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This is My Truth

This is My Truth

This is My Truth
October 22
08:37 2015

by Jonathan Shuffield Co-host of the Pacific Northwest LGBT Radio Talk Show, OUTSpoken

In my line of work, as a radio talk show host, I get the opportunity to talk to so many different people and hear the myriad of stories they bring. Recently while doing a show on National Coming Out Day, I was inspired by the bravery and boldness of the people we spoke to. A day dedicated to the LGBT community and their allies to take an opportunity to step forward and speak their truth. They spoke of an important piece of their life that they were afraid to be open about, they didn’t know if those they cared about would understand, if they would find support. I realized that I had something in my life right now that I feel the same way about. It’s a fact of my life that I share with very few and I keep to myself and it can make me feel very much in isolation.  I’m a Type II diabetic.

I have been what I call a “quiet diabetic” since my diagnosis about eleven years ago. I will admit that I felt a small amount of shame. I was overweight, I didn’t exercise, and my diet was nothing but carbs. I felt as if I deserved this mysterious disease and that others would wholeheartedly agree if they knew. So I trudged along, overwhelmed and terrified. I took the diabetic education class my physician prescribed and felt less educated than when I started. I had a thousand questions and none of them seemed to be addressed. I self-isolated and at times, I admit, I ignored my disease. Like the belabored ostrich I kept my head in the sand and hoped it would disappear.

The sad truth of the matter is, diabetes (and most of the ugly things in life) do not disappear just because you refuse to look them in the eye; when ignored, it gets worse. But this isn’t a story about the horrific monster called Diabetes – I prefer to focus on the humanity. You see, I spent years pretending I was just like all my friends, never wanting to look different if we went out to lunch, or hit the nightlife for a cocktail. I didn’t even allow my significant others to share in what was a major part of my life, I struggled in silence.

For eleven long years I have traversed the hilly terrain of my disease. I have had triumphs and devastating setbacks, but kept the celebrations and the mourning’s to myself. In talking with the inspiring individuals that day on my show they reminded me of the freedom that comes from letting the world in. Fear’s greatest weapon is the darkness of silence. I made a decision that day to turn on the light, to bravely walk out into the sun and speak my truth. It is exhilarating and terrifying in the same breath.

I am finding others out there who are just normal human beings like me – people to share our fears with and our excitements, others who understand the struggle this road can be. There is a freedom in being able to speak the secret language of a diabetic and be understood as I talk about my latest A1C or my Metformin dosage or neuropathy concern. I’m even helping to start a group where we come together and cook and talk about food and what we find success in and challenge. I am finding community in the light and support.

There is something else though, in accepting myself as I am, I am learning to trust others. As I turn to my friends, the ones without this label placed upon them, I am beginning to share my life.  I swallow the fears of “what will they say?” and “what do they think?” and I let them in. The truth is they don’t understand, they have had no reason to until now. In the simple act of sharing myself I am finding more acceptance than I ever imagined possible.

I’ll let you in on a little secret I am learning, we all have issues, we all have struggles! It seems that life is not perfect for anyone. Even my more “health nut” friends have not judged me for even they struggle in life. The fears I have held for years, the self-inflicted punishment I have placed upon myself have only served to steal my strength and to rob myself of the support I need.

I don’t write this to simply share my midnight diary entry. I am writing this for the people who struggle in silence, who try to take on their monsters on their own and who are afraid of the people around them. Support is a necessity for life, it is when we deny ourselves this basic fundamental need that we stay enslaved to fear. No matter what it is you hold, reach out and trust a little more today. Let humanity surprise you and find the strength it shares.

For me, I am coming out today. I am a diabetic! It is scary, it is overwhelming and it is complicated, but it is simply a fact of my existence. It does not define me, but it is a definite part of me. I no longer accept the shame I place upon myself nor do I accept the judgement. I only have from this moment forward and I would much rather live it openly with a chance at support than to stay silent and exist alone. This is my truth, what is yours?

jonathan

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