In 2010, I joined 29 other folks to take part in Leadership Norman, a nine month training for business professionals. We met every other week and participated in a variety of sessions focused on community history, current community issues, leadership, and self-discovery. One of the sessions involved a physical, trust building experience of sorts – a ropes course. At this point, no one really knew I had Type 1 diabetes unless they happen to notice my tattoo, but this particular session brought attention to the disease.
98% of the group were nervous about the days events, but I had a different level of anxiety. I told myself going into the session I would do EVERYTHING asked of me to the best of my ability. As the crew of business leaders climbed telephone poles, made leaps of faith and cried as a team, it wasn’t until the happy hour afterwards that my diabetes “aha” moment surfaced.
There was one particular part of the course where you had to scale a telephone pole, get your balance and then walk what I remember to be a thin board to the next telephone pole before repelling/jumping down. It was quite the stretch and I witnessed grown men freak out as they began the journey. It was finally my turn and my heart at one point might have come close to popping out of my chest. It was an accelerated version of what a hypo feels like so I took a moment to test. I believe it was 270+. This wasn’t comforting, but I knew it was better than 63. I completed the task and wept when it was over. I made it.
As we met afterwards at our local watering hole, many of us shared our raw emotions about the day. It really brought us together and was comforting to know I was not alone in being terrified. I then shared the impact the days challenges had on my blood sugar. Not only was I scared, but I explained having to juggle the insulin on board, the high carb lunch, and the impact adrenaline has on my body. Everyone looked around and were in awe I had SUCH an added layer of stress. It opened the flood gates for questions and was one of the first times I recall sharing my story to strangers. It was in that moment it dawned on me – I am different. My daily struggle is often silent and this experience reminded me how hard I work each day to stay alive.
Five years later and X number of posts about life with Type 1 diabetes, I’ve come to realize this disease helped build my strongest character traits. I’m strong, diligent and work hard to have a wonderful life. I have the courage to take a “leap of faith” every single hour of every single day – hoping for the best.