A Breakup Letter to Diabetes
There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just be blunt: It's not me, It's you!
I don’t know why I feel bad telling you this. I shouldn’t—this problem between us is your fault. And I’m not just saying that. You are a terrible life partner. I hate you.
And I think we should break up.
All you do is take, and all I do is give. I am now seeing a counselor because of how you have beat down my self-esteem. She said I should try harder to play by your rules, just to keep the peace—and my health … and my sanity. But you are mean and relentless.
You try to ruin lives. You try to ruin dreams. I have facts to support this: You cause more deaths a year than breast cancer and AIDS combined. With you by my side, my chance of having a heart attack nearly doubles. I’m also twice as likely to suffer from depression as people who don’t know you. And it’s not just me: A study found that the prevalence of type 1 among children increased by 21 percent from 2001 to 2009.
It’s bad enough we have to live with your constant badgering, but many kids are then punished for something they didn’t even want: They get discriminated against in schools because they require a lot of care. At the end of last year, the New York Times featured an article on a school discrimination problem in its “Medical and Health News That Stuck With Us in 2015” roundup.
My health problems at school become problems for my parents. My mom has missed a lot of work over the years because she has had to go on all of my field trips, and both my mom and dad are called to school when my blood glucose is too high or too low. They tell me I am not a burden, but I still feel like I am.
On top of that, you cost too much. Just one test strip costs $1. That's crazy.I am supposed to test about five times per day. Then we have to buy insulin, my pump, the set supplies, syringes—every month. And that’s just for me. The cost to our country is staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report,” the United States spent $245 billion in 2012 because of you!
We spend all of this money on you, and what do we get for it? More problems! We go blind, lose a limb, develop kidney failure, have heart disease, and die. It’s no wonder nobody likes you.
I have tried to be positive about this and turn my hardship into an opportunity to help others.
And I do love helping other people—it makes me feel good. People often say things to me like, “The toughest battles are reserved for the strongest soldiers.” But lately I don’t feel like I can do it anymore. I don’t think I’m strong enough for this.
I love advocating. I love trying to make a difference. I love hearing that I am an inspiration. I love mentoring little kids who have this disease. They are scared. Their parents are scared. And I love that I can help.
But I also feel like a fraud and a liar. I feel like if people could see behind the curtain, they would be ashamed of me. I don’t test enough. Often I don’t even take insulin. I know it’s pretty easy to do, but I just want to go a few days without you. I don’t even care about the consequences.
I am carrying this pressure around, and it’s so heavy. I am smarter than this, and I even know that ignoring you won’t make you go away. You are like the mean girl at school who no one can escape. Ignoring her makes her even meaner. Sometimes I don’t care. I’m too tired to care.
But I pick myself back up again. My mom and my dad help me. Sometimes we fight about it. I don’t mean to cause problems—I know they just want to help me—but I am the one who has to live with the constant reminder of your annoying presence.
The one week in my whole year when I don’t mind having you around is when I go to camp. Everyone at Camp AZDA understands what it’s like to live with you. We don’t have to say what people want to hear. We get to be mad together. We share our struggles and our tips for making life with you easier. I feel totally normal and safe at camp. I want all kids with you— the Big, Bad Diabetes Bully—to have the chance to feel it, too. So I guess this is where I feel like talking to people, advocating, and raising money is worth it. This is what my fight is about. I can beat you in this one way—keeping Camp AZDA alive by raising money for it and helping other kids go.
Last year, I joined a bunch of other people—who are also sick of having you in their lives—fora different sort of advocacy. We traveled to Washington, D.C., and accomplished something we were told was not possible: We got Congress to increase funding for research on you. So I am serious when I tell you I am trying to get you out of my life. And I will find a way. I won’t stop until you are gone for good.
I’ll say it again: I want to break up.
Not forever yours,
Ginger Netten is a 15-year-old Youth Ambassador for the American Diabetes Association, whose goal is to raise awareness about diabetes and raise funds for a cure. She was diagnosed with type 1 when she was 5 and now helps other children deal with diabetes. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she likes to draw, paint, and play volleyball.
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