I was diagnosed with type one diabetes when I was 6 years old. All I remember are little images of being in the hospital with a giant stuffed animal but no one can actually recall the date I was diagnosed! When I look back to that time period of being young with diabetes the feeling that I most strongly associated with was loneliness, a result of being misunderstood and isolated. Everyone in elementary school knew who I was but it wasn’t for being smart or nice or interesting it was for having apple juice during recess or leaving the classroom for one of my injections.
This differentiation that I didn’t want spun me into later concealing my diabetes at all cost. There were delayed finger pricks, quick injections under a table, only waiting until I could find a bathroom to check in with my body. As a college student I told no one, as I grew into my 20s I realized I had friends for over a decade that had no idea I was diabetic. This meant that I was actually concealing myself which had negative implications on both my physical and mental health.
Breaking out of this mindset wasn’t a snap adjustment. The change occurred over time when I finally recognized that everyone has their own struggles and I had people in my life that wanted to support me but I just wasn’t open to the idea. The final switch was when I was traveling and befriended another diabetic who lived openly with her diabetes. I saw the power and a glimpse into a brand-new life with a CGM and the freedom to inject whenever and wherever I needed. Later this new standard of opening myself up to support was instrumental when I developed eye complications and required surgