My name is Lee and I have diabetes. I was diagnosed 1 day before my 30th birthday, after spending the last 6 years trying to so hard to evade, what feels like to me, a death sentence. My mom has diabetes. My dad has diabetes. Many of my aunts and uncles do. One of my grandmothers did too. There are likely undiagnosed folks in my family who never go to the doctor. The genetic marker is pretty strong and perversave in my family. And yet, getting this diagnosis left me with feelings of extreme guilt, failure, and self loathing. I was literally disgusted with myself and still struggle with these feelings, although with food, being more active, and small dosage of meds, have managed to get my numbers into normal ranges for non diabetics. And I feel the need to explain all of that to you, so you don’t think I’m a failure or disgusting too. Which disgusts me even more. I am overweight. I have been for awhile. I haven’t been in what doctors describe as normal weight ranges for my height since I was 17 or 18. I have lost weight, but losing weight is difficult for me. I am pretty active, I eat well 65-75% of the time, and so simply changing those things, without dramatic changes, makes it harder for me to tip the scale. I could definitely do better (oh shit, there goes my self loathing trying to explain to you so you don’t judge me). To lose weight, I need to dramatically change my diet, workout sooo much, and I have done this a couple times… And passed out or almost passed out a couple times. My doctor at the time, who has been my favorite doctor ever, and the first to ever tell me this, told me that maybe my body was happy at then 191 lbs (after passing out and injuring my knee, which meant less intense exercise & fighting depression/anxiety, I put on 20 lbs and was devastated, so I went to see her) and that I should learn to accept me. Maybe for once in my life not think about food or dieting. At that time, I did not have diabetes. I was pre-diabetic, 5 years earlier, but had completely turned that shit around. I was stunned at her suggestion, every doctor before her had treated me as a walking case of disease. I wasn’t sure what to do with that info and to be honest, was still completely scared of gaining weight and diabetes. Fast forward to a move to Wisconsin 1.5 years later, and I’m sitting in a doctor’s office hearing that my A1C is just barely over the marker at 6.6 and I’m diabetic. I felt the warm rush of shame over me and felt the heaviness and largeness of my belly, the jiggle of my arms, and the enormity of what I must do to overcome this. I was exhausted. The doctor was amazing. She was reassuring. And so kind. But I was just so mad at myself. Let’s stop here. Maybe you’re struggling to understand why this had such an impact on me. So I’m going to explain. “Diabetes” is a marker for the overweight woman who tries to love herself. It’s ok to love yourself, so long as you’re healthy, and also let’s not forget that weight automatically makes you unhealthy in everyone’s eyes. Doctors have spent many an appointment blaming any illness you have on weight. I also watched my mother’s struggles with weight and diabetes. How I was afraid I would lose her so many times. How she was mistreated and abused, and I vowed to never be that way whether it was consciously or not. And here I am, diabetic and a bit overweight, and with a touch of self loathing. Despite all my efforts – being strong physically and mentally, that I do workout, I walk everywhere, that I can keep my numbers under control – that all people will see is a failure who got diabetes. Similarly, how people blame people for having certain mental illnesses, I see people doing that with Diabetes, especially type 2, and I have internalized these messages. I’m not proud. But it helps me understand where these feelings come from and deal with them. Wanna know something heartbreaking? If you Google depression or shame and diabetes, you will find tons of articles and support groups about these two co-occurring diagnoses. When I first was diagnosed I searched for this support. I needed to know I was not alone. And so many people carry the shame of the diagnosis. We know when people ask “type 1 or 2” they are sizing us up to see if it was our fault or not. People live in secrecy and tell no one (one of my tactics) for fear of judgement. And then if you already struggle with body image and/or weight loss, there is an additional complexity in that relationship. The added pressure of judging every bite into your mouth adds an additional element of self deprecation. Every person who loses weight and you cannot seem to budge the scale adds another layer of shame. Every fat shamer on body positive websites who states you are promoting obesity, heart disease and diabetes. And I can see why people give up altogether on managing it; this is exhausting. I, myself, have not stepped into a gym in 2 weeks. Sure, I’m still averaging 3-4 miles of walking each day, lifting heavy things, went to a kickboxing class, running, and my blood sugar levels are doing great. Fall is here, so my running season is about to pick up. But I am feeling the shame. Everyone around me seems to be dropping pounds and everyone celebrates that. But losing weight is increasingly becoming harder for me. No one is gonna celebrate that “hey, I’ve not lost a pound, despite lots of attempts, but my blood sugar levels are normal and I’m healthy, despite being my heaviest!” Someone, somewhere will try to give me weight loss tips, further reinforcing my fear that is what is important, reminding me of failure. But perhaps, someone somewhere, will also be inspired. And begin to come to grips with that you can truly be healthy at any size. And larger bodies can run and move and play. And even if you do get a disease, it doesn’t mean it is your fault, and you may manage it wonderfully, and still have a larger body. And that’s ok. Cause that is where I hope I’m headed. And so for that reason I say, “hey, I’ve not lost a pound, despite lots of attempts, but my blood sugar levels are normal and I’m healthy, despite being my heaviest!”
