I figured I’d share my post on facebook from Nov’18 because I think some FUD’ers would understand/appreciate the sentiments. The idea of balancing my own identity and that of being a T1D is something that I’m continuing to work on (and may always be working on). I’d love to hear how you all relate to your diabetes and perceive how it plays a role in your identity (if it does)!
Today marks the start of National Diabetes Awareness Month. I’m working on being more open about being a Type 1 Diabetic, so here’s a little of my story.
I was diagnosed with T1D when I was 6 years old, and I’m not going to lie, it has been the most lonely journey of my life.
What you need to know about T1D is that it is an autoimmune disease in which my body attacked itself, killing my pancreatic cells which make insulin. Without insulin, the amount of glucose in my blood rises putting me at risk for complications including diabetic ketoacidosis (a life-threatening condition that causes many organs to shut down), coma, eye, heart, kidney, and nerve damage, pregnancy complications and a higher risk of amputation. These are just some of the things I have to keep in mind on a daily basis
To keep my blood sugars in range, I am a human pin cushion because I prick myself with a needle more than 5 times a day. I am part robot because I always have my insulin pump connected to me, delivering synthetic insulin (pictured clipped to my shirt, inserted in my stomach and wirelessly monitoring my blood glucose via the sensor on my arm). And it’s all a balancing game because if my blood sugar gets too low I can blackout and have a seizure. So ya, you could say it’s complicated and stressful in itself to try to keep my blood sugar in range.
Though having my diabetes in check is absolutely essential to my survival, I was (/am working on not being) so fixated on the idea of not being defined by my disease and its management.
This disease, this chronic condition that is there with me every second of every day, that continues to physically, mentally, and emotionally hurt me - has been buried and buried and hidden away because I didn’t want others to see me as this disease. I’ve been so scared of not having my own identity that I’ve internalized so much of the trauma that I go through on a DAILY BASIS. It really sucks dealing with the spikes and crashes of blood sugar. Especially when you just want to give up and take a break from it (diabetes never takes breaks!!) But I would say that the underlying isolation I’ve created for myself has also been relentlessly damaging.
“The hard part [about living with T1D] was being a sophomore in college with years of living with diabetes under my belt and feeling so overwhelmed and defeated and alone” - Kim Vlasnik, T1D blogger
I won’t try to make you understand how difficult it is living with T1D, but I think we can all understand that internalizing our problems makes them that much heavier. And it’s taken me 16 years since being diagnosed to really try to come to terms with this.
“Maybe Diabetes is a part of my identity that I have to live with. But what I have done with it, and the way I have not let it hold me back these past years, is something I have become extremely proud of. Diabetes is not my identity; being someone who is kicking its butt is” - Sierra Sandison, Miss Idaho 2014
This post was a way for me to acknowledge that I’ve missed out on so many opportunities of growth and healing when I could have opened up more about my disease with strangers, acquaintances, family and friends alike. I hope that this can start the dialogue that I’ve been running from. I hope this can be a sort of beginning of acceptance of my disease.
I am a Type 1 Diabetic; I am my badass self and it’s thanks to my Type 1 Diabetes and I’m ok with you seeing that now.