I’m Not Dead Yet: An Ode to Type 1 Diabetes

Tomorrow begins National Diabetes Awareness month. In an effort to be more engaged this November, I’ve challenged myself to share some of my life with diabetes in hopes that it’ll be helpful, or at least provide comic relief, to others living with the disease and just as importantly, to the people that support, care for, and live along side those of us with Type One.

For those of you that don’t know, or have felt too awkward to ask, I was diagnosed with Type One (Juvenile) Diabetes at the age of 3 (we’ll revisit the name change later). Type One Diabetes is not a sometimes thing. It does not come and go, you can’t just wander off and come back to it later. It is literally your body, trying to kill you, constantly.

If you think that’s dramatic, I’ll outline it for you. A normal body produces insulin in the pancreas. Insulin breaks down sugar in food and regulates blood sugar so that your body can function at a constant, level base of energy. Diabetes is when your autoimmune system attacks the beta cells in your pancreas, killing them, and therefore shutting down insulin production.

This results in transforming that automatic, internal process into a manual external process regulated by very expensive medication, technology and lots and lots of apple juice. You give yourself too much insulin? You can die. You forget to give yourself insulin and eat a piece of cake and then go about your life pretending like you don’t actually have diabetes? You’re gonna die. Your life saving technology, that you depend on to keep you alive via a constant drip of insulin, malfunctions and you can’t tell until your blood sugar is already dangerously high? That can kill you too.

In life with diabetes, there’s a never ending stream of possible medical calamities that can occur at any time. Every day, I fight with my body, simultaneously wanting to punch it in the throat and coax it, like a scared bunny, into cooperation. That’s freaking stressful. So I make jokes. My boyfriend, always at the ready to take immediate helpful action in a medical emergency, asks almost every time if I’m doing ok after things have settled down. And I always say, “Well, I’m not dead yet.”

He doesn’t think it’s funny.

But I do. Because COME ON. Until recently, Type One was called “Juvenile” Diabetes BECAUSE ALMOST EVERYBODY DIED BEFORE THEY BECAME ADULTS. Until about 2 years ago, it was considered common knowledge that individuals with Type One had an average life span 7 years shorter than a regular person. I made a joke to my mom once, when I was running cross country, that runners had an average lifespan of 7 years longer than a regular person – so I was well on my way to leveling out my odds to a regular ole 82 years.

She didn’t think it was funny.

But I did. Because the easiest way to convince yourself that your life isn’t a terrible black hole of medical doom, is to keep a positive attitude. Some people do that by trying every new piece of Diabetic technology on the market. Some cope by never, ever being out of control. I’m not very tech savvy, and I’m a little bit too much of a wild card to have the level of militant control I probably should have. That’s just honesty. But making slightly off color jokes about my possibly dire situations is what keeps the light switch flipped for me.

So, if you’re interested in learning more about coping, living, and succeeding in life with Type One Diabetes, I encourage you to look out for more posts from me in the coming month. If you’re interested in learning more about Type One Diabetes in general, research efforts towards a cure, or are looking for resources to help yourself or a loved one, please visit JDRF.org .

And, if you are someone like me, locked in a constant battle with your Diabetes – Hey, you’re not dead yet. Good job.

Best,

Hannah

PS – Shout out to my mom and Kyle for loving me enough to NOT laugh at my morbid jokes. But maybe just a chuckle?

Grieve When

Grief is not relatable. It is not on or off, black or white, good or bad. It is necessary, but sometimes not. We all do it differently. Some with great outward displays, some quietly as days go bad. A flash bang, a quiet ache, a nagging sense your universe is off kilter. They are all equal and right and difficult.

Grief is not like anger or joy, which can be derived from many things unrelated and shared among others. We may experience the same loss, in exactly the same manner and have no concept of how the other is grieving. Because grief is not love, freely given to heal and comfort. We can give love and offer comfort and provide no relief.

So, grieve when. Grieve when you are sad they’re gone. Grieve when  you are happy they were there. Grieve when you see the picture, wear the shirt, read the prayer that touches your soul as they did. Grieve when you can and when you must.

Grieve when.

The Perfect Sale

My dad is a salesman. By occupation, but also by nature. Some salesmen, I’ve come to find, are doggedly determined and border on obnoxious. Some, ensnare you in their net and before you know it, you’ve bought what they’re selling and you feel you’ve made a best friend. Terry is most definitely the second.

For over twenty years, my dad has been cultivating his perfect sale. Sometime around my brother’s birth, he created a brand in his head. Your brand is your people and his brand was going to be self-assured, intelligent, inquisitive and humorous. They would find sport and hobby in constructive places, and most importantly they would be “good people”.

Now, before you think I’m the most egotistical asshole ever, recognize that a brand is built. To build the brand, you have to believe in it and convince others to buy into your vision. Since the day we were born, my dad has been selling my brother and I on his brand.

