|photo of self at about 16 - courtesy of Andy VanDyke|
Dear Self at 16,
As I think about where you are in your life right now, I'm overwhelmed with emotion. I know that you are in the midst of all sorts of changes and decisions - parents divorcing, colleges sending you colorful brochures, friends, drugs, sex. I want to write something kind and wise that will make you feel lighter. You are so funny and your smile is so bright. And you are beautiful. And smart. And strong. And sad.
I'd like to be able to list out all the places "we" made a wrong turn in the 30 years that have elapsed in this time space continuum (hehe - continuum doesn't look like a real word, does it?). However, there are so many things for you to look forward to, and your life at age 46 will be rich and filled with people and experiences that "we" may not have if I were truly tell you things that could alter your course.
So there you go. You will make a lot of mistakes. And my advice to you? Get over it! I don't know if you already have the habit of internalizing everything - to be honest, I can't remember - but I suspect you've started by now. I do know that you already spend a lot of time feeling guilty and obsessing about things that you cannot change. Please try to treat yourself like your own best friend rather than your harshest critic. Please give up on the notion that you should be able to fix everything if only you had more discipline and were paying attention and taking action. Not only can you not fix everything - it isn't your job to fix everything! Every person in your life is responsible for their own fixing, just like you.
I know you've already had diabetes for two years, and you feel like a terrible person for not being in control of this disease. You should trust Dr. Hohl more - he is a really compassionate person, and he knows that you are making up your glucose numbers in that log book, and he knows that you are a perfectionist (which you will NOT know for a very long time, btw)(oh, btw means by the way - for reasons I will not get into here, people use a lot of acronyms in the future). High blood sugar does not equate to a moral deficiency. Hypoglycemia not your fault either. Your pancreas quit working and that is not your fault. The really good news is that this will get ever so much easier for you. Remember just 2 years ago when you were diagnosed and the only way to monitor how you were doing each day was to test your urine? Sheesh.
Now, 30 years in your future, I've got a continuous glucose monitor giving me a bG data point every 10 minutes that talks to an insulin pump I wear with an infusion set. I don't have to eat the same thing every day at the same time. I can sleep in (well, in theory if I didn't have kids of my own and a job!) I don't have to exercise the same time with the same intensity every day or try to predict the future 4-12 hours at a time because I can adjust my pump to give me different amounts of insulin whenever I want to. This system works so much better for you - you will see.
I know that you also still wear a brace at night for scoliosis, and you still have braces on your teeth. And that you joke around about being a genetic mutant. Your sense of humor will serve you well over the years! The bad news is that you are going to really need it because you haven't seen the last of medical challenges and physical limitations. And I want you to know that it is perfectly okay to be pissed off about this from time to time! The good news is that throughout the years you will find yourself surrounded by people who care about you and would love to help and support you if only you would ask. So go ahead and ask once in awhile. Oh, but do try to ignore the judgemental assholes out there. You won't be around as many of those 30 years from now (or maybe you'll just get really good at ignoring them - either way works for me).
I'm sure you have a lot of questions - I too have questions about what will happen in the next 30 years! I'll just end with this: Your love of music and games, your goal oriented work ethic, your analytical tendencies, your tenacity, your humor, and the fact that you are tall - all of these things and much more of what you've got going for you - mean that you will be able to achieve the things you barely dare to dream of today. Like traveling all over the world. And having children. And love. And you may in fact be a genetic mutant! We know so much more about the genetics of diseases these days. But you will never be alone in that.
With much love from your closest friend and admirer,
You at 46