Brigid Locke Photography
Growing up, I felt I had a perfect life. I was a kid who loved having fun with not a worry in the world; I was enjoying time with my friends and family. All of a sudden, reality took a harsh turn. On June 4, 2010, I was a seven-year-old boy diagnosed with Type One Diabetes. Laying in a hospital bed, seeing my mother cry because of words I couldn’t even understand, was confusing for me.
All throughout the stay at the hospital, I was called brave and strong, but in reality, I didn’t understand what was going on. When I was discharged, it was incredibly hard to get used to this new life of mine. I had to grow up incredibly fast at such a young age. I have parents who work long hours, so I needed to learn how to inject myself with needles and take care of myself. This new normal became a routine, and I got used to being myself and my classmates and friends treated me normal, since I was a kid. At the time, I was the only one who thought differently of myself.
As life kept moving forward and I was growing older, I would feel sometimes embarrassed in school meeting my new teachers and having to explain to them that at the end of each day, I would have to leave class early and check-in with the nurse before lunch as well as at the end of the day to make sure my sugar levels were in check. I would feel silently judged by both my teachers and my classmates. This feeling grew within me both inside and outside of school, feeling judged and getting weird looks from people. This is due mostly because of the pump that I keep on the side of my pants.
Many nicknames have surfaced for my metal pancreas: “iPod,” “Radio,” and “Fitbit,” are my personal favorites. Something that I have learned throughout the years is that I am going to get made fun of, it was unavoidable having to laugh off the jokes and name calling was easy during my younger years. But nothing could have prepared me for what came in high school.
High school has been tough. There has been a lot of stress on my shoulders regarding schoolwork and athletics. On top of all that, classmates would constantly push me around with words that I would have to laugh off throughout the day. Wearing two masks, trying not to seem weak, I had to take what people would give me. It was hard for me to want to come to school knowing how my day would play out. I just had to push through it and try my hardest to ignore what people would say to me, but it was near impossible. There would be things that people say that would make me just feel less of a human because of the chosen words chosen that had to do with my disease–proving that people see me as nothing more than a diabetic. Words that would keep me up late at night wondering “why me?” and what did I as a seven-year-old kid due to deserve a lifelong disease.
Since diabetes has been a major part of my life and taught me independence at such a young age, I kept a lot of emotions and feelings to myself. I also distanced myself from others a lot, not wanting anyone to feel obligated to have to care about me. A mentality of “my problems are my problems, no one else’s.” Not my friends, not my family’s, not anyone’s. Dealing with my diabetes alongside school, hockey, and social life, put me in a deep hole in my life where I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
All the hard work and sacrifices my parents have put into being able to pay for all my doctor visits, medical supplies, and other extracurricular payments would have me up late at night wondering whether it was worth it to keep pushing forward. In my head, it seemed so much easier on everyone and my family if I wasn’t here to mess everything up. Financially, it just made sense to me. More money saved, more time off, and less worrying about a kid who has a robot pumping insulin into his body 24/7.
Luckily for me, I have pulled it together and recognized that is not the best option, for anyone. Yet thoughts can come back, it’s inevitable. It’s hard to climb a mountain that seems to keep growing in front of your eyes, and sometimes hope can feel nonexistent. But in reality, it can take time for people to truly see that the world is more colorful than it seems. Even when everything seemed to be against me, I was able to keep pushing forward, nothing, not even my own head could get in the way of what I wanted to accomplish.
I have been learning to adapt to a new mindset where I am more optimistic and see less of the bad in the world. Granted, a couple of relapses of slipping into my old state of mind have happened, and this journey is long from over, but seeing myself grow as a person and having a good mindset now will only lead to greatness in the future. I always thought I had it bad, and the world has been against me my whole life, but I know and understand that there are people in much worse situations than I am in. For other people dealing with similar situations, I want people to know that you are heard. No one should fight a battle in their mind by themselves, and that it is okay to not be okay, no matter who you are.