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A Pure Barre Teacher on Her Journey With Type 1 Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month, and below Pure Barre's Director of Training & Technique Michelle Ditto shares her journey with Type 1 Diabetes and how Pure Barre helped her come to terms with her diagnosis. 

This is the story of how I got my body back.

To some, that means recovery. To others, it means commitment.

For me, it's a story that began when I was ten years old.

I was a dancer, and had worn that moniker proudly since I was three. Ballet, jazz, tap-- you name it. Exercise was for the dogs, but dance? Dance was for me. So what if I was chubby?

In fourth grade, I unexpectedly lost thirty-five pounds in ten weeks. I was ecstatic, happy to ignore my sudden lethargy and excessive thirst. Finally, I was starting to look "normal." Finally, I could look like the other girls in my dance class.

In reality, of course, I was sick. My immune system had turned on my pancreas and aggressively started destroying the cells within. No pancreas means no insulin, which is the hormone that transforms the sugar in your blood to energy in your cells. Starved for energy, my body began devouring my fat and muscle.

I was aesthetically closer to my fourth grade "ideal body" because I was inching closer to dying.

I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, an auto-immune disease. I remember little about that first hospital stay, but when I came home, everything had changed. Eating food meant getting an injection, and carbs were now dangerous (or so it was understood at the time). Eating lunch at school meant going to the office for a blood sugar test. It was all calculations, lows, highs, dizziness, fatigue, and shots.

I actually managed okay for a couple years. I worked with my body. But high school is hell.

A big part of fitting in is eating out, and an even bigger part of fitting in is not drawing blood in the middle of eating movie theater popcorn to test your blood sugar. So often... I didn't. If I could be bothered, I'd sneak off to a bathroom or wait until I got home. Why draw extra attention to yourself when you can just degrade your organs over time?  I'd realized I hated my insides. They were sick, they were different, and they were just in my way. It was infuriating and miserable. The worst part was I knew I could tackle my illness with the same tenacity I applied to school, friends, and dance, but I only ever felt defeated, annoyed, and betrayed, so I gave up. I tested my blood sugar regularly if infrequently, and dosed enough insulin to live, but Type 1 needs so much more care and attention than that. There are countless other factors that affect blood sugar, from temperature to stress to menstrual cycle and others. And I had enough trouble being 15.

What I wanted and what I needed dueled constantly, but I had spent so much of my life yearning to fit in, why risk it by standing out? So the chasm between the timid girl I was and the capable woman I knew I could be stretched endlessly.

Unbeknownst to me, dance-- my passion-- was keeping me alive, providing routine fitness that staved off worse outcomes from my neglected disease. After college I stepped into the professional dance world where I realized, quite suddenly, that I was in charge of my life. I could no longer fake my way to wellness. I did not choose diabetes. I did not choose my body. But what happened inside it, and what I chose to do WITH it, were one and the same. I got my first Continuous Glucose Monitor and I took my first Pure Barre class.

The first tool-- the monitor-- allowed me to track my blood sugar levels just by looking at my phone. The latter, Pure Barre, introduced me to a studio of humans from every walk of life, each with their own truths and tribulations (even another Type 1 Diabetic!). With these two new tools in tandem, I realized something I'd never known before: my body, diseased or not, was on my side. It would allow me to succeed if I took care of it. With the haven of Pure Barre, and more consistent glucose numbers, I was reinvigorated and I approached my health holistically, from my diet, to my mental health, to my social life. Renewed, I invested my time in reaching others, first through Pure Barre, and then through my diagnosis. I realized what it means to find success as a Type 1 Diabetic, not only within the Diabetic community, but to others with autoimmune diseases. In the studio, I spent my hours with clients that had their own stories; I learned from them, I listened to them, I cried with them, and I sweated with them. 

All of this reawakened the lesson I learned at ten years old, even if I didn't understand it at the time: I am so, so much stronger than I think I am.

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