Kirby

 
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Age: 25     Year Diagnosed: 2014    Location: Oakland, Ca

"During my last year of graduate school, I'd landed an awesome gig as the Graduate Assistant for the Department of African American Studies at my university. I'd come in early on a Saturday morning to help set up for a regional conference for all of the department heads of Diaspora programs across the state when I realized I'd left my Omnipod PDM at home. I'd left my Omnipod PDM at home AND I'd neglected to humor the expiration alarm that had been beeping for a full seven hours prior. The siren of death inevitably came and I was so mortified that I ran into the nearest restroom, pitched the pod in the toilet and flushed it into oblivion (this is terrible for both your pipes and the environment--don't do this!) My stomach dropped anytime I saw attendees excusing themselves for a bathroom break. I could only liken this experience to the Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe. The Tell-Tale Pod? There may be a publishing deal there.

I wish that people were generally MORE health literate and LESS inclined to blame individuals for their health outcomes. I am a recent Masters of Public Health graduate and current public health researcher and nothing frustrates me more than armchair physicians. When I got diagnosed, I had so many people trying to "get me off insulin." I was given HCLF vegan meal plans, told to give up gluten, and criticized for my behavior choices--all by people I love. The cultural stigma of diabetes (type 1 or otherwise) eclipsed any compassion or empathy that these people had the capacity for and made them unkind. The science on autoimmunity (and its increasing prevalence) is very much emerging, which means there's still so much for all of us to learn. We just have to be open to learning and admitting what we don't know.

Health status is absolutely dynamic throughout the life course. We can choose to meet aging, pregnancy, chronic illness, accidents, weight gain/loss, etc. with grace, or we can choose stigma and shame because those are easy feelings to default to in the face of things we fear. I look at our current health landscape, both as a public health professional and someone who is chronically ill, and I see nothing but fear. From all sides. Fear mongering from self-proclaimed wellness influencers who preach moral purity in the form of orthorexic, restrictive "clean" diets, politicians who strike down public health polices designed to uplift marginalized communities, and people hellbent on chasing unattainable ideals of physical perfection. Type 1 diabetes has taught me to let go of that fear. It has made me more empathetic. It has taught me that health doesn't have to be scary. We don't have to let ourselves be ruled by fear. We can make the world better without it.

I'm a fairly new type 1 diabetic (4 years) but one strategy that has served me well is my three-strike policy. I use this policy with people who I spend a lot of time around (friends, coworkers, family, etc.). This means that I will correct tacky diabetes jokes and poor behavior only three times before limiting contact with someone. This disease is serious and I only want people in my corner who demonstrate that they are willing and able to learn how they can be an active ally to those with type 1 diabetes. My diabetes management only improved when I became more intentional about who I shared my time with."