Before I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10, I had been sick for months. Not eating, downing gallons of water and soda every day, lethargic, sleeping as much as possible, peeing every 30 minutes. In the last month before diagnosis, as I rapidly lost 30 pounds (on a 5’2″ frame), multiple doctors told my mom I was doing this on purpose – losing weight on purpose – to better fit in with my new classmates. I actually had an incurable autoimmune disease but, because I was a preteen girl, multiple doctors assumed I had an eating disorder. When I was finally diagnosed – by a nurse, as I was carried into the emergency room at 4am on Thanksgiving morning – I was likely less than hours from a permanent coma or death from severe diabetic ketoacidosis.
When I broke my ankle in 3 places while hiking when I was 26, I called 911 from the trail. I told them my ankle was broken (it was visibly broken – bone at odd angles and everything). They kept on insisting it was sprained. They took an hour to find me on the trail. When the EMTs walked up – and I mean SLOWLY walked up – as soon as they saw my ankle they sprang into action. “OH SHIT. Shit. We should’ve brought you pain meds. We didn’t bring the stretcher down with us. Can you hop?” Three places. My ankle was broken in three places. And I told them that. And they didn’t listen. Continue reading “When my doctors don’t listen to my pain.”
Today marks 19 years since my type 1 diabetes diagnosis. It’s meant a lot of needles. Guesswork when my life is on the line. Lost sleep. Insurance fights and ignorant doctors. Fear. An incredible weight that threatens to break me sometimes because this thing that so deeply affects my life and my well-being and my future is never going away.
But it’s also meant resilience. Empathy. Learning how to shine my light brighter for myself and others. Understanding the strength of my voice. Learning how to fight harder because, in so many cases, our lives depend on it. A deeper faith in myself and those who care for me. Having people in my life who seek to protect me in ways humans don’t typically have to do for one another.
But mostly, it’s meant learning that type 1 diabetes – that having a chronic illness – doesn’t define who I am. Continue reading “19 years.”
Disclaimer: There’s a picture further down in this post that isn’t quite NSFW, but it might make you blush. It is of me. I don’t share it to be sexual, but so that you can have a better understanding of these things I wear on my body every day. After so long in the medical system I see my body as just that – a body. It’s been poked and prodded and treated like a medical experiment by me and by medical professionals. After a while of being sick, you start to see your body as separate from yourself. That said, if you don’t want to see a picture of my backside, don’t scroll all the way down. The non-backside including pic is directly below.
Invisible illness is a phrase thrown around in the chronic illness community a lot – it is a simple representation of a reality we live with every day.
These diseases we manage, no matter their weight, are hidden from most. On one hand it’s really great – I am privileged to not get pittying looks from strangers, I enjoy full mobility, and for the most part – unless I’m having a particularly rough day or purposely showing or talking about what I’m going through, no one will ever know that my body has been waging war on itself since I was 10. Continue reading “I hide my sickness from myself.”