“Jessie Dax, gather your things and please come to the principal’s office.” The class stared at me. Some jeered, some had wide eyes, and some snickered under their breath. I was a quiet kid and kept to myself for the most part. I didn’t even know the principal knew who I was. I grabbed my backpack, my binder that was decorated with the Coca Cola polar bears, and trudged to the front of the school with each step feeling heavier than the one before it.
I was nine. All I wanted to do was fit in as I had just moved from the East Coast the previous year. All of my efforts felt unsuccessful so far. Did the principal think I was weird too? Did I do something wrong? Was it my East Coast accent everyone seemed to fixate on? I was at a loss.
I was surprised to see my dad because my mom always held down the fort during the daytime. He sat motionless in the office, his head resting in his hands. He looked tired, defeated—sad. I’ve only seen my dad cry one other time before, and his eyes looked like they had seen tears earlier that day. “Is Mom okay?” my voice trembled. “You have to go to the hospital Jess—you’re sick,” his arms wrapped around me like a coat of armor. His words echoed through my head as if they were shouted into an empty hallway.
That was the day my life changed. Needles are a part of my routine, and “blood sugar” is bookmarked in my everyday vocabulary. Although 20 years have passed, time does not always heal all wounds. I want to say, “Diabetes is easy now,” but this isn’t always the case. Putting a smile on this disease isn’t always simple—but we people with diabetes all do it.
For many years, I associated myself with type 1 diabetes (T1D). I thought it was who I was; it and I were one in the same. I was “the sick kid” growing up after all. But, I was wrong.
Over the years I have discovered so much more about myself. I wasn’t “the sick kid.” I have a lot to offer this world outside of diabetes. Instead of letting this illness drag me down, I decided that I was going to use it to push me up. I have become more courageous because of it, I have conquered more because of it, and I have become more determined from it. Playing on a nationally ranked softball team, backpacking Europe alone for six months, and getting drinks in Las Vegas with friends are feasible with diabetes. In fact, diabetes only played a supporting role here—it was not the showstopper.
I am Jessie. I am ambitious. I am creative. I am strong. I am not confined by T1D.