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Guest Post: Creating Normal

Today’s guest post is from the ever amazing Steve Richert of LivingVertical.  Steve is on an incredible 365 day mission to empower people living with Type 1 Diabetes, and raise awareness of this invisible condition through rock climbing every day.  I had the pleasure of meeting Steve this summer, as he was a guest speaker at the Roche Social Media Summit in Indianapolis.  Today, he shares thoughts on the experience so far.  Thanks again, Steve!

Almost 300 days ago I began (Project 365) climbing every day consecutively with the goal of raising awareness of Diabetes and empowering people affected by it. I wasn’t a rock climber before I was diagnosed with Type 1 in 1999. I was just a kid in high school of average athletic talents and mediocre motivation. I always had grandiose dreams of climbing mountains but I dismissed them as being pointless. I was born in New York and I assumed that unless you were born in Colorado or Alaska or had parents who were climbers that you would have to settle for looking at National Geographic articles and that was that.

Being diagnosed with diabetes as a 16 year old left me scared. Sure, I was scared of all the complications and risk factors of diabetes, but I was most scared that I would waste my life simply trying to buy more time and in the process miss out on truly living. Diabetes gave me a reason to create my own reality rather than accepting what was “in the cards”. Being liberated from the fallacy that everyone lives forever was one of the greatest gifts I have been given because it forced me to live now and not put off the things I wanted to accomplish.

Climbing is filled with challenges and the same things that make it hard and scary are often what make it fun. By redefining the way we choose to view challenges in our lives we can create our own sense of normalcy. We can adapt to anything if we simply embrace it.

When I began Project 365 in January 2012, I regularly freaked myself out. A whole year of climbing, every single day? What was I thinking? I remember laying in my tent at night in the wintry and arid back-country of Joshua Tree National Park, listening to the wind howling outside and feeling utterly inadequate. Even if I could thumb my nose at gravity for a year, what if I got sick? It’s all well and good when you are tweeting from a warm house about your intention to push your limits and raise diabetes awareness but it’s quite another thing to be out in the wilderness, sleeping in the cold and dirt, feeling the sand in your teeth, wondering if and how you will be able to explain a years worth of suffering and living out of a car to the world in hash-tags and status updates.

In the last 286 days I have explored the use of #bearattack #rattlesnake #bigwall_hyperglycemia and #completevehicularfailure to highlight just a few aspects of this project, but the one thing that hasn’t come out of left field for me was my diabetes and managing it. When I was first diagnosed, I created routines based around being active and I created my own “normal” out of those routines. This has oddly enough proven to be spectacularly effective for normalizing other challenges like those found in the vertical world. Diabetes has literally been my training ground!

At this point in the project, there are still hiccups (as in my management of my Diabetes!) but I have been getting better at accepting that there will be those occasional instances in which plans fail and priority must be given to balancing my blood sugar. I have also learned the importance of early work–a big day tomorrow means planning and dialing in the blood sugar the night before–and this has translated to less surprises and greater consistency despite living on the road and climbing daily!

My goal in Project 365 has not been to glorify climbing as an activity (although I do think it is something everyone should try once at least!) or to advocate for a specific diet or process to live with Diabetes. It is simply one manifestation of how we can use the skills that living with Diabetes gives us and apply that anywhere we choose! Nothing is comfortable or normal from the outset–but choosing to push back and staying focused on striving toward whatever goals you have will result in your creation of a new normal.

Every high, every low, every struggle associated with Diabetes can be our training to eclipse the disease with the beauty we can create from it. Despite almost 14 years in this game, I am still learning and re-learning these lessons!

My Diabetic Heart supports Project365 and you can, too.  Visit:  Project 365: the 100 day challenge!  to find out how!

Living with a Confusing Pancreas and a Broken Heart at age 36 #Diabetes #LADA #CongestiveHeartFailure. #MakeDiabetesVisible Creator, #ALittleHeartCanDoBigThings Creator, Advocate, Blogger, Nature Photographer.