Traveled to Myrtle Beach
Fell in Love
Traveled to Wisconsin
Traveled to SeaTac
Gained 20 pounds
Passed out at an Airport (Sorry mom nothing serious! lol)
Fell out of Love
Broke Someone’s Heart
Finally Admitted To Myself that My Heart was Broken
Traveled to Fort Lauderdale
Traveled to Chicago
Traveled to Indianapolis
Partially Realized my own Worth
Traveled to Southern California
Traveled to NYC
Traveled to D.C.
Added my Mom on Facebook
Saw Bruno Mars
Became Emotionally Invested
Saw The Suffers
Broke Someone’s Heart, again 😦
Realized Life is Precious
Even though it’s only the beginning of October, this year has been one of the best years of my life. I love to enjoy these thoughts in the moment, because who knows what will happen tomorrow. In regards to these memories, there are definitely more events that have happened, but I think these outline the milestones of my year. Some of these have very detailed stories behind them and maybe one day I’ll share their details, but for right now I’ll just let you ponder.
I have dozens of times a day where I stare at my phone, computer, and most importantly, other people with a blank stare, because I did not send for them, and yet, they came for me (or someone I love).
The one thing people keep coming for me is around being single and having the audacity to desire a romantic relationship; and GET THIS, actually actively work towards having one. Oh, and then when I get dumped, ghosted, catfished, or another date goes horribly wrong, most times, I actually feel some type of way about it – sad, angry, upset, disappointed, despair, and a little hopeless about my love life. You know, normal shit when your heart breaks or cracks a little, normal HUMAN emotions, that all humans feel, or so I thought. Because apparently, you’re not allowed to feel these things, or should let the dust fall off your shoulder, because if not, that is indicative of the fact that you haven’t spending enough time working on myself, focusing on my career, and loving myself.
Maybe you’re confused about what I mean here, because I did just kind of ramble off a bunch of thoughts. I’m talking about whenever you communicate your desire to have a partner, frustrations with the process, and wanting to be loved by a romantic person in your life, people hit you with well-meaning cliches that insinuate your lack of self-awareness and growth. Things like:
“You really should take this time to focus on yourself and grow, so you can be ready for him.”
“This time in your life should be focused on your career/education/financial/health/physical growth, not a man.”
“You can’t expect anyone to love you until you love yourself.”
“Maybe the universe/God/Buddha/Allah/the Saints are telling you that you are not ready, you need to do more work on yourself.”
“Fix yourself first.”
Fine. Whatever. Good advice in its own right. You SHOULD always be focusing on yourself and growing, EVEN when you’re in a relationship. And sure, there are some people who are not ready for a relationship for all kinds of reasons. However, what you’re not going to do (or shouldn’t do) is ASSUME this is true for everyone, including myself. Hardly any of my gorgeous, handsome, talented, intelligent friends are sitting at home solely focused on a mate, not pursuing or haven’t pursued further education, not thinking about and improving at least one of the three types of health – spiritual, physical or mental, skipping work, and not going out, or only doing those things to catch a partner. NOT ONE.
And I know myself the best, so I’ll share about myself. I workout, I have been in therapy to better understand the supposed brokeness that folks have said I needed to fix before a relationship (still not fixed, btw, but improving and will be lifelong), I have a masters degree and a great job, and am always looking to grow my career and have moved 3 times in the past 5 years to pursue my dreams with no thought of not taking a job because the dating pool is hella small in upstate NY or Wisconsin. I strive for excellence in my job and am always looking for ways to grow (I guess I’m kinda working on the professional thing). I travel. I go out with friends. I go see friends and enjoy laughing with them. I do things alone – anything I want to do! I spend time reading and writing. I think about my spiritual self and where I want to go with that and how (still figuring that out, but lots of work being done there). I cook, craft, bake, and write, aka I have hobbies. I leave my house often. I meal prep, take my meds, read about ways to improve my health and take actionable steps. In other words, I am working on my damn self and have done a helluva lot of work on me. Me 5 years ago, is dramatically differently than me today, and this is wholly positive. I have learned lessons from prior relationships and heartaches, and I know what I want, need, and deserve from love. I am not looking for anyone to complete me, but rather complement me, which is a big lesson we all could learn. I still have my challenges and areas of growth. But guess what? I could work on myself for 30 more years and I promise, will STILL have those. Working on yourself, loving yourself, that is not mutually exclusive with wanting a partner and dating and loving them. They are two processes that inform each other at times, yes, and perhaps you need some baseline of self-efficacy to not be co-dependent, but they are not mutually exclusive.
