When I first looked into writing this article, I found it hilarious that I would be writing it so close to World Diabetes Day, which is on November 14th. This day is close to my own heart, mainly because it pertains directly to my present situation. I was diagnosed at age 4: an age where I was blissfully unaware of how hard my life was going to be.
My diagnosis flipped my world around. Changing your entire lifestyle is difficult, but nothing can compare to telling a 4-year-old they need eight shots of insulin every day and that they can’t have ice cream when their friends can. My world back then crashed down over ice cream and bruises, but as I grew up, I started to understand that my problems went much deeper.
When I started going to school, I could only explain to my peers that I was sick. I couldn’t conceptualize that I had diabetes, or that I would be living with an autoimmune disease for the rest of my life. Neither could my peers, who became weary of me and fearful that I would infect them.
I know now that diabetes is way more than just getting sick, but 8-year-old me was upset at the idea of being different than everyone else. This was the first time I felt lesser than others—like I was worse off or like I was horrible in comparison. Thus began a long journey plagued by self hatred and unhappiness with a situation I would never be able to change or improve.
This feeling of self hatred grew as I missed more and more elementary school classes to go to the nurse’s office for juice. This feeling grew when I couldn’t eat all the treats at my friends’ parties. This feeling grew as I got older and my lipohypertrophy began to show through my clothes. A lipohypertrophy is a lump under the skin caused by accumulation of extra fat at the site of many subcutaenous injections of insulin. This feeling grew as my friends began to think of me as less of a friend and more of an inconvenience.
Then I went to college. I found friends, got involved at Loyola, and found a new sense of self. I thought my problems were going away, and I was finally able to obtain the life I wanted. I was so disappointed to find that I was wrong. Every problem I thought I had left behind was coming back to me: bad friends, struggles in school, struggles with my self-image. I had never felt worse about myself until the second semester of my freshman year.
I went home last summer with a mission to find out what was wrong with me and fix it. I searched and searched and searched, but nothing I found or changed made me feel better. I was so exhausted between trying to fix what was wrong with me and hiding it from everyone I knew. I looked high and low for something tangible to correct and fix, but eventually I found nothing to fix but my perspective. I found that all I needed to change was my view of myself.
It didn’t matter what others thought of me. It didn’t matter how my body didn’t work like everyone else’s. It didn’t matter that I looked different and had to conduct my life differently than others because I realized that in the end, my life is too short to hate myself. I deserve to give myself the love I sought in other people and in other places. I deserve to be content with my body and how it is. I deserve to live my life in happiness.
And so, I implore you to love yourself. Give yourself praise, and fill yourself with gratitude every day. Don’t simply do what gives you joy, but find joy in the things you must do. I have learned that the only forever you will have in life is yourself, so treat yourself with kindness and love.
Lastly, I leave you with a quote that helped me through even the darkest days and hardest times in my life thus far: “…above all, watch with glittering eyes the world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places, and those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl.
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