I’ve always been annoyed when someone says I’m brave for having diabetes. It seems like an empty compliment, a disappointment, like being given a chocolate bunny only to find out at first bite that the damn thing is hollow. Forty years of that same comment and it still makes my fur stand on end. I don’t compulsively challenge this comment by explaining why a chronic illness is FAR from brave. It’s an awkward way to respond to a compliment anyway, right? And I’m sure my prickliness made the other person uncomfortable. (A sentiment far from my mind, I can almost guarantee.)
Thus said, WHY did the word brave seem to be a fitting characteristic for someone struggling with an issue they didn’t choose to have? Didn’t they understand I’d give it to them in a heartbeat if I could figure out how? I would wipe it onto the person geographically closest to me as though it were a rancid banana peel if I only could.
Bravery implies that there’s a choice, a conscious decision to choose the option that puts oneself in the path of a risk. But, you see, there’s the other option to not put yourself in the situation that would make you legitimately brave. Firemen are brave because they risk their lives saving people from burning buildings, astronauts are brave because they seek the unknown and I’m brave when I descend the darkness of my damp basement to find the fuse panel. Most of what diabetes makes me do comes with one condition: do this or face problems in the future.
Although I still don’t think it’s bravery that I need to survive a life with diabetes, I can keep my mouth shut. That’s growth. The reply I allow myself now is more like this: It’s amazing what courage you can find in yourself when faced with challenges. That’s not bravery, that’s strength.
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