I was wonder if anyone else out there was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes after serving an extended amount of time in the military.
After serving 4 years active duty (Desert Storm Vet.) on a ship, I was finally able to accomplish my life long dream of becoming an Equipment Operator in the US Navy Seabees, just like my grandfather (my hero) had been. I normally spent at least three months out of the year on extended military orders, and if they called me the day before asking me to go, I would drop everything and head out. When I was home, I wanted to be on orders. I loved operating all of the heavy equipment. Everyone who knew me, knew I was an EO in the Seabees. It defined who and what I was. I wanted to stay in forever. I was an adult who got to play in the dirt with huge "tonka" toys. You can't get better than that. We worked hard and played harder. Even if I didn't particularly care for someone, I knew when push came to shove we had each others back. Then diabetes happened to me.
I had just came off orders from a fence line project at Goose Creek and hadn't been feeling well. I just thought I either had the flu or had bitten by a tick. I started drinking so much water that I was throwing it back up and still was thirsty. No one thought to say I might have diabetes. I was very active in the military. When it got to the point that my vision was so blurry I couldn't read a stop sign, I decided to go to the walk in clinic. I figured it would be some sort of rounds of antibiotics, slap a band aid on it and life would go on as normal. Well I told them my symptoms and they tested my blood sugar and it was over 600. When I told the old doctor I had driven (it's what I did for the navy) the look on his face was utter disbelief. He gave me a shot of insulin, a prescription for the pills (he misdiagnosed me as a type 2) and sent me home. The only thing he did right was to have me come in the next day. I had no carbs, had taken the pills and when I came back my BS was back over 600. There was a younger doc there with him that day and I heard them arguing in the hall. The young doc was telling the old doc that he REALLY needed to look at me (i.e. my 103lb build) an realize I was not a Type 2 but was in fact a Type 1. The old doc insisted I was Type 2 because of my age. I literally could hear them yelling at each other in the hall. Needless to say the young doc proved his point that yes, even someone my age could develop Type 1 diabetes. When that young doc came in to give me the "good" news that in fact I was not a Type 2 Diabetic but a Type 1 (insulin dependent) the first words out of my mouth were "This is going to ruin my military career isn't it?" and I busted out crying. I knew as a Type 2, I could still serve in the military, but as a Type 1 everything I was and had worked so hard for would be ripped away without even a "by your leave". What made it even worse was that I was suppose to deploy to Iraq with my Battalion in six months and had been gearing up for it. With one sentence, that young doctor ripped away one of the very defining parts of my personality and lifestyle. I wanted to be a type 2 so badly, that I made them test to make sure I was a type 1. I struggled to be able to stay in the Seabees. I was hoping the test would be a "Hail Mary" and come back saying I was Type 2. But that didn't happen. I was entirely lost. Until I received the definitive test results, I kept my head down and proceeded with the military. I only told the people who absolutely HAD to know in the Navy. I just "Carried on and proceeded with the plan of the day". When I put my BDU's and combat boots on though, somewhere inside of me knew I was wearing them on borrowed time. I WANTED to go to Iraq, I DID NOT want diabetes and the changes it was bringing to my way of life. Iraq was better than insulin shots (I'm still afraid of little needles and can't watch when someone else is giving me a shot or drawing blood-I get faint). Iraq was something I was familiar with, that I had trained and prepared for. Type 1 Diabetes though, was entirely out of my scope of understanding and had never once been in my personal realm of existence. I just could not fathom, how this had happened to me and what I had done so terribly wrong to deserve this hell. This wasn't something I could put my hands on and make all right so I could proceed with what was a normal life (up to that point for me). I was at a loss of what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I had already met all the goals I had set for myself since I was little and was happy with my accomplishments. Then all of the sudden I had A LOT of free time on my hands and really nothing I wanted to do with it, because I had been satisfied with exactly how my life had been. I DID NOT want a different life. I DID NOT want to have to deal with the fact I couldn't be and Equipment Operator. I DID NOT want to lose the camaraderie I had with my Seabee buddies. I WANTED to be deploy able. I had known I was going to Iraq and my mind and actions were already prepared to deal with that. I was NOT prepared to deal with such an invisible, evil, sneaky, thieving disease like Type 1 Diabetes. My buddies whom I had just been one of the guys started to treat me different. They started to subconciously treat me like I was a delicate flower. Should I be doing this or that? How do I feel? How's your sugar? You can't eat or drink that…The more they did that the angrier I became at my body for it's default and what that default was costing me. I rebelled. I still am rebelling. I can't seem to get it out of my system. LOL!! Now instead of being military cut, I've become punk rock cut. I'm sporting blue hair, have facial piercing and sport tattoos on both my fore arms. I enjoy standing out with the spiked, funky colored hair and with such an appearance that when people first meet me now, their not quite sure what to make of me. (At least until they get to know me.) My attitude has changed and now has an underlying vein of anger that never entirely goes away because of my resentment towards this disease and what it took away from me. (That deployment to Iraq I was suppose to be on-We lost seven good men in two days and that guilt of not being there, even though it probably wouldn't have changed anything-Never goes away.) This disease has made me a harder person inside, than I EVER would have been in the military. A small part of me is ALWAYS bitter. I get tense and angry when I see others wearing BDU's because I still to this day want to be serving in the Seabees and am jealous that they get to do it and I can't anymore. If I get in one of my "moods" and begin dwelling on it, I still want to put a hole in the wall, I have that much anger about it. I'm not self destructive but I've started to do things (like the tattoos on my forearms) that make me stand up tall and with attitude like I used to when I wore my uniform. To be a female my size, with tattoos on her forearms, funky hair and facial piercings and at my age to have started doing it, is unique to say the least. It seems to make me carry myself taller and have the attitude that nothing can touch me and to REALLY look at me, instead of hiding behind the disease and crawling into a hole and laying their waiting for the disease to kill me, like some people treated me after my diagnosis. Unlike the military, it really doesn't have a purpose except to make me have enough attitude to carry this look off and be good and comfortable with it. It seems to keep a spark inside me alive and to not give up even when the poo hits the fan. (8 hospital stays in the past year and a half and a quick onset of some complications from the stupid disease.) It seems that I traded one way of looking (military BDU's and combat boots) for the exact 180 degrees opposite. BUT it still gives me THAT feeling of how I carried my shoulders in uniform (If you were in the military you KNOW what I'm talking about) to the everyday civilian life. Like I owned my uniforms, I OWN my new appearance and it is the one thing I CAN control and that diabetes CAN'T take savagely away from me. It is the one thing that I have ENTIRE control over with no if, and's or buts. Now I just have to figure out what outrageous thing I'm going to do next.
Has anyone else out there been through this? And if so, what have you done to compensate for the loss of your military career?
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