My daughter Lauren, so often the topic of this blog (and the reason for it) graduated college in May and is working at a really incredible company called HCM Strategists in Washington, DC. She is on her way to living her dream of being a health care advocate and maybe some day, POTUS [insert proud mom geeky face here.] She is also going to start sharing this blog space with me more often. Yes, despitediabetes will be both of us – two unique points of view. Today, I asked her to write a letter for her teenage self to read. Yeah, it made me cry. With pride. I hope you’ll share it).
Dear Teenage Lauren,
I wanted to start by telling you that just because you are going through a hard time in your life now does not mean this is forever. I promise you: it really will get easier. The teen years are already a pain in butt and you were just fortunate enough to have a chronic disease thrown into the mix. It won’t be an easy couple of years for you, but you will make it through. Here are a few pointers from your future self to help guide you there. (And listen to future you! I know of what I speak!):
1. STOP feeling so guilty all of the time. You are not the only person out there who is a teenager struggling with your diabetes care. Even if you feel like everyone else is just rocking it and you must be flawed because you are not, that’s just not the case. Give yourself a break: this is hard. Constantly being extremely hard on yourself about it isn’t going to help. Seek advice from all of those awesome older people with diabetes you know. (Hello camp friends and diabetes advocacy friends? You have a ton of them. Use them. Lean on them!) Talking about it with people who understand what you’re going through is way better than worrying about it at 2 a.m. instead of sleeping. Sleeping is always more important. Sleep kind of rocks.
2. You ARE NOT going to die of complications. As much as people will try to use that as a scare tactic, it’s not true. Diabetes care has improved vastly and messing up for a few years IS NOT going to make you go blind, or lose a leg, or whatever anyone else tells you. Future you has had some conversations with some pretttttttttttttttty smart doctors and they agree. So I’m going to say it again and you are going to believe it: you are NOT going to die of complications. It’s not hopeless. Which brings me to my next tip:
3. DO NOT look at that as reason to slack off with your care. I know it’s really hard to remember how much better you feel with a better A1C, but I can tell you it makes a HUGE difference. Your grades, sports teams, and parents have already suffered enough. You are smart, dedicated, and personable, but when your blood sugar is high all the time you’re lazy, unmotivated, and kind of a biatch. I know how much easier it is to just pretend you don’t have diabetes, but you will feel and act SO much better if you try even just a little bit. Perfection is not the goal. Do as much as YOU can without overbearing yourself. Once you begin to feel better, you’ll see what I mean.
4. I know you and I know how much of an addiction lying about your diabetes can be. Try to tell the truth as often as you can, no matter what. Because guess what? People will want to help you. I know Mom gets mad sometimes, but she’s not mad about your care, she’s mad about the lying. When you feel like you need to lie, tell her. She is pretty understanding and really wants to do all she can to get you out of this “diabetes burn out slump.” Open up, no matter how ugly you think the truth might be. The help you get might just be beautiful. An aside: even if you cannot stand to be near them, you need your parents now. And you know it, if you dig deep enough. You know it.
5. On a not related to diabetes note, stop wearing all of those short jean skirts: they are hideous; top crying about dumb boys who you’ll later realize you’re way too good for, and SERIOUSLY JUST STOP accepting the free cellphone covers from the creepy employee at the mall. He is a weirdo.
The teen years are rough, and one day you’ll look back on it and laugh. But for now: focus on trying to be a better you. Not the perfect you, but the better you. Because even if you cannot check a billion times a day; even if you don’t want to wear your CGM right now; even if the best you can do is the basic minimum, finding a way to live with all this in semi-peace is the best route. I hope you listen to me. I didn’t have a note like this, so I learned the hard way.
One last thing: You’ve got this! All that advocacy volunteering you did, that summer program in DC, your obsession with learning all there is to learn about government and advocacy? It’s all going to pay off.