It’s happened many times over, and again yesterday. I just don’t understand it, really. Some less-intimate friend or acquaintance catches me poking my finger to draw blood, and/or screwing a needle onto my insulin pen and stabbing myself in the stomach, and points out how very brave I am. What did you say?!
One certainly can find many colorful adjectives to describe me, but “brave” is not one of them. I am certifiably as Chicken-Shit as they come. I am the kid who never learned to ski properly because she was afraid of falling; the lousy volleyball player cowering in fear of being hit by the ball; the last kid to get picked for every softball, basketball, and nationball team growing up. I also startle easily, and cannot tolerate scary movies of any kind. Period.
So now I ended up with a chronic disease that requires frequent blood draws and self-injections (would have been the perfect “least-likely” scenario for our yearbook). I buck it up and do what I need to do to stay alive, stay healthy… Since when did survival instinct become synonymous with courage??
I suppose it’s meant as a compliment, but my urge is to retort by shouting at the top of my lungs: “And what would you do if it were you?! Do you think I actually have a CHOICE in the matter? What, in God’s name, makes you think I’m brave here?”
Just to clarify the issue, I looked it up. “Brave” means possessing great courage, making a fine appearance, or to defy, challenge or dare danger. So not me. So not the majority of us as we grapple with our diabetes, I daresay. What we’re doing is more like “muddling through” (defined, btw, as “to achieve a certain degree of success but without much skill, polish, experience, or direction”). That’s how it feels most days, anyway.
“Courage” is defined as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear.” Admirable, to be sure. But even though they tell us that managing your diabetes “is like brushing your teeth,” who among us doesn’t harbor those lurking fears of long-term damage? That sinking sensation that comes over us now and again that we just can’t do it for even one more day?
Upon second look, “courage” is also defined as “the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution.” OK, here’s where I see myself and many of my PWD pals a little more accurately defined. As my grandmother used to say, when things go sour, you can laugh, or you can cry. Continuous tears are not only a horrific downer, but they get in the way of the actions you need to take to thrive with this disease. Therefore, many of us have simply shifted into a fierce, uncompromising survival mode. We refuse to give up. You call that bravery?
Go ahead, call it whatever you like. Just don’t look at me with that “I-could-never-do-that-myself” wonder in your eyes. Because you could. You would. Believe me. It’s like brushing your teeth, but with your life dependent on it.