This post is a very important one to me and I am sharing personal information that will hopefully affect and save lives…
This is, largely, what led me to all of my nutritional research; what you eat is more important than you can understand…
Back in my day! Just kidding… But seriously…
When I was a kid and diagnosed with diabetes, in the hospital, they made it pretty clear that wrestling probably wasn’t a good idea for me. They had no idea what they were talking about!
Wrestling could be the biggest single decision that has impacted my life more than any other one thing…
It didn’t come natural to me. But i loved it. I was a strong kid. Not at all fast, a bit goofy. (The year I was diagnosed, my parents got me cocker spaniel puppy and surprised me at soccer practice, I, excitedly, ran over to greet them and our new puppy where I proceeded to accidentally step on her head in my cleats… there was some worry, but luckily, she was okay and lived 15 great years.) Anyway, getting started wrestling, I wasn’t very good. But I learned to use my strengths, and this is one of the reasons it’s great to get your kids, especially young type-1’s into sports, especially ones like wrestling, grappling and martial arts. Also, the brain function necessary to compete or train with an opponent is tremendous and much like solving a multi-variable equation with your body, the forces of nature and much more; Constantly calculating.
When I was diagnosed, it was the wintertime… Sick time for me and wrestling season. Which at the time, I was still very new to. I was out of school a lot the year leading up to diagnosis, with strep throat multiple times, so I also didn’t do much in the way of sports or physical activity until after the “Honeymoon” stages of T-1.
I played a lot of other sports and despite the constant excitement of diabetes, I was quite bored. Wrestling was the only thing that help my attention.
I played a lot of baseball as a kid. I was actually really good. Played on state, regional all-star teams, the starting line-up, sometimes even MVP batting 3-4 in the line-up. I think I’m even in the Little League Hall of Fame by winning the “Catcher’s Award” at the Little League World Series Camp in Williamsport, PA.
I believe Diabetes largely helped lead to my success in the athletic fields.
It often surprised ( still does ) that I was a Diabetic because I didn’t seem sickly. I guess that’s a compliment. It’s also because my parents are awesome and took great care of me… When a child is diagnosed, it’s not just them, it’s their whole family. It’s a serious struggle to watch your children go through the rigors of T-1D.
Wrestling ended up taking over nearly all of my free time outside of school… School and life in general is very interesting growing up with diabetes. You get a first hand look at how little is known about the disease. People are scared, confused, nervous, over protective; at times even wondering if it is communicable but too afraid to ask. At the beach with friends as a kid, my friends mom wouldn’t let me go barefoot because she was afraid I would get a cut and then need my leg amputated, guess.
Every day, I experienced all the variables life had to offer and had to become conscious of them in order to manage my blood sugar.
Wrestling made me more disciplined, knowing that I needed to feel good enough to practice hard enough to get better. I was very good as a middle school wrestler. Competed and won in State and National Events, was on all-star teams; my parents sacrificed a lot to bring me to events all over the country.
Once I was old enough to starting managing myself, typical to diabetics, I rebelled and poorly managed my disease. Many diabetics allow the disease to become destructive in their lives. This is why real purpose for diabetics is pivotal. Wrestling was my purpose.
It wasn’t until I was a young teenager did things take a turn for the worst and I really realized things had to change.
As a freshman, I began attending prestigious Blair Academy to wrestle for the No. 1 wrestling team in the country. And I was nearly the same distance from the local sending district high school, just in the other direction.
That was a big adjustment, not only did I have diabetes accelerating the maturation process, I also had boarding, preparatory school to do the same.
I was in an upper classman’s weight my freshman year and he obliterated me in our wrestle-offs. 77-5 was the score. Some of you wrestling fans may be saying to yourself, “But that’s a technical fall passed the 15 point deficit?”… Not in our room. I wrestled the whole match and took my loss as a learning and experience and like a “man”.
