My name is Michelle Marshall and I compete in Olympic weightlifting, work full time, and live with my great boyfriend and our two cats. I was diagnosed at 23, and it definitely changed almost everything about my life. Currently, I'm working with some amazing type ones I've met locally to try and build a stronger community of type one diabetics in Portland, with our eyes on even bigger plans for the future!
The greatest lesson that being diabetic has taught me is two pieces of my internal "struggle puzzle" but I can't imagine the one without the other. It has taught me both to be honest and vulnerable with myself, while also gaining the ability to not dwell endlessly on things I cannot change.
I have always been an obsessor about things. Hobbies, anxieties, life changes, things I loved, things I hated... they tend to consume me. When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness the hard reality that you are not the master of your circumstances (or even your own body) can kind of hit you hard. It lead me to feel really angry, frustrated, and powerless. When I was first diagnosed I remember feeling a lot of pressure to just pretend I was adapting well and everything was fine. I just felt too hard to talk with those around me about these cosmically huge shifts in my life. How can you possibly express what you're feeling and explain when you hardly understand it yourself? Externally I was coping, and moving on, and totally great! But inside I remember feeling a little bit like I was drowning in helplessness and isolation. Over time, both with myself and other diabetics, I saw how damaging ignoring these feelings could be.
Because of this diabetes has taught me to be (or at least try to be) honest and patient with myself. Sometimes I need to just let myself cry, request alone time, or relax my diabetes care for a few days to tend to self care. As what some might call a bit of a "type A personality" this is not something that come naturally to me, at all. And yet, diabetes taught me that allowing myself to be honest and vulnerable (both with yourself and others) is a skill of value, and not a weakness. Sharing my experiences and struggles in an honest way is valuable.
I have also learned that I cannot live in this raw place. You can spend so much time, your whole life even, hating things that you cannot change. I can spend my whole day in a cloud lamenting this stupid thing that has happened to my body, and yet... this changes nothing. The choose to try and let the energy I expend go towards the other things in life. I don't win every day, but I chose to do my best to not let the chronic illness win. I have learned that their is room inside myself to validate my feelings without drowning in them. I have learned that with effort I can spend that energy elsewhere.
I think the grit diabetes has given me has taught me life skills I am able to carry into every aspect of my life. At work I try to let things go, be kind, and work the best that I can in circumstances that are not always ideal. I try to respect my feelings with coworkers, loved ones, and teammates... and then move forward so we can grow and work together. In my sport I have learned to appreciate my body for what it CAN do. I have learned that the way of progress isn't always linear. It is not always fun. And it definitely doesn't always look the way you expect it to.
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