This story has not been edited and is printed as told from Gretchen, herself.
Our next scheduled stop was lunch at the Italian beach town of Sorrento. Before the meal, I went to the bathroom to give myself the insulin that I had packed on ice for the day’s journey. As I fumbled around in the bathroom stall, I discovered that my syringe had been forced-plunged into my purse and the needle had broken off. I doubled over, furious and sad. All I wanted to do was run away, but everything I wanted to run from came along with me.
My mom heard me sobbing from the bathroom and came in to commiserate. We eventually found our assigned table and sat down with red, wet eyes. We tried to feign some sort of conversation with the other lunch guests. My mom apologized, telling them that we were struggling with some issues. The couple at the table, a man and a woman, asked if it was a medical issue. We said it was.
The man smiled. “What is it? I’m a doctor. Maybe I can help.”
I told him about my Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis and shared with him all my struggles on this trip. His face turned serious and he locked eyes with me.
“You’re going to be alright without the insulin for now, but I want you to hear this: everyone has something. No one gets through life without battling,” he said. “This just happens to be your ‘something.’ No, it’s not fair that you have to deal with your something so young, but this was given to you and it is up to you how you live with it.”
His frankness stopped me completely. I stopped thinking. I stopped judging myself. I stopped killing myself with guilt. I simply accepted my something. It was as if a great weight had been lifted off me for the rest of the trip.
When I returned home, I made it my mission to learn about Type 1 diabetes and how to help my body. And now when I’m feeling frustrated with the unrelenting process of managing my blood sugars. I think back to that doctor’s gaze, take a deep breath, and remind myself that it’s my choice to take care of myself.
No one is perfect. When I was diagnosed, I was caught up with the notion that everyone is normal, and if your aren’t “normal,” you are different– and different is bad. No, being different is not bad. It’s wonderful. It pushes me beyond my limits.
The ideology of a “something” is an idea that I came up with during my first few weeks of being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. A “something” can be a diagnoses, an addiction, a broken leg, family problems, death– anything that can be considered a “setback.” This notion that everyone has to deal with a major “something”, a setback, at some point in their life helped me to battle anger and depression and to change my perspective about my diagnosis.
My “something” is unique. It is difficult, but it can be empowering— my Type 1 diabetes moves me to prove my strength to myself. Perspective is what changes it all. Perspective can hold the key to let your “something” be a part of you and to not let it hold you back.
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