Diabetic & Me

Balancing Life with T1D

Drea Vail

Everyone that I grew up with seemed to live the same life, with the same happy family and suburban home. My house looked like theirs, but I quickly realized the inside of it felt much different. My dad was diagnosed with Leukemia when I was 6 months old and he died when I was four. I don’t really know anything about him. I only know a feeling that he gave me: love and security. I still feel that in some things and I think it’s him letting me know I’m gonna be alright.

My mom had a tough childhood that she projected in a really hurtful way. When my dad died, she turned to alcohol. She abused us physically and emotionally and we were eventually homeless. But she also had a lot of beauty. When she was sober, she would show me the most beautiful music, the most magical places, and the most love I had ever known. And now, I always try to project that love onto the rest of my life.

I became a perfectionist quick- involved in every sport and organization at my school and always making sure I achieved more than I did the day before. I’ve loved sports from a young age and was consumed by the thought of being the best at everything I was involved in; because excelling in athletics and academics allowed me to receive scholarships to afford college.

Life was moving past the darkness I had experienced a young age… then at 19 I got sick. This was not a “damn my throat hurts” kinda sick. I literally could not hydrate myself, no matter how much water I drank. I would sleep for almost a day straight and still not be able to move. I was eating more food than I can remember, yet lost 20 pounds in a few months. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. But I never had health insurance growing up, so I really pushed it aside until I almost went into a coma. I was sent to the ER and told I have Type One Diabetes.  My first thought was that I was lucky I was on Medicaid at the time, because I am damn grateful my body waited until I was out of such a dark place, a place where I literally would have never had the money to see a doctor who saved my life. So they shoved in all the information they could give me in a week in the ICU about my new life where I have to perform the duties of  a fully functioning, vital organ for myself.

“I like to think of this as the day I got a second chance to live, the day I almost died but was given another chance.”

It’s been three and a half years and I have struggled with an eating disorder, abusing alcohol and weed, self harm, life threatening low and high blood sugars, affording medication I die in days without, and most of all being as active and happy as I once was. Absolutely any activity can and will affect your blood sugar levels, which affects how you feel, and at many times is life threatening, and there is no off switch, ever. For the longest time, all I wanted was to numb the pain, to not experience anything because absolutely any experience, even sleeping or taking a shower, now has to be adjusted for if I want to survive. But as time goes on, I realize I was allowing myself to miss out on all the love in the world, because I was so scared of this new life. 

So I made a decision to adjust my mindset. In this mindset, I think it will all be okay. When I experience the scary moments, I think this helps me grow stronger and closer to a balance and when I find more of a balance, I find myself more at peace. 

Everyday, I continue to rein in the extremes of my life. The closer I get to the middle, the more beautiful it becomes. I am still me. I do not need to mourn the girl I was before diabetes. 

I am still someone who loves regardless. I am still someone that finds joy regardless. I am still someone that finds a lesson in the darkness and hope in the light. I know I will experience life again, without diabetes controlling me, as long as I continue moving forward. If I I never try, knowing I will mess up, I’ll never learn how to get better. I know that there will be bad moments, but I know that I will manage them, use them as a lesson forward, and adjust. I think that is the only way I can continue living. The reality is you won’t experience anything, if all you’re trying to do is experience the good. I am learning that I need to trust in myself and believe. The highs and lows are all a lesson of how to do this better next time. I will make it through this.

Drea Vail

The world will constantly be full of highs and lows, whether they’re on a blood sugar graph, in the crazy mood swings from diabetes, the complications of highs or the days I feel like I am invincible; whether it is outside of myself- in relationships, with finding a career that fits me, or a city I love to be in; whether it is with my family, with me learning how to still have love for my mom, despite what she’s done, or how to miss my dad, but still live my life. The never ending evil of politicians, the greed of Insulin companies, the stockholders, the world that profits off people’s vulnerability… but I see hope there too. I see hope in the frustrated diabetics, who have access to health insurance and can kind of, somewhat make it by when they dedicate their lives just to afford to be alive; I see hope in their anger, I find peace in their resilience as they stand for those who have lost their lives from the inaccessibility of insulin, of monitoring systems, of mental health support- just so a CEO can have so much money they’ll never even get to spend it all. I see them become advocates, voices for a future generation that will live a little more free because they do not give up. 

I see the world at odds in all ways. Access to insulin is another example of the evils that kill so many whether it is through discrimination, racism, homophobia, sexism, classism- that list can go on. But I see people all over who use their anger and channel their oppression to stand against the brutal way so many lose their lives to plain evil. I see them create joy with their pain, art with the rain. We all rein in the highs and lows everyday, trying to strike a balance that we might not even see occur; but we never give up in hopes of making the next day brighter, in hopes of showing the world that caring for others is always the path to take, that extending love and help to others and ourselves will make us all better.

Because there will always be highs and lows with forgiving myself for the million decisions we must make everyday as diabetics to stay alive and function in a world that seems to not fit us. Because there will always be highs and lows in life. So to anyone struggling with whatever it may be, hold on to what makes you comforted through the roller coaster of hope and fear. 

I have decided to let diabetes make me try to experience more joy and channel my fear and anger into hope of a happier day. 

“Because despite it all..
We’re not going to stop moving forward.
We’re not going to stop, regardless of the pain and fear, the hope and tears.
No matter the highs and lows, we got this.
We’re gonna be alright.”

Drea Vail

Text written by Drea Vail

Hi! I’m Drea, born and raised in Denver and diagnosed 3.5 years ago, at age 19. I love writing, traveling, meeting new people, sports, and the outdoors. I especially love interacting with the T1 community!

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