"To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intellingent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one's self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived - this is to have succeeded"
Just about two centuries ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson had it figured out. At least once a week, usually when I feel that life is starting to get a little bit chaotic, I read this quote and it reminds me of how I strive to live my life and gets me back on track. I'm almost certain that when Emerson wrote this, he didn't exactly have diabetes in mind. It seems to me that one of the more common things I read on T1D blogs is that people refuse to let their diabetes define who they are. I very much so respect this statement, but for me personally I feel differently. I honestly believe I am the person that I am today because of my diabetes, not in spite of it.
From the moment I was diagnosed my parents made certain that there was absolutely nothing to be ashamed about when it came to having diabetes. We were always the family counting my French fries and drawing up insulin into a syringe at the table (not under it, right on top out in the open) when we went to restaurants. We were the family who walked back into the kitchen to get a glass of juice ourselves if the waiter wasn't understanding the severity of my low blood sugar. And in elementary school when I had to check my sugar in the classroom, my friends would play rock paper scissors over who would get to push the button to prick my finger. To say that I had an incredible support structure growing up would still not be giving enough credit to everyone I had in my life. Yet despite having had (and still having) a greater support team than any one person deserves to have, there have been certain truths about having Type 1 Diabetes that I needed to learn on my own. First and foremost, if you have diabetes, you are brave. That is an unconditional statement that applies to every single T1 diabetic. We are brave for ourselves, we are brave for our families who watch us go through the day to day struggles, we are brave for other diabetics. When I was in the hospital for my trials last week, the words of support that I heard most often were "You are so brave for doing this", and the truth is that every time I heard that I thought, "I've spent the past 17 years being brave, this is nothing!" and the same thing goes for everyone else from the day they were diagnosed. Yet I can't help but think, maybe if I can be just a little bit braver for just a little bit longer, it might help people so that they don't always need to be as brave. Of course, once you have experienced the intensity of dealing with diabetes, you will forever be brave no matter what. Even when you are scared and anxious and just want to cry, you will still be more brave than a lot of people will ever know how to be.
Another truth about having T1D is that if you can be prepared to handle your diabetes, then you can be prepared to handle just about anything. At any given time I carry around a purse that has enough supplies in it to get me through the zombie apocalypse. My most recent inventory in addition to all my supplies related to being diabetic included 2 granola bars, a bottle of water with a built in Brita filter, 4 bandaids, antibiotic cream, a small screw driver, 3 packets of instant coffee, 2 travel packs of tissues, a packet of baby wipes, a spoon, and a stick of sunscreen. I will never be one of those women who carries a chic clutch with them in place of a giant handbag (note the image below), and I'm ok with that. Once you have figured out everything that goes into what it takes to be fully prepared to venture out in the world as a diabetic, you can figure out how to prepare yourself for any scenario in life.
If I were to sit here and list all of the things about being diabetic that contribute to the person that I am, I would ramble on forever. But what it boils down to is that the responsibility and the bravery and the strength that it has taken all of these years on the part of not only myself but also my family and loved ones has had more to do with me being me than anything else that I can think of. And I wouldn't trade it for the world.