“I’m a big brave dog, I’m a big brave dog, I’m a big brave dog…” is a mantra that little Chuckie Finster repeats to himself, over and over again, in an episode of The Rugrats that I recall vividly from my childhood.
It’s probably so cemented in my memory because I identified a lot with Chuckie as a kid – I was constantly overly cautious, nervous to try new things and scared about breaking rules or going against the norm. While I’ve overcome many trivial fears as I’ve gotten older, I still don’t think that I’m brave, despite many people telling me that I am…almost always in the context of my diabetes.
“You inject yourself with actual NEEDLES?! You’re so brave!”
“You wear two medical devices at all times? You’re so brave!”
“You put your diabetes story out there to share with others? You’re so brave!”
These are comments I’ve received from family, friends, and total strangers over the years, and while I appreciate the sentiment, I definitely don’t think that my diabetes has made me brave. I do these things because I have to. If I chose to not take care of my diabetes, or talk about my lived experience with it, I would be a much less healthy and happy individual. In my opinion, this isn’t equivalent to bravery – it’s common sense. It’s my reality that I accepted a long time ago.
As someone who is generally anxious and constantly worried about so many things besides diabetes, I’d much rather be admired for being brave about anything else that doesn’t remotely relate to my diabetes. Call me brave for trying something new that I was genuinely terrified about, or maybe say “you’re so brave” in a situation in which I took a stand for something I believe in. Hell, I don’t even mind if you continue to think that I’m brave in my journey with diabetes, but just recognize that my diabetes doesn’t make me brave – there are so many other facets of life that require genuine courage and spirit, and for me, I prefer to think of my diabetes as one teeny, tiny speck in that much larger, grander picture.