This I Believe

Emily Fineberg ‘15, News editor

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I am not writing this because I am News Editor of the Dickinsonian. I am not writing this because I am secretary of Alpha Lambda Delta and the Portuguese Club. I am not writing this because I am a co-coordinator of the ESL Tutoring program for CommServ. I am not writing this because I am a sophomore at Dickinson College or an alumna of a pre-engineering high school in Monmouth County, New Jersey. I am not writing this because I am a Spanish and German double major or a resident of the Portuguese section of the Romance Language House.

I am writing this because I am a diabetic.

Now, some of you might wonder, “Why is Emily saying that she’s a diabetic? Doesn’t she usually say that she has diabetes?” And up until recently, yes, that was true. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I was told to see myself as more than my disease and that saying “I have diabetes” rather than “I am a diabetic” was part of that. So that’s what I did.

Over time, I saw myself as more than diabetes. In fact, any part of me that I might have labeled with “diabetes” or “diabetic” vanished. Even now, there’s an empty Frappuccino bottle whose contents I recently consumed without bothering to give myself insulin. Perhaps it sounds like I’m trying to brag about being in such good health that I can eat anything and not suffer, but it’s quite the opposite. I imagine that later tonight I’ll feel nauseous or thirsty, then run to the bathroom and curse my body for destroying my pancreatic islets’ beta cells. As I do so, I’ll remember my parents’ warning that if I can’t get my health back on track, they won’t let me go abroad next year. And then I’ll feel bad and start eating whatever carb-loaded snacks I can find…See my pattern?

At this point, you might be wondering, “So what?” Well, over winter break, I went on Taglit-Birthright Israel and spent part of one night thinking about what I believed. In the middle of a desert, under the starriest sky I’ve ever seen, I started trying to tear my medical ID bracelet to pieces. It didn’t work (though the clasp did break) and I realized that I couldn’t destroy my diabetes by trying to be more than a disease. If I didn’t bring it to the forefront of my life, it would destroy my life from the sidelines.

That moment marked a turnaround of sorts. That night was one of the first times I called myself a diabetic. I’ve been forcing myself to say the adjective, rather than the noun, ever since. And while my other behaviors are harder to change, I know they will sooner rather than later.

Now, why am I sharing this with a really wide audience? Because I want to encourage you to think about what you call yourself and why. It need not be disease-related, but imagine what could change if you changed one word in your self-description. And if you think it’d be for the better, go for it and see what happens. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to check my blood sugar. You see, even if I am a twenty-year-old who celebrated my birthday with a cake from Walmart in a really messy newspaper office, I am a diabetic and can’t let myself forget that.