On any given day, I carry one of several backpacks with me. Inside is a copy of a letter a friend sent to me last year. It’s a list of reasons why she looks up to me and, on many days, it is a foundation which helps me keep moving forward.

The letter came about after discussing some of my struggles in life and trying to gain some personal perspective. My thoughts were in conjunction with a few other things I was working on in therapy as well.

I still struggle most days with the life I have been given and how to build a better one with good coping skills and diminished flashbacks of past trauma. It’s not an easy journey. While many people think I am incredibly open about what has happened to me because I write publicly, it barely scratches the surface.

The vast majority of my writing will never be seen by anyone. A select few get glimpses into the deepest, darkest parts of my soul, but my therapist is the only one who sees and hears everything as she guides me through the rough and bleak parts of my past.

My friend’s list is always nearby and is of great use when I feel like a failure, and I have been feeling like a massive failure lately.

Over the course of 2020, my physical health has steadily taken a downturn. I have been doing everything right in terms of keeping on track and doing what I need to do in order to remain physically healthy. It hasn’t been enough. There is nothing that signals a feeling of failure when your body says, “fuck you” and does what it wants anyway.

There are three areas which were going awry. My doctor and I monitored everything carefully, about every four to six weeks all year long. I received the final bad news on Friday, Feb. 12. My doctor’s nurse woke me up to deliver my test results. I made an appointment for the following Monday to discuss medication options. Then, I cried myself back to sleep.

In my doctor’s office, we discussed what needed to be done. As I sat and cried for 90 minutes telling her I felt like a failure, she reassured me over and over I was not. My doctor told me I was strong and brave and courageous. I didn’t feel that way. She reiterated all the things I have done to make it this far in life and how much work I’ve done to keep on track mentally and physically. She told me she was proud of me.

She pointed out something my therapist has said as well. They both know when they ask me to do something, I will do it. My doctor informed that sometimes, we can do everything right, and still not get the results we need. It’s a truth I needed to be reminded of, even though I still felt like, somehow, it was my fault.

I spoke with another friend on and off since then about my frustrations. It then took 10 days for my insurance to approve one of my three new medications. Pre-authorization is a bullshit way of your insurance company saying they are looking for every way possible to not pay for your medication. After approving coverage for the next three years, the medication will cost me 65 percent of my monthly net salary until I meet my deductible. I felt like an even bigger failure once the financial aspect of my physical health kicked in. In total, my medication before I hit my deductible is $700 more a month than I actually make, including all the discount coupons I can get to lower the cost.

My other friend knows of my personal history. We discussed how therapy was going and how I was feeling about the cost of health care. We ended up in a discussion of all the things I need to do, mentally, in order to be able to go out in the world. We talked about what daily life entails when you have diabetes.

If someone brings cookies, cakes, or candy to work, I can’t just eat it. I haven’t prepared for the extra influx of sugar. If I go out to eat with someone, I need to know ahead of time so I can prepare. Then, I still need to think about food items on the menu and which I can and cannot consume. Even then, I have to check my blood sugars before every meal, so sometimes, the meal I want is not the meal I should be eating at time. It’s a vigil that must always be attended to. I can never let up. I can never have a day off. Some days, I fucking hate it and get incredibly depressed. I didn’t ask for the childhood sexual assault any more than I asked for diabetes, but here I am, dealing with the aftermath of both.

My friend then said to me, “This is why I mean it when I say you’re one of the strongest people I know, because a lot of people wouldn’t even begin to be able to handle what you do on a daily basis.”

I didn’t have a proper response to that. I still don’t. I sat and cried. I don’t feel strong. In the past month, I’ve felt like every day another roadblock was tossed in my path. Yet, here is my friend, seeing something in me that I was not capable of at that moment.

Two days ago, I was talking to another friend. We’ve been trying to find a safe way to get together for months. The Fall of 2020 was out as I had to deal with a lot of my mental health issues, and the flashbacks that come with it, mostly on my own. Then, she got COVID-19. Now, I’m struggling a bit again and we’re trying to figure out the safest way to see each other. She, too, told me I was strong.

You’re incredibly strong and brave. It might not feel like it to you, but you’re a freakin’ superhero in my eyes. I don’t know how you can face some of it. I mean, yeah, it’s necessary, no choice, all that. But still.

You know you’re one of the strongest bravest people I know, and I admire you for it. But I also know you had no choice but to be that. And I wish you didn’t have to.

I’m not a superhero, even though she sees me as one. I don’t feel strong or brave and I still don’t understand why people admire me. Again, none of the words I replied with were adequate enough.

It is vitally important for me to keep these positive comments at the forefront of my mind. Because my days are more difficult than the “average” person, the words come to me as hugs and reassurance that I will be okay even on the days when I’m not.

Still, everything my friends have told me is real and true and I trust in those sentiments. They find ways to build me up when I’m down, to remind me of who I am, where I’ve been, and how far I’ve come. There are no words to ever equal their compassion toward me. From the little me in the picture above to me today, this post is for them, to thank them, to let them know I am always listening to what they say and remembering it, especially in the difficult times when I feel like a failure.

Naturally, through all of this, the friend who sent me the letter has been sending me silly videos and pictures, mostly of cats. As I trying to get some perspective on things, she sent me a text, which was the first thing I saw when I woke up. I can’t tell you the full details of the text, except it was about bowel movements and I haven’t actually cried tears from laughter in a long time.