One thing that I will share is that those phrases I listed above hurt, and at the very least, annoy people. For a long time, I carried a belief I was so inherently flawed, that no one could love me. Some of this was due to a history of trauma. And I worked and still work really hard to not allow that trauma rule my life, and especially my love life. The work I continue to put into myself around this is one of my greatest personal accomplishments. I am so very proud of myself (another post, another time). And when people say to me, “perhaps you should work on yourself first, instead of seeking a partner,” all I hear is that the work I have done is not good enough, that my flaws will always be too big for romantic love. Maybe you think that is dramatic or indicative of my own issues, but I’d ask you all to consider that before you say that to someone. You have no idea how much work people have put and are putting into themselves to make themselves better. To tell someone when they talk about the very real and very human frustrations of modern day dating and the human desire to have love, that they should “use this time to work on themselves instead” is to say to someone, “you are not good enough as you are. You must be perfect to be loved,” which ultimately denies them their humanity.
So, please miss me with the fix yourself first BS.
Dear future partner,
I feel I have to apologize already and odds are I haven’t even met you. I apologize for the walls you are going to have to get through, as I feel myself building them even as I write this. It’s a protective measure. My soul, at this point, cannot handle the idea of someone not being you. And so the fortress is being built around my heart quicker than I can even try to tear it down.
People always said this would happen. That I was one more bad heartbreak from giving up altogether. I don’t know if I’ve reached the absolute end of my rope yet. I still have a slight case of hope the bubbles up occasionally. But I feel it dwindling fast. And while I still have a slight grip on the rope, I can feel the frayed ends close by. I’m trying to hold on…but it’s hard.
Here is a list of things I’m not sure of as it pertains to you:
1. If you actually exist.
2. If you will be willing to break through the barrier.
3. What parts you’ll even come with now.
4. If I’ll recognize you when you show up.
5. If I deserve it anyways.
So I don’t know where this is going. Maybe it’s less of an apology and more of a warning. I know it will be hard. I know it will be difficult. I know it might not seem worth it. I know you’ll consider walking away.
I don’t know if this will go away. I don’t know how high the walls will grow.
I know I feel as if you are getting a broken version of what you deserve. Of what was once there. Before I only felt cracked. These days I feel destroyed. It comes and goes. I know I should work on glueing myself together so that I can be whole whenever you do show up. I know I’ve started, but it’s a lot easier said than done. I know I shouldn’t be so concerned about your lack of presence and that I should “wait on Jesus.”
I’m sorry for being broken. I’m sorry for being a mess. I’m sorry for trying to make all of these other people you, when they weren’t you, and so now I’m holding it against you. I’m sorry for apologizing so much. I’m sorry for the walls. I’m sorry.
I can’t promise much. I promise it’ll be tough. I promise it’ll suck. I promise I will try to help you tear the walls down. I promise though, that if you succeed, I will love your fiercely and completely and with all my tiny broken pieces.
I’m sorry for the rambling…
Ok if you haven’t figured this out already, I am kind of a music head…kind of and I just like sharing music with others. Most of the time my tastes don’t line up with whoever I’m sharing stuff with because I try to push the envelope to get people to open up their mind to different styles.
One of my favorite new releases of the year!
Leikeli hails from New York and dons a ski mask pretty much 24/7 making her that more interesting to me. She’s so creative, and I can guarantee you that you’ve never heard anyone like her in todays rap game. “Wash & Set” is an awesome piece of work. You can tell Leikeli is all about loving the skin she’s in, being a woman and being f**king unapologetic about it.
Tracks to make sure you check out:
“Braids tuh’da flo(w)”
“Wash & Set”
The soft silk of hope
Drapes my heart
Like fresh sheets on bare legs
wrapped in the scent of cautious optimism,
Like the subtle scent of your favorite detergent.
As the sunrises, reminders of new days and
New beginnings, fill your soul.
And just like how you forget and then remember how
the faintness of soft, clean fabric
feels like a breath of fresh air;
Gentle and coy,
Such is the first touch of fragile hope.
Photo credit: David Mao