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Bret Michaels Shares Challenges You'll Understand If You Grew Up With a Chronic Illness

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Growing up with a chronic illness means your childhood is filled with challenges the other kids don’t have to endure — an experience Bret Michaels recently opened up about.

The musician and reality TV star told Yahoo! Tuesday that when he first began feeling the symptoms of type 1 diabetes at 6 years old, his parents “had no idea what was going on.” When they took him to the hospital, he was in diabetic ketoacidosis which, as he described, meant his body was “starting to shut down” due to extremely high blood sugar levels.

As a child growing up with diabetes, he was the only kid in his entire school who had it — something many people with chronic illnesses can likely relate to.

“I just wanted to do all the other things everyone else was doing,” Michaels said. “I just wanted to be a normal kid.”

Unfortunately, the lack of awareness and understanding of his condition led to misunderstandings.

“Some of the families would not have their kids allowed to be around me because they thought if I was diabetic it was contagious,” he said.

This lack of awareness continued into adulthood for Michaels, who went into “insulin shock” while he was onstage in 1987 after his blood sugar level “dropped right out” from under him. Articles claimed he was using drugs, so he decided to go public with his diabetes.

“You want to talk about having to keep your strength, your positivity, your faith — there’s a few moments where you’re like, ‘This sucks.’ But I just kept thinking positive, we’re going to get through this. And that’s what I did,” Michaels said. “Every time I get punched in the face, it motivates me to work harder rather than give up.”

People who also grew up with a chronic illness (particularly ones other kids may not understand) may relate to Michaels’ experience. You might feel isolated like no one else understands what it’s like to have to go to doctor’s appointments, follow dietary restrictions, or not feel well enough to participate in everyday activities. However, it can also help you develop positive traits like knowing how to take care of your body and being kind to others. Mighty contributor Elizabeth Gray explained in her essay that one of the things she has learned after growing up with chronic illness is to see the world with more compassion. She wrote:

As someone fighting invisible illnesses, there are times when people will not show much compassion to you because they cannot “see” you are sick. This can be very frustrating, so make it a priority to remember that everyone is fighting some kind of battle. You do not know if the people you interact with on a daily basis are fighting an invisible illness as well. Just because you can not see it, does not mean it is not there.

Image via Creative Commons/Eva Rinaldi

Originally published: February 20, 2019
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