As of November 2014, my ambition was to be able to go to school five days a week and see my friends and family on the weekends. At a first glance, that may not seem very ambitious. It is hardly a ground breaking, unique or inspiring ambition. However, this is the first thing I learnt about ambition; your ambitions have to change along with your life.
I’ve always been fairly ambitious. That year I’d got good grades, been a leader on summer camp, done exercise (well, a bit) and made new friends. Everything was going well until the beginning of the school year in September, when I started to get some strange new “ambitions” or replacements of my usual ones. My ambitions consisted of filling up my water bottle between every lesson without being late, planning my day around walking up and down stairs as little as possible, making GP appointments, constantly eating as much food as I could and trying to only stop for a break twice on my ten minute walk home from school. I was constantly going to the GP with different problems and I was lethargic the whole time, even struggling to pull open doors at school and concentrate on lessons because I was pre-occupied with hunger. I started to have mean thoughts about my friends over the slightest thing and immediately felt guilty. AlI I wanted to do was eat and sleep and I usually cried every day when I got in from school from sheer frustration of being so tired. I was envious of all my friends who seemed to have so much more energy than me. I became increasingly self-conscious about my body as my collarbone and ribs became more and more pronounced and my arms and legs looked like those of a child. People always commented that I looked tired and my skin and hair was becoming dull. Feeling lazy, greedy, grumpy and self-conscious, I sunk into a depression.
After a week of feeling particularly awful, I felt really ill one night and my mum booked me in to see the GP the next day. Shockingly, I was diagnosed with Diabetic Ketoacidosis. This is how around twenty percent of people unfortunately find out they have Type 1 Diabetes. I was rushed to A&E where I stayed in hospital for five days. I do not wish to go into detail, but the experience, especially the first night, was extremely painful, scary and consequently traumatic, giving me nightmares about blood, needles and drips for long afterwards.
When I eventually came home, I was very weak, tired and underweight. All of the symptoms and weird obsessions I have described above were linked to my onset of diabetes, not depression as I had thought. It was here that my ambitions changed; no longer was I thinking about my UCAS application and grades, but getting healthy again. But luckily I had a lot of ambition.
I had to get used to lots of new things; injecting myself 5 times a day, counting carbohydrates in every mouthful of food I ate, measuring my blood sugar levels, being able to move around properly, telling everyone what had happened, gaining weight, to name a few. This took extra ambition since I was totally unprepared for this as it was a huge shock and I had to adapt when I was still very ill. But luckily I had the support of other’s ambition too. My parents visited me in hospital covering nearly every available visiting hour, learnt about my medication with me, but generally gave me lots of hugs and encouragement whenever I felts angry, defeated or traumatised by my experiences and situation. My medical team gave me care by discussing any problems I had and tweaking my doses of insulin. My cousins, one of whom is also diabetic, have been extremely supportive of me, coming to visit me to give me advice, subscribing me to a diabetes magazine and still sending me the odd texts to see how my blood sugar levels are doing. There are many more people such as my friends, boyfriend, family, rabbi, heads of year, friends of my parents and school counsellor who have all taken an interest in learning about my diabetes. My friends and I have even made a game out of competing to see who can guess the number nearest to my blood sugar level, complete with “Oooooh”s and drumrolls as my glucometer shows the countdown. And sharing my stories about where I’ve had hypos (where you start shaking because you’re blood sugar is too low) are entertaining. The one at two in the morning and the one in the Primark changing rooms are my personal favourites.
Mine and other’s ambitions for me are for me to be healthy. This would have seemed basic a year ago but I learnt that goals have to change due to events that you cannot change. I still have the odd nightmare or high blood sugar reading but I am much better now. I learnt that many people working together towards the same ambition means that they can achieve a better outcome than one individual. Relying on other people to be understanding and helpful isn’t at all as bad as I thought it was and it helped me get closer to the people I love the most. Although my ambitions may not be as important as others diabetics such as Theresa May and diabetic athletes, they are an inspiration to me in that I know that although diabetes has held me back in the past, I still have the same potential and ambition to achieve things on the same level as them. The most important thing I have learnt is that sometimes you have to aim for the seemingly small things in order to get you back on track for aiming for the big things. Thank you to those who have helped me along the way.