The New Normal: A Guest Post by Grace Dolan

Friday the Thirteenth is the most dreaded day for many people. However, when I woke up early on Friday the Thirteenth in March of 2015 to get ready for my district debate competition, I wasn’t thinking about the date. I was thinking two things:

  1. I really really have to pee.
  2. I would love to sleep for another three years.

However, since I am a really motivated person, and I was about to pee my pants, I dragged myself out of bed. I did my hair and put on my suit, as is standard for dress code for debate, and went upstairs to eat.

orange-juice

Usually, breakfast is my favorite part of my day. There are just so many great options: bagels, waffles, pancakes, eggs, and my personal favorite at that time in my life: juice. I had been drinking juice by the jug for about a month. I thought that it was just because I was going through a particularly intense breakfast phase. However, on this Friday the Thirteenth, I was not feeling hungry. I drank some juice and fell asleep on the armchair in our living room. After a few minutes, concerned with how lethargic I had become, my mom woke me up to inform me that I was not allowed to compete unless she took me to the doctor before. I nodded and fell asleep for another two hours until it was time to go to the doctor.

My recent demands to buy juice had annoyed my mom to no end. In fact, she even lectured me about how I had become a “spoiled brat” and she “had not raised me that way.” Today, I mostly ignored her in a fultile attempt to sleep. After having some blood work done at the doctor’s, I left to go to school. When it was time to leave for the competition, I was trying to convince myself that I was fine and that I didn’t need to go home, but at the competition, I did not feel well at all. I walked fast to my room where I was to compete and was out of breath when I arrived. I sat down for forty minutes before it was my turn to perform. In that time, I was drinking water like I had been stranded in the desert for forty years, having to pee like it had been hours since I had last gone, and panting like I had run a marathon. Needless to say, these symptoms seriously detracted from my ability to give a ten-minute speech. Performing, I still couldn’t catch my breath, my mouth was as dry as a desert and I was ready to pass out. All in all, it was the worst performance I have ever given.

When I tell people that I was diagnosed on Friday the Thirteenth, they usually make a comment on how Friday the Thirteenth is really unlucky. I happen to disagree. My doctor decided to rush my blood tests so I would not have to wait over the weekend. If I hadn’t received the results until Monday, I would have gotten much sicker. Being diagnosed on Friday the Thirteenth was a blessing. I was sick anyway; Friday the Thirteenth was the day I started to get better.

At the end of my three-day stay at the hospital, they sent me home with two party favors: my insulin pens. In order to eat, I have to use a pen to inject insulin into myself. Long story short, it’s a shot. The whole needle thing isn’t bad. This is my life now. I have to do it and it will be a lot easier if I am not afraid. So I am not. On top of that, you get used to it, just like every other thing in life.

In my opinion, and I think a lot of other diabetics would agree with me, diabetes is not the hard part of having diabetes. The hard part is managing it with other people. Having someone tell you about their uncle’s step-cousin with type two. Having someone who knows nothing about diabetes look over your shoulder as you’re checking your blood sugar. Having to explain to someone why you can’t try their homemade dessert. Having people look away when you inject yourself because they “just can’t stand needles” because they are at liberty to feel that way. Counting carbs, checking blood sugar, and dosing for food wouldn’t be so hard if everyone was doing it. But they’re not. And that’s just something that we have to deal with that shifts us away from the rest of the world by just a little.

Grace is wearing the Marlena bracelet from Lauren

When I was first diagnosed, my neighbor asked me if I was going to tell people or if I was going to keep it to myself. I told her that it would be too much work to keep it hidden. Quite frankly, it’s a dangerous secret to keep. No one can help you if they don’t know what is going on. It is important to build a network of people who will help you and support you. My best friend completely gets it. I can complain to her when my blood sugars are crazy or about people who ask stupid questions and she will listen and understand me. It would a lot harder to do on my own. Luckily, I don’t have to.

For me, the ultimate worst thing that you can say to a diabetic is, “I wouldn’t be able to do that.” People say this under the impression that they are complimenting us, or labeling us as heroes. In the words of Anthony Doerr, “But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”

Living with diabetes is the same as living without diabetes: we are doing what we have to do to keep ourselves alive and healthy. Now, it is just a lot harder. People keep giving me condolences that I don’t need. I appreciate some sympathy because what I’m living through is hard. But this is my life. And my life is not one that deserves other people’s pity. In the end, is there even such thing as lucky or unlucky? I think that there is just life and how we deal with it.

*Special thanks to Grace and her family! Above, Grace is wearing the Marlena bracelet from Lauren’s Hope.

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