My sophomore year, I had won my spot on the team, only this year, I was much heavier than the weight limit. So I had to cut weight… No one even knew how much but me and my roommate. Every weight I would cut down and make weight, it really took it’s toll on me and being the proud, stubborn person that I am, I kept tough and quiet.
It wasn’t until one of the largest national tournaments of the year, that my parents realized my mental state and the state of my diabetes. We immediately began planning my return home.
I had been neglecting to use insulin, except when I needed to so I could have High Blood Sugar, push my body into Ketoacidosis and pee my weight off. I have never admitted this before I just typed it. I suppose all the Acidic blood messed up my brain and I developed, what I now know to be referred to as, Diabulimia.
I lied about my blood sugar, I lied about my weight, I lied about how I was feeling, I lied about everything.
Mentally, I was in such a low state and the constant DKA and hyperglycemia left me angry, bitter, hateful. Even when I moved home, I didn’t get better. I was at a new school, a public school. But my parents had moved while I was at Blair Academy, so it wasn’t a new school but with the kids I grew up with. I rebelled and I lied more.
The new school was happy to get a top 10 Nationally Ranked Sophomore wrestler. I easily won my wrestle off and again began lying about my weight and my blood sugars. I decided I was staying at “my weight” instead of bumping up.
That year at the state tournament, I cut weight by using high blood sugar because the stress of training to lose it was too much on my acidic body. I secretly used water pills. I likely did irreparable damage to my body. I lost my first two matches and that was it.
A few weeks later, I got really sick. Really sick. I lost all that weight for good and was skinny, pale and miserable.
I was diagnosed with Mononucleosis. After getting rest, recovering, taking care of my blood sugar, I finally started to become myself again. Much bigger. Both physically and spiritually.
I knew I needed to start taking better care of myself. So I hopefully, wouldn’t have to endure something like that ever again.
I stopped cutting weight, starting learning (even more than I already knew) about nutrition and had a new intense desire to be better and better. Both on and off the mat.
My time attending public school scared me, quite frankly. It was almost like a less intense (and not televised) version of that show, “Scared Straight”. I had grown accustomed the small classes, caring teacher, thoughtful students and higher learning. Don’t get me wrong, there are still great teachers and students in public school… But there is also a darkness that is not spoken about. Open drug use, 30 racks in the bathrooms, unruly disrespectful students (AND TEACHERS).
Another experience and juxtaposition that would shape me and form me, at the mercy of this disease.
I began working to get back to Blair, where I felt I belonged. After talking with the coaches, I reached out and wrote a long letter and met with the Headmaster and Deans. They agreed to let me return to school, under the provision that my diabetes was in order. I was more than happy to oblige.
The end… Well not really, but that’s the end where I wrap this up. That was my first rebirth or rising of the phoenix.
After all that I had been through, most of which was self-inflicted, I had learned a lot about myself and grown significantly.
Wrestling made me strong, both physically and mentally, brave and persistent. Diabetes had made me self-conscious (in a good way) and despite fighting the disease, alive.
I do not believe there could have been any better combination of things to ultimately teach me everything I have learned. The lessons and values wrestling has taught me on and off the mat, coupled with the wisdom and knowledge of many things that diabetes has taught me, I had realized that, despite your circumstances, you are capable of anything, both good and bad. So choose wisely!
I encourage any of you struggling with Type-1 Diabetes in anyway, don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be embarrassed about who you are! Testing or injecting in public, no worries, maybe something great will come from it.
So in closing, sports, athletics, training, etc., is of utmost importance to diabetics to help them understand themselves, in many different ways, their disease and how the world affects it all.
In athletics and in life with diabetes, the only time you are really losing is when you refuse to learn. Learn from your mistakes and successes, luckily, I have.
Diabulimia can be a serious, life-threatening issue if left alone. You deserve to feel better, not worse, don’t punish yourself. Feel free to contact me, there are many ways to lose weight, manage your diabetes and feel great in the process. I was lucky enough to be able to pull myself out of it but it’s okay to need help! You are not alone!
Keep Fighting Type -1!