I don’t ever remember a time thinking that I couldn’t do or wasn’t smart or good enough to do something or that the Glass Ceiling or the Man or Jesus himself would prevent me from completing what I set out to accomplish. If you try hard enough, work hard enough and plan hard enough, you are capable of doing anything you set your mind to. So says the brand of Terry, and therefore so says the voice in my head.

Obviously, there have been slip-ups and mishaps along the way. I am human and so is he. But the message has never wavered. I still vividly remember being dropped off at elementary school and he’d say, “Be a star! I love you!” He said the same thing the first day of my real world job and I’m sure he’ll say it at every next step in my life.

After more than twenty years of buying what he’s selling, I have to say, my dad is a pretty damn good salesman. And an even better dad.

A Part of the Problem

Yesterday, I read the Rolling Stone article about Rape Culture at the University of Virginia. I had been reluctant to read it (remember this) and finally got around to it last night. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend doing so.

It was, as I had expected, God awful. But what disturbed me even more than the events detailed was that I was largely unsurprised. I should have been horrified but my reaction was closer to, “Damn. Another one.”

I have not been raped. I made it through my three years of college with no negative sexual experiences at school or at home. However, I personally know several girls who have been. I didn’t attend UVA, but that doesn’t really matter. I advocate for counseling and reporting to the police and standing up to people who victim blame. But in my pursuit of reading response articles and letters to the Rolling Stone article, I came across one that horrified me. (http://www.the-declaration.org/?p=3329) I’ll be honest in that I read it because I trust the Facebook friend who posted it and that I know nothing about the author. But I know her opening line to be true:

Allow me to posit an argument: there is no such thing as “rape culture.” To assume that “rape culture” exists as an other outside of “normal culture,” is to ignore history, to ignore your lived-in world.

I was horrified not because she had been raped, or because you can hear her distrust and anger, but because she made me part of the problem.

I read several response articles and letters since I finished the Rolling Stone article. I was hungry for the reaction of my peers and the UVA community. But Rebecca’s article made me step back to examine my reaction. I had been hesitant to read the original article because I already knew, to a large extent, what it said. For a moment I even thought, “Man I wish those girls would report their experiences to the police”.

And then I thought, NO.

Because that train of thinking is part of the problem. Victim blaming doesn’t stop when you offer counseling. It stops when you adjust your advocacy to the problem and not the reaction.

“Change your thoughts and you change your world”- Norman Vincent Peale

So, in addition to supporting counseling and standing up to victim blaming, I’m going start my censure with myself.

If you are a victim of sexual assault and in need of help, please call the National Sexual Assault help line:

1.800.656.HOPE

Just Hold On

I want you to know, you’re not alone.

This summer, my dad and I were driving through rural Wisconsin, listening to a NPR segment on how sometimes when you travel, timing can go “just exactly wrong”. He travels extensively, and I have a recently cemented belief in karmic timing-so we began to think of all the times in our lives where things have gone perfectly awry.

Some were funny, or situations where we had caught just the right break. Some weren’t. He missed being in Manhattan on 9/11 by hours. I lugged groceries right past the guy that had just murdered a police officer my freshman year at college. Divine intervention, guardian angels, good karma: the end results have been in our favor no matter what you want to attribute them to.

That being said, it’s hard to explain exactly how we feel when tragedy enters our life. Perhaps it is because tragedy is such a broad word. Is it massive and catastrophic or singularly personal? Is it internal or external? Man made or a force of nature? Some times, it’s all of these in one.

And sometimes, our greatest tragedy stems from our own head. Our heads tell us that we’re alone and we won’t ever find a better place, more solid ground, or even one person who cares.

That’s not true.

If you don’t believe in an all loving god, that’s ok. If you don’t think karma exists, that’s ok. If you can’t accept that there’s some power in the universe looking out for you, that is ok. But know this: there are more people rooting for you than you could ever know. There are people everywhere that just want you to find a light, any light that will show you there’s more, just around the corner.

You are not alone. Somewhere, be it in the universe or next door, somebody is sending good thoughts your way, hoping you get them. Just know, if you hold on, your life is about to go perfectly awry exactly when you need it to.

We Are, Virginia Tech.

Today, and everyday, I am a Hokie. Today, and every day, we are Virginia Tech. Today we remember the tragedy that many define us by.

What no one but a Hokie can understand is that we will never be defined by the action of one of us, but by the reaction of all of us.

We are a community unlike any other. As Nikki Giovanni said, no one deserves a tragedy and we pray everyday that no other school, community, family, will endure the tragedies we have. However, we do not dictate the tragedies in our lives and I pray that for every one that occurs, that family can gather strength and hope from the example of the Hokie Nation.

Today, and every day, we live for those we’ve lost. Today, we celebrate their lives by being the community they helped to create.

We are, Virginia Tech. 

The Next Five Years.

The next five years is something you think a lot about when you’re in your twenties.

