And another year goes by. 365 days.
One year ago, I wrote a post “celebrating” the fact that I have had type 1 diabetes for 20 years. This week, it becomes 21 years. And it’s made me reflect on what the word “chronic” means. Chronic illness, chronic sadness, chronic pain. If you’ve never suffered a chronic condition, you have no idea what it does to the body and to the mind. To your view of the world, much less your view of the day in front of you. It eats at you like a fungus. Some days, you forget it is there and for just a moment you feel normal. And then the next day, with no warning at all, it starts to nibble away at your hope, your faith. You view the day as a challenge, as something you just need to get through, as opposed to something you celebrate and relish. Getting out of bed feels impossible. Smiling, talking, interacting with the outside world feels inconceivable.
And it doesn’t necessarily show to the outside world. Your friends and your family can’t see your chronic illness. People are often shocked when they see my pump for the first time, or observe a dramatic low blood sugar incident. In some ways, that makes the struggle easier because I can hide, I can pretend, and most importantly, I can blend in. Other days, it makes it harder. I look at my husband or my sister or my friends and I want to scream, “you have no fucking idea how hard this is. you will never understand what this feels like.” But I don’t, because at the end of the day, it is mine. And it has been now for 21 years.
A week or so ago, another Facebook post came out about how “close” researchers are to finding a cure for type 1 diabetes. Those of us with the disease know how this feels. We’ve learned to curb our excitement. We know these are more often than not, empty promises. Don’t get me wrong, there aren’t words to describe my appreciation for these brilliant researchers. But I have also had this disease for most of my life. I can no longer remember a time when I didn’t prick my finger, or calculate carbohydrates, or suffer through a debilitating episode of high or low blood sugar. This disease of mine is as much a part of me as my left arm or my ankle or my eyes. That, that right there is the definition of “chronic”. My disease reaches back into my earliest memories and taints basketball games, sleepover parties and hospital stays. My disease reaches in front of me, intertwined with my children growing up, going to college and growing old with my husband.
And yet these times of desperation are episodic. They come and they go. And on the other side is something much nicer. When the episode concludes, and I wake in my bed and the sun is shining and my heart is healed, a perspective that very few in life are granted emerges. The blessing of a day in which everything works. A day where I don’t have a migraine, my blood sugar is steady, my anxiety and depression in check, and I am reminded what a beautiful life I have been given. The two children that I fought for and that make every finger prick and every injection and every sobbing cry worth it hold my hand and tell me “You is a good mommy”. And I emerge a better version of myself. My skin is thick and my resolve to survive is stronger. I feel better than my disease. I feel stronger than my disease. It doesn’t own me, rather I own it.
And I know I can conquer it, if not today than tomorrow.