myself room for mistakes. That between living away from home, having a less than ideal roommate situation, and attempting to complete an ever-increasing mountain of work, my numbers were bound to go up.
Stress was something I had not taken into account, and thus, my numbers were perpetually high when I was upset or…stressed. All I know is that after that phone conversation where I got to unload all of my emotional baggage (and possibly some extra drama) I felt so relieved.
Despite diabetes being a personal journey that I need to navigate, I learned that it’s OK to get some validation from someone who’s been doing it for say…over 20 years. It’s OK to be completely vulnerable and admit to yourself AND your mentor that you simply can’t do it alone. For some reason saying, “I need help” is so painful for so many of us. On top of it all, I felt this pang of guilt for thinking, “you know what…diabetes sucks!” because I thought it somehow meant I wasn’t grateful for all the opportunities it’s given me in the past. I was putting myself in this unrealistic and unfair situation where diabetes had to be all amazing, all the time.
In reality, that’s not true! Diabetes can suck and it’s OK to say it. There’s nothing good about being high or low. About getting your tubing caught on a doorknob. About the monitoring, the correcting, the monitoring, the correcting, the shots, the extra supplies, running out of insulin when you’re out of the house, and more monitoring and correcting.
However it’s all a balancing act because on the other end, diabetes can be amazing. For instance, meeting new people and having such a unique shared experience. I can’t even begin to explain how special it is to share this type of bond with people. I always feel so lucky to have the opportunity to meet people and instantly connect over diabetes. It honestly never gets old. There’s also nothing like FINALLY reaching that one A1C. Being in the 100s for an entire day, having the perfect blood sugar (I actually have a friend who used to get a dollar every time she was 100), the magic site that seems to keep you low for days without effort. It’s all about perspective.
I guess what I’m trying to say is give yourself a break. One of my greatest inspirations is a man named Joe who recently celebrated his 50th year with Type 1. Fifty years, and he is one of the happiest and most inspirational people I have ever met.
I will never ever forget what he said about living with Type 1 for so many years. He said that despite having it for so long, he has allowed himself to have pity parties about how miserable diabetes can be, but he followed it with this: After 30 minutes or so of his vent sessions, his friends were responsible for making him snap out of it so that he could carry on with the rest of his day.
I think I’ve made my point clear. It’s OK to get down sometimes, but always make sure to bounce back. Remind yourself of the good things, and you will always end up on top.