Dear 16 year old me,
One day everything will change for you. You may not feel it now, or for a very long time in fact, but one day everything will start to get better. I promise you that.
You’ve just been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. You’re scared, angry, confused and currently you’re very much in denial about your condition. You’re hiding away from it as much as you possibly can and at the same time you’re trying to fight it, to protect yourself and your family from the way it makes you feel. It’s exhausting, isn’t it? Each day is an ever weakening battle to muster up the energy to move, to think, even to smile, but you but you carry on regardless because you don’t know what else you should do. You don’t really understand what it entails, what this diagnosis will bring, and what you do know of it has frightened you enough to make you want to run as far as you possibly can and hide from it.
I wish so very much that you could see that you don’t need to do this, any of it. I wish I could bring you here, almost 14 years on, and show you that your life will be so much kinder and rewarding if you would only take the time to talk, to listen, to share and to care more for yourself and the people who love you. By trying to hide away from the reality of life with Type 1 Diabetes you aren’t doing yourself any favours, you’re making your future (you do have a very bright future by the way) so much harder. I know it sounds harsh, I know you don’t like to think about it or hear it, but it’s true. Please love your body now, you will be so pleased you did in the years to come.
In only a few months time you will make some mistakes which, at the time, will seem like to only way to cope. You will stop taking your insulin as you should. You will stop testing your blood glucose levels. You will stop seeing your health care professionals. You will drop out of college. You will leave your friends. You will meet new people who do not care about you. You will stop caring about yourself. If only I could turn back time.
When you’re 17 you will enter into a relationship that will make you so much stronger, a fighter in fact, however, this won’t be an easy ride and you will learn to become this fighter the difficult way. If only your voice, you courage and you fight was as powerful as it is now, you may have to strength to stand up and do what is right. You may have the courage to look after yourself and your diabetes in the way that you deserve to be looked after. I wish you could see that you, and your diabetes, deserve respect and not to accept the harsh lies that you are told. When you turn 21 you will summon the strength to say “no more”. You will stand up, turn your back and you will get away. This will be a powerful moment. But by that time, those cruel words that you will hear so often about your body, injecting insulin and pricking your fingers will start to feel true. You will come to believe them. You will feel ashamed, guilty, a burden, unwanted, and you will be manipulated. You will, sadly, learn to hide your condition in order to keep another person happy. This is something that you will learn to never do again.
When you turn 25 you will have been through 9 years of dangerous routine without realising the damage you have caused to your body. You will have regular hospital admissions in which you will tell the same tale over and over again about your daily diabetes management. You will know just what health care professionals want to hear (or so you think) and you will tell them exactly that. However, what you say will be lies – you would have become an expert at lying in order to keep health care professionals happy. You will even start to believe your own lies after repeating them so often. This is one of the most unhelpful things you can do. There are some good people out there, people who can help when you are suffering. People who can educate and guide you. You’ll find these people eventually and when you’re ready you will accept their help with open arms. You’ll even become one of them! But by that time the silent, lurking, damage that neglecting your diabetes has caused would have stored up inside of you. It would be slowly growing more powerful until it is ready to raise its ugly head when you’re least expecting it and it will stop you in your tracks.
The life that you had, the fun, the games, the carefree and reckless attitude will be your downfall as you are suddenly faced with the ugly consequences of ignoring your condition for so long. You will have treatments that you had never heard of before; procedures that will turn into nightmares for years to come. You will feel more scared and guilty than you ever have and you will need some serious help to get through it. The independence that you craved when you were first diagnosed with your condition will be turned on its head as you depend on others to help you through this time. This isn’t what you wanted for yourself. You thought you were invincible, that you could beat diabetes by turning your back on it, but it came back, stamped its feet and demanded to be heard.
One day you will realise that diabetes is very similar to you – you are both very stubborn. You will smile to yourself as you think about this.
One year after being stopped in your tracks, aged 26, you will reach a new chapter in your life. This will be completely different to anything you have experienced before. It will be incredibly refreshing but it will take a lot of work; you’ll be ready for that though. All of a sudden you will realise that what doesn’t kill you does in fact make you stronger. You will stand up against the damage, the past, the cruel words, the hurt and the loss and you will, once again, find the strength to say “no more”.
You will become determined, empowered, motivated, passionate, confident, knowledgeable, proud, creative, open, honest and resilient. You will find a new and much louder voice that has been supressed for such a long time and you will make your voice heard. You will learn from your mistakes, you will take a new path and you will grow to become someone who works hard to prevent others from experiencing what you did. You will challenge yourself and others, you will question, you will learn, you will try your very hardest to understand and you will change. Yes, diabetes will change you, but it will change you for the better. You will experience even more than you ever thought possible – fantastic opportunities will come your way and you will grab them with both hands and make the most of every moment. You will work hard, harder than you ever have before and you will achieve things that without diabetes you wouldn’t be able to achieve. You will finally feel comfortable and see that you have a purpose in life. This is something that 16 year old you can’t imagine, but it will happen. You will kick butt.
I know it’s hard to look to the future when what you’re faced with right now is holding you back so much, but try to look beyond the here and now. Life moves so quickly and before you know it, you’ll be 30 years old and sat on your sofa, writing a letter to your 16 year old self. Do what you can today to make a better future for yourself. It’s absolutely worth it.