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Adjustments & Vulnerability

One time, in eighth grade, I forgot my mouth guard for lacrosse practice and had to spend the entire hour and a half running around my junior high school’s track field. Coach was tough: one forgotten piece of equipment or a few minutes late would result in an afternoon of solitude. “Just you and the rubber.”

Because I was 14, headstrong, and had a working pancreas, I wasn’t that pissed off. Spending 90 minutes alone, pushing my body around in circles was exactly what I needed as a teenager. I didn’t have a smartphone attached to my arm alerting me of my progress every mile or even music in my ears to distract me and keep me motivated. The only voice in my head trying to convince me to stop was one of laziness; the only shaking in my legs were my muscles aching from the physical act of running for who knows how many miles.  

When I was 14, I knew that I could push my body without any serious consequences. I knew I could run as far and as long as I wanted, I could play as hard and as long as I wanted, I could let myself get totally lost in these moments without having to pay attention to anything else. I didn’t have to wonder whether I was feeling lightheaded because my sugars were dropping, or if it was just the sun beating down on me making me tired. I didn’t have to worry about whether that discomfort in my foot or leg was from running or playing too hard, or if it was something that will someday lead to amputation. I didn’t have to worry about wearing an insulin pump, or about carrying snacks, a glucose meter, and an emergency syringe filled with a liquid that I might need somebody to inject into my body to save my life.

No. Those worries all came at 15. And so did the end of most of my physical activities. I was still active, don’t get me wrong, but I stopped playing sports, stopped running more than a mile or two, and stopped doing anything that might result in me “outing” myself as a type 1 diabetic. So I hid it. A lot of my good friends didn’t even find out I was a diabetic until college. Some just found out this year. Most of my teachers and professors didn’t know. I’ve had bosses and coworkers find out after I’ve been working with them for a year or two. It’s really strange now that I’m thinking about it. And really dumb. Probably even a little dangerous.

But I was 15. I didn’t want to be the different girl, the girl with the weak body. I didn’t want to have to watch what I ate or be that kid that had to go down to the nurse’s office every day before lunch so I could take my medicine. I didn’t want to listen to doctors tell me what could potentially happen to me if I didn’t take absolute perfect care of myself and my body. I didn’t want to see myself in Julia Roberts’ character in Steel Magnolias and scare myself away from ever having children. I didn’t want to know what it felt like to have your body give out and give up on you.

But, alas, here we are, 10 years later, and still diabetic. Only now, I’m not as scared or in denial as I was at 15. Does it still make me nervous to see my blood sugar drop to 50 after I run only two miles, like it did last night? Sure. But that will lessen with some more conditioning. Am I wondering how the hell I’m going to carry everything I need to while running more than two miles outside? Absolutely. But this time I have a killer support system. This time I’m paying attention. This time I’m listening to my body and refusing to bow down to it; instead I’m coming back swinging and prepared. I mean, how cool would it be to spend my diabetic anniversary, the time I once spent seeing my life as forever changed and “over” (as 15-year-old girls will sometimes do), crossing a finish line instead?