Alexi Melvin is a writer, artist and aspiring actress in the San Francisco Bay Area. She's also an active member of both the type 1 diabetes and LGBTQ+ communities, a combination we featured recently.
Inspired by that article, Alexi has agreed to share her personal journey here at the 'Mine today, including what it was like being diagnosed as a teenager, coming out, and eventually finding the confidence and pride to own her various identities.
Read on for more ...
On the LGBTQ+Diabetes Life, by Alexi Melvin
Most people assume that whenever you have any sort of illness, your body is attacking you -- that it’s against you.
This was surely my reality as a 14-year-old at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, learning about the possible risks of type 1 diabetes, and how to jab myself with syringes.
Today, I proudly live within both the type 1 diabetes and LGBTQ community. The acknowledgment of my sexuality never bothered me. Rather, it brought a stronger sense of clarity and reassurance following many years of confusion leading up to it.
The diagnosis of T1D, however, did not bring clarity, reassurance or anything remotely positive — at least not in the beginning. In the beginning, it only sent me into a state of shock and disappointment. Disappointment is something that I never felt with regard to being gay, but when it came to my body, I felt as if it had failed me.
In addition to already having issues with social anxiety, my type 1 diagnosis caused me to be consistently unsure of myself, what I wanted, and who I was in general. I fairly immediately ruled out any athletic pursuits, for fear that it would be like playing a sort of Russian roulette with my body. I had always loved the arts – theater and film in particular, so I decided that acting would be my forte.
I loved the artistic expression that studying acting afforded me, but when it came to pursuing it as a career, I seemed to always hit a roadblock in the audition room. I now know it to be a distrust and fear of being in my own skin, and what potential medical issues could happen at any moment beneath the exterior. It was indeed a roadblock, in my chosen career path and in life. How could I be expected to confidently portray other characters when I had not yet solidified my own, inherent character?
Upon moving to New York City to attend college at The New School, focusing on creative writing and journalism – I knew that I needed to explore myself beyond a surface level, and to find peace within the chaos.
I’ve found that an endocrinologist or general practitioner is not going to be a huge help with that side of things. So for me, embracing meditation, energy healing and finding practitioners who really “speak my language” was a turning point. There are so many ways to navigate and nurture our mental health, but it takes persistence and patience to find what resonates with each of us.
Bodies are strange, there are no two ways about it. But I believe that our bodies simply take a little time to catch up to our minds and spirits. Where I used to believe that I was supposed to mentally react to whatever my body was doing, for instance, a low blood sugar – it feels truer to me that our bodies are the ones that should react to our mental and spiritual states.
Instead of resisting what my body was doing, I realized that needed to fully accept it, and only then could I begin to take action to correct the issue.
What I have learned throughout my efforts to align my mind, body and spirit is that sometimes when your body is behaving strangely, it is not fighting against you. It is actually fighting for you.
I have struggled with adult acne, off and on, for several years now. The first time that I had a major and unrelenting issue with it, it took over a year to diagnose the real problem. Finally, an OB/GYN was able to diagnose me with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which was aggravating the skin issue.
The second time my face erupted with acne, once again, it took quite a while to pinpoint the root problem. After finding a wonderful internist, I found that I had a parasite. For whatever reason, acne has been my body’s way of telling me:
“Uh oh… we’ve got a problem here, and it’s not your skin!”
I don’t really know how type 1 diabetes plays into all of that yet. And I may never know. But I believe, deep down, that my body was reacting to something happening in my life – spiritually and emotionally – that caused it to react in a certain way, with the intention of protecting me.
After college, I became heavily involved with Beyond Type 1 as a writer, an advocate, and ultimately joining their Leadership Council. It remains one of the things that I am the most grateful for in my life. Once I became active in the progressively thriving T1D community, I was able to share my own thoughts, feelings and listen to other people’s inspiring stories of overcoming adversity. I knew that this was where I was supposed to be.
I was able to continue to accept my body, inside and out, and connect with others who were on their own journeys to do the same. After embracing mindfulness and meditation, my type 1 management improved by leaps and bounds. My Dexcom continuous glucose monitor graphs became consistently steady – peaceful.
Things that I perceived as being impossible began to open up for me. I am no longer afraid of athleticism, and I will be running the New York City Marathon with the Beyond Type 1 marathon team in November.
Finding peace, acceptance and learning to take cues from my body have been my integral tools for navigating this disease, and I am looking forward to whatever my body wants me to discover next.
Thanks for sharing, Alexi!