Age: 28 Year Diagnosed: 2004 Location: Chicago, IL
“The amount of times I get asked if my pump is a pager still astounds me--what year is this? Too much. At least sometimes I get mistaken for a doctor on call when my pump is yelling at me in a class at the gym. Alas, I am a middle school reading teacher. ;) I used to be pretty uncomfortable with questions about my devices or telling people about my diabetes in general, but now I really see it as an important opportunity to educate people and clear up misconceptions about Type 1. I mean, I didn’t know much about diabetes either until I had to! While you still get some rude people that feel like they can ask you anything or assume things about you (like my high school security guard that tried to rip my pump off my body thinking it was a cell phone), in general people have good intentions. It’s cool to see all the compassionate questions my students, friends, and coworkers will have and how much they are genuinely interested in learning about diabetes. Now, I wearing my dex and pump with pride, y’all!
Something I’ve struggled with that I’m sure pretty much everyone with Type 1 has, is accepting this hand we’ve been dealt. I was diagnosed right before going to high school, and diabetes definitely had an effect on how I navigated the world as a young adult. Just as everyone was looking for independence from their parents, I was suddenly completely reliant on them again and apprehensive about going out into the world and trying new things. I had to re-learn how to do basically everything someone does in their daily life through the lens of diabetes. It was a great source of anxiety and self-consciousness for me for many years. Fifteen years later, I still get frustrated about the mental and physical toll that diabetes demands of us every day, and how different my life might be without this challenge. While it is easy to feel resentment about the extra (several) balls we are constantly juggling, I am recognizing with time that in many ways, having diabetes has shaped me irrevocably as a person in ultimately positive ways. I am more in tune with my own body and feel so much gratitude for the functions it does perform on its own. I am tougher and more resilient than I would have been. I have valuable perspective when smaller problems in life arise. I have greater empathy for those also struggling with illness. One of my goals for this year is to not let diabetes frustrate me as much as it has in the past or hold me back from anything I want to do.
If I have any advice for new diabetics, it is to get and stay connected with other Type 1’s! Personally, I am still working on this--I tend to internalize all my frustrations, fears, questions. This is probably because I knew very few other Type 1’s growing up and felt that this was just something it was my responsibility to deal with. Just recently, I’ve found this community on Instagram and made efforts to reach out to other diabetics, like volunteering at a diabetes camp last summer. Let me tell you, these have been the coolest experiences! Why haven’t I done this before?! I’ve had diabetes for 15 years, and it’s still amazing to me to get to have a conversation with someone that just totally gets it. The instant connection that comes from conversations that use all the terms that it feels like nobody else has to know and express all the feelings you normally only have in your own head. Type 1 touches almost every part of our lives, so I really regret keeping it to myself for so long! Vulnerability is truly a strength when it comes to diabetes. We’re all here for each other in this thing, unlike anything else I’ve experienced, and that’s pretty awesome.”