I spend a lot of my time wishing that I’d never been diagnosed with diabetes, and imagining that my life would be a lot better without the added stress and other annoying tasks diabetes adds to my day. But recently, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I would be the same me without diabetes. It’s not that diabetes defines me, but I do believe that it has helped shape me into a person I am proud to be. And is there anything wrong with admitting that life with the bêtes brings us some good as well? So, here it is, my list of things I’m thankful for, that have come from living with type 1 diabetes.
1. An amazing group of friends.
I have met some really amazing people through the diabetes world. Whether they are people I met at Clara Barton Camp or through JDRF, I’ve made true friends. I’ve met role models who I’ve looked up to for most of my life, friends I can still rant to about a bad diabetes day, and just a whole lot of awesome people. (Is it true that only the coolest of people are diagnosed with diabetes?)
2. I found my passion
Since I can remember, I’ve been actively involved in government and healthcare. When I was in fifth grade, I didn’t know a lot of other kids my age who were concerned about the vote on the stem-cell bill, but I sure as heck was. My passion for government was driven by my desire for healthcare reform, which was sparked by my diabetes advocacy. Through my diabetes advocacy, I was able to form a relationship with the late Senator Kennedy. He showed me all of the good that can happen in the government and how one voice really can make a difference. That led me to where I am today, pursuing a career in government.
I cannot see myself doing anything other than what I’m doing, or wanting to do anything other than government related work, and if diabetes led me straight to where I want to be, then I sure am thankful for the happiness – and focus– it provides me with every day.
Yes, there are days when I feel like my life sucks and I hate having diabetes and I want to just give up, but diabetes has really given me insight into other diseases and disabilities that I’m not sure I would have if I weren’t living with a chronic disease myself. I cannot tell you how many times a day I am thankful that I can live on my own, go to work every day, and live like a normal 23 year old. Yes, some days are more difficult than others, and yes, diabetes adds an extra layer to everything I do. But I am thankful for the life and opportunities I am able to have because, even with that added layer, I can have all I want in life.
4. Safety & Awareness
Living with diabetes my entire life has forced me to be overly cautious in a lot of different areas. To name a few, I was forced to learn how to drink safely, I was forced as a teenager to have a few more safe sex talks with my mom and doctors than I care to remember, and I was forced to be aware of all health aspects of my life. I’m not saying that I’m a perfect angel (my friends and family will laugh at the thought of me evening joking about being perfect), but I am thankful that diabetes opened up a line of communication that made me think harder and be more careful that most of my peers.
5. I am a mentor
I love being able to help people and provide them with meaningful advice. Being diagnosed with diabetes at a young age and, living through a lot of different life transitions with diabetes has informed me enough to be able to give insightful advice to young adults with diabetes, as well as their parents. Though I do believe that I still would be passionate about helping people with or without diabetes, diabetes has given me a natural outlet. After speaking to a group of parents of teens with diabetes, I love hearing that they now feel better about their teenager’s future. After I get a text from a teenager asking me about how to safely drink with diabetes, I love knowing that they are searching for a way to live safely. (And I swear: my first advice to each of them is always: “Tell your parents.”) Nothing makes me feel better than helping others, and thanks to diabetes in my life, I get to do it in a meaningful way.
I love every part of my life and the person I am. After many late night thoughts about this, I do believe that diabetes has helped shaped me into being someone I’m proud to be. I’m not sure what I would be like and what my passions would be without diabetes, and I’m not sure I would want to find out. This was the life I was given, and I’m both happy and grateful to be living it.