My friends and I looked forward to the YMCA dances that would take place twice a month. We would try on outfit after outfit for each other until we would find the perfect one. I would beg my mother to buy me something that was name brand, Tommy Hilfiger, Abercrombie & Fitch, or Calvin Klein. Labels on my clothes meant acceptance to me as a teenager. We would wait patiently in our girl’s group for the 2-hour dance to be asked by a guy if we would like to dance. I wanted to look, act, and talk like my friends; but now that I had a chronic illness that started with the word “DIE”…would I stick out like the black sheep of the group? I was afraid that I would be rejected because of that.
I remember the first time that I was asked to dance after getting diagnosed with diabetes. It was by a boy named Kyle who was tall, had dark wavy hair and just so happened to be a bit of a bad boy. I remember thinking to myself he must not care if I have diabetes. Or maybe no one had told him? I was so caught up in what he would think if he knew about my chronic illness, I wasn’t able to just enjoy a fun night with friends. Though I was thirteen at the time I was so afraid to tell any guy that I had diabetes. I was afraid that I would be rejected because of that. Years later at 25 I still struggled with it. Though I had become physically accustomed to having diabetes and going through the motions of checking my blood sugar, counting the carbohydrates at my meal, and then dosing out my insulin, and then giving myself a shot, I seemed to not have been able to accept the terms of it mentally. I had learned to adjust my life to diabetes and was even known as a diabetes advocate, but I still felt like that thirteen-year old girl on the dance floor petrified to let 12-year old Kyle know that I had diabetes.
A good friend of mine, Emily, who also has type-1 diabetes, told me it was so weird that I was hesitant to tell these guys about it when they probably already knew. She talked about having been diagnosed at seven years old and that diabetes was always a part of her. “I’m a package deal and the guy that I’m dating can take that or leave it.” She said it so matter of factly I wondered why I didn’t share her same sentiments. Maybe it was because I was diagnosed in my teen years that I remember what it was like to be Quinn with no chronic illness. For me I couldn’t figure out how to blend those two lives and struggled with it into my 20’s.
I’ve come now to a point in my life where I realize that the day I was diagnosed was the worst day of my life, but it was also the best. It was the worst because of the fear of the unknown and the exhausting thoughts of how I was going to do this all. But it was the best day of my life because diabetes has made me into the person I am today. I’m much more compassionate, I reach out to others in need quicker, I became independent and responsible for my own life, and most importantly I realized what my purpose and passion for life was early on. It took me 13 years of having diabetes to realize that having diabetes was a part of me, a package deal, as Emily would say. If a guy was interested in me, he must have to accept the terms of my illness.
My new motto to live by comes from the brilliant Brene Brown…
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy–the experience that makes us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our life.”