Five years from now I’ll be…

Five years from now I’ll have…

Five years from now I’ll be doing…

As you prepare for interviews and grad school applications you think: what is my five year plan? Where do I see myself professionally in five years? Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones that has a clear picture of what five years from now looks like. Maybe, like me, there’s so many possibilities for the future your five year plan changes like a kaleidoscope. Each possibility is as beautiful and unique and slightly off putting as the last and you could never choose just one.

Five years from now I’ll be happy.

Five years from now I’ll have friends and family that support and love me as much as I support and love them.

Five years from now I’ll be doing as much as possible to inspire my dreams.

My five year plan doesn’t particularly inspire love in the heart of any employer. But it should. Because a woman motivated to succeed by the things closest to her heart is the most likely to go above and beyond. In a world where employment is difficult to come across and you’re never quite “qualified”, you’re expected to make sacrifices. Priorities are expected to be the job first and everything else second. Some might argue that companies are trending towards more family friendly, or a more holistic life approach. Some might be. But if that was really the case the interview question wouldn’t be, “Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?” It would be, “Tell me what you want out of your life in the next five years?” Because what you want out of life speaks to your values and your motivations. In the end is it better to be an exclusively dedicated employee or an excellent person five years from now?

 

Home

As a person living continually in transition, going back to my childhood neighborhood holds a unique position in my heart. As we return older and less frequently, the changes become more noticeable. We’re no longer the group that holds that spot, the people who run that place, the kids who have annoying yet cute tag alongs. There’re strangers in our booth, and our tag alongs somehow became the people we used to be. There’s a special grief that accompanies every trip home, every change noted. It’s not the sweet sorrow of losing a loved one after a full life. It’s not the sharp, lost grief we experience upon a sudden and tragic loss of a friend. But for some reason, our mellow, nostalgic feelings have a keen sense of loss lurking just behind them.

Perhaps it’s because we really aren’t that far removed. It’s only been a handful of years since we were right there. But it could also be that even when we’re right back there, we can’t find the us that ruled that spot with such confidence. Every time we return we look anxiously for ourselves and our totally awesome group of friends. For our slice of heaven that was consumed so willingly with angst and drama and a ridiculous sense of hard won freedom. And in our place we find new kids, with new traditions and a new outlook on trouble and angst.

They don’t fit quite right into the us shaped hole, and even though we laugh about it, we know we’ve lost that unique hold on home. A sure sign it’s time to move on and become a new us. Whether it’s just down the street or states away, it’s time to search for someone else’s nostalgic hole to fill.

An Alternative View to Raising Minimum Wage

My opinion of the minimum wage is this: nobody can live on minimum wage. However, I also believe that a lot of minimum wage jobs like working at fast food restaurants were designed with teenagers in mind. They were made for people that didn’t need to support themselves off their wages. There was a time in the United States when the majority of people could get jobs that didn’t require college degrees and make a perfectly fine life for themselves. Sadly, many of the skilled labor jobs have disappeared. That leaves us, as a nation, with the idea that we must obtain a college education to succeed. According to a College Board survey, the average cost PER YEAR of a college education at a 4-year, public, in state school is $22,826. Private schools median cost PER YEAR, $44,750. College Board was smart and included room and board, tuition, meal plans and “added fees” to their cost estimates so it gives a fairly well rounded view. What’s crucial is this: starting college in 2013 and assuming it takes you 8 semesters to graduate, you will pay an estimated $91,448 for your education. And that’s only if you have access and can gain admittance to a public, in state school. The median income for U.S. households in 2011 was $50,054, varying widely dependent on what state you live in. So perhaps rather than upping the minimum wage by some $5/hr like some states are debating, we should work on a way to lower the cost of education and present Americans with the opportunity to acquire the skills our nation demands they have.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” -Ben Franklin

(If you were wondering, it would take almost 13,000 hours for someone working a minimum wage job to pay for 4 years at a public school, assuming they were only taxed 6% and 100% of their income went to school.)

The Problem With Not Having Any Problems

The problem with being twenty-odd years old in 2014 is that you get invitations to things like “Hash-tag Inspired Art Show” and you’re expected to take it seriously. Meanwhile, you’re paying $20,000+ a year to go to college to be unemployable because nobody wants to hire a person that is even slightly related to a generation that has spawned “Hash-tag Art”. The issue with this is that we can’t blame them because, well, we wouldn’t hire us either. So, we are the problem. Well that’s ridiculous. We’re nice enough people with some semi-employable skills which means it can’t possibly be us. Which means the problem is, we don’t have any problems. “The Struggle”, as seen by us, is being so hungover at IHOP you end up crying when your hash browns come.

We’ve all been there. But I’ve never been so motivated by a hangover nor hash browns as to change my life perspective.

As it is, the biggest obstacle to our twenty-something inspired, mostly sane dreams, is us. Which is ok, because for the most part we dream of pretty mundane things. We are the most reasonable group of unreasonable people that have ever been, so once we figure out who the problem is we’ll be setting the world on #fire.