Just over a month into my freshman year of high school, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It came as a huge shock to me and my family. No one else in the family had type 1 diabetes, and I had only met one or two other people who had type 1 diabetes. At that point in my life, I didn’t even really understand what type 1 diabetes was. I couldn’t understand how it happened. I was young, I danced regularly, and I ate a balanced diet. Only after my diagnosis did I realize that type 1 diabetes isn’t the same as type 2 - it can happen to anyone, regardless of age or weight. While already adapting to high school, a new social life, new schedule, and new friends, I had a chronic medical condition that I had to add on to my list of things to adapt to. When I went back to school after being in the hospital, no one treated me any differently, and I was fine. For the next two years, my blood sugars were normal, I took great care of myself, and I lived a relatively normal life, with a few exceptions, like having to go to the nurse’s office to give myself an injection before eating my lunch.
Two years later, at the start of my junior year, things changed. I was overwhelmed, stressed, and depressed, and those all affected my blood sugars. I was constantly in and out of the emergency room with blood sugars that were off the charts in terms of how high they were. I ended up having to leave my school and do an independent study/homeschool program so that I could take care of myself. This does not happen to most diabetics; many of us have completely normal lives and can manage our blood sugars in various settings, but for some reason, at that time in my life, I couldn’t. While everyone thought I was so lucky to be homeschooled, I was incredibly lonely and sad. Though I had a social life and was able to closely manage my blood sugars, it wasn’t easy for me, and I lost a lot of confidence in my ability to take care of myself. My sugars still stayed high, I gained weight, and my doctors constantly had to adjust my insulin regimen. For the two years that I was homeschooled and in my first year of college, I worked tirelessly to get my blood sugars back to normal. I would always be extremely hard on myself when I messed up and I felt miserable most of the time. These three years were some of the hardest of my life. However, my social media reflected the life of a funny, bubbly, happy, put-together girl. This was definitely the reality on some days, but not on most days.
My sugars started improving after my first year of college. For the first time in a few years, my blood sugars finally started to normalize. With the support of my mom, my friends, my family, and my doctors, I was able to get back on track with not only my diabetes, but other aspects of my life that I felt had fallen apart because of the things that came along with my diabetes. I started doing the things I love again, spending time with people who brought me joy, and I found motivation within myself to get through the rest of my life without reminiscing about the days that I didn’t have diabetes and could live a “normal life.” The thing is, I do live a normal life, with a couple exceptions. Now that I’ve been through all of this, I can educate others about diabetes, I can make healthy food choices and still indulge in snacks without risking a high blood sugar, and I can help others who don’t know how to manage their diabetes.
Though I’m very open about having type 1 diabetes and feel comfortable answering any and all questions about it now that I’m in my third year of college and have been diabetic for almost six and a half years, it definitely hasn’t always been that way. During the time that I struggled, I rarely posted anything on my social media that reflected that I was having any difficulties in my life. I didn’t want to seem like I was “looking for attention” or “not enjoying my life.” I think that’s why a lot of people don’t post these things on social media. We’re conditioned to believe that anything posted on social media that doesn’t show that someone’s happy automatically means that they just want attention and they’re taking life for granted. All of my photos, even after struggling with that specifically, don’t show any signs of loneliness or sadness in my life. If I were to share any of this on social media, I think it would have a positive effect on other women struggling with a chronic disease. I would hope that it would inspire them to get through it and find the strength within themselves to do so.
Whenever I meet a recently diagnosed type 1 diabetic, I remind them that the condition doesn’t define them. For a long time, I thought that my diabetes defined me and made me less worthy than anyone else, even other diabetics, because I struggled so much to get my blood sugars under control. Now, I know different and I would hate to see any other diabetic go through the emotional rollercoaster that I did. I’ve been able to use my diabetes as an asset in my life rather than an anchor that pulls me down, and I want others to know that they are just as capable of doing the same.