YOUR STRUGGLES CREATE YOUR SUPERPOWERS
by Kailey Lefko, yoga teacher
I was 13 and a competitive gymnast. I felt so tired and overworked. I had absolutely no energy. It must be because of all the training I had been doing leading up to the most important competition of my career, I thought.
I remember my friend coming up to me at practice after my weekend away competing and asking “Kailey, are you anorexic? You’ve lost lots of weight”. I looked down, my knees did look strangely bony. But it didn’t make any sense; I was always hungry and constantly eating!
My parents were worried. Something wasn’t right. I was tired, hungry and thirsty all the time and now it seemed that I had lost half my body weight over the weekend. My mom took me to the doctor and after a urine test my paediatrician came back into the room and looked us in the eye. “Kailey has type 1 diabetes”. With those words, my world turned upside down.
The next week was spent at the hospital with my mom and dad learning everything there was to know about type 1 diabetes and how to live with it. We learned that it was an autoimmune disease in which my immune system killed off the cells in my pancreas that produced insulin. Insulin is a hormone that unlocks the door to your cells to allow glucose in as fuel. No wonder I was so tired all the time, my body couldn’t use any of the food I was eating as energy. I was always thirsty because the glucose I ate was floating in my blood, unable to do its job, so my kidneys were trying to flush it out.
We learned that it wasn’t my fault that I developed type 1 diabetes, in fact, science still hasn’t figured out what the cause is. We also learned that this disease has no cure and I would have to live with it for the rest of my life. We were told that if not managed correctly this illness could kill me. However, if I took great care of myself I could have a healthy life and continue to do all the things I loved and aspired to do in my future.
At the age of thirteen my life was in my hands. The choice to live the healthy, happy and adventurous life I desired despite this life changing disease was within reach and I decided to grab it.
Type 1 diabetes is a delicate balancing act. If my blood sugar levels go too low, I could pass out, have a seizure, go into a coma or even die. If my blood sugars are too high, I am at risk of long-term complications such as kidney damage, loss of sight, nerve damage and loss of limbs. I must test my blood sugar levels by pricking my finger multiple times per day. Then, give myself shots of insulin when I eat. Dosing insulin is incredibly difficult and next to impossible to get right because there are so many factors that come in to play. I take insulin based on how many carbohydrates I plan on eating, what my stress levels are or will be over the next few hours, what kind of activity I will be doing, what time of day it is, where I am in my monthly cycle…and the list of variable goes on and on. There isn’t a second of the day that I am not thinking of and managing my diabetes.
“Kailey, you’re so positive”. Yes, I am. I’m positive because I have to be.
In fact, most of my best qualities and biggest passions have grown out of my experiences with this illness. I am strong, I am positive, I am organized, I am empathetic and loving and I can see the good in people and situations. I love learning about the human body and am passionate about keeping body, mind and soul aligned, healthy and happy. Mental heath is a top priority for me and I am constantly learning how to work through my struggles.
Think back to the most difficult experience of your life. That instance probably had a huge impact on you. It probably shook you up. Pulled the rug out from under you. Made you look at the world through a different lens. It probably connected you with people that you never would have met otherwise. It probably changed the course of your life in a big way.
All thanks to diabetes. My daily struggles create my superpowers.
I am often told by my friends and family “Kailey, you’re so strong”. Yes, I am. I’m strong because I have to be.
That moment was a seed and once planted, though the planting was difficult and painstaking, it grew into something special. A quality, a trait, a skill that has allowed you to flourish or take action, to be better equipped for the next stages of your life.
© Alegría Pictures
Am I thankful for my disease? Heck no! If there was a cure tomorrow, I would be first in line! Do you have to be happy that something crappy turned your world upside down? No way! But…
When I look back on my journey I can see how the twists and turns, the lows points, the difficult and dark times were the pressure and heat necessary to create diamonds. My struggles have created my superpowers.
Once I realized this, my perspective on the metaphorical detours, roadblocks and full on car crashes of my life changed.
Now, as I am experiencing a hurdle, a challenge or a deep dark hole, I remind myself to be curious, to investigate, to look around. What lesson is here? What skill is this forcing me to learn? What new path is this guiding me towards? I don’t necessarily look for the positive in the situation. Frankly, there is nothing positive about living with type 1 diabetes. Instead, I open my eyes, ears and heart to what I am being taught.
When the going gets tough, I remind myself that growing can be seriously painful and I don’t have to pretend it isn’t. However, it is necessary so that I can evolve into my best, most complete self.
When the struggle is real I say to myself:
“This too shall pass, and when it does, look out world, I’ll have a new superpower!”
I am always working on deepening my presence in the moment; the way I do that is ever changing and evolving. In every season of my journey, I practice being fully present through a combination of yoga, meditation, journaling, and spending lots of time in nature. As I grow and evolve, the way I practice presence moves with me. Sometimes I crave slow yoga with lots of meditation, sometimes I am pulled towards walking in the forest and stopping for a dynamic yoga sequence, at times floating on my paddle board at the lake for hours is what my soul needs. Life is fluid and ever changing, my practice moves and transforms with me.
When Kailey found yoga it was love at first downward dog. A science teacher, she wanted to combine her love of teaching with her passion for yoga and wellness so she completed Meghan Currie’s life changing 200-hour yoga teacher training in Nicaragua in 2015. Kailey now owns and operates Still Cove Yoga and teaches yoga and meditation classes in her community as well as mindfulness, yoga and meditation workshops for students and teachers in schools. You can learn more about Kailey and Still Cove Yoga at www.stillcoveyoga.com and you can follow her on Instagram @kaileysadventures