**Author’s Note-Check out parts one and two to catch up if you haven’t already. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy!**
March 27, 2014, two weeks before freshman year would end, I sat in my doctor’s office waiting for her diagnosis. I felt like death warmed over. I’d been exhausted all week, but with a ferocious appetite (when I was awake). Still, I lost weight faster than I could eat. I guzzled gallons of water only to flush it minutes later. I kept hoping it was just a virus that would go away. I knew something was seriously wrong when I could hardly stand, having to use the wheeled dining chairs to move from the kitchen, to the dining room, to the hallway leading to my bedroom.
I was taken to the children’s hospital in Neenah after our general practitioner gave her diagnosis; I had Type 1 Diabetes. Dad raced to my bedside after work. He and Mom took turns staying by my side the week I was confined to a hospital bed. During this time, Dad told me stories of his own childhood illnesses and hospital experiences. His tales distracted me from how my life had changed so drastically.
Afterwards, I learned the hard way that people were ruthless with questions about my hidden illness. Taking a shot of insulin in class or in the lunchroom made students stare and say, completely shocked, “I didn’t know you had diabetes!” as if I should declare the news over loud speakers. They would follow with an onslaught of questions like “Does it hurt?” “Why are you taking a shot?” “What happens if you don’t take a shot?” At first, I would politely answer, even though each question stabbed my heart, making me want to hide in my bedroom. Their curiosity forced me to admit to myself how different I was from them, how much I hated myself for having let this happen (even though the doctors reassured me diabetes wasn’t my fault). The questions threw me into situations I wasn’t prepared for because I lacked self-confidence. Eventually, I was swept away in a bitter cold river of pain. I hid away in my room. I was foolish enough to think I had learned to be confident by avoiding the questions people would ask, but in all reality, I was hurting myself. My self-confidence grew slowly when I started researching and discussing diabetes with a professor at college for my Honors project. I found encouragement to tackle my difficult internal battle.
Dad might have been hiding from his past just as I was hiding from my pain, but he drowned himself in whiskey to forget heartbreaking memories that resurface. In a way, we became each other’s way of coping with our pain and sorrows.
There’s one story Dad shared while I was in the hospital and in the garage at various ages, so pinpointing which instance comes to mind is difficult. I imagine we’re sitting in the garage at the end of May, a couple weeks after my hospital stay. I passed my exams only after telling my teachers how I spent the past week. Now that school is over, though, I get to spend the next three months trying to learn how to live a healthy life with diabetes. Sitting next to Dad, I talked about how life wasn’t fair sometimes. Dad leaned back and let me vent, occasionally adding his two cents. When I finished my hostile rant, Dad took a shot of whiskey, stepped out to the cool breeze and fading sun and started spinning a tale from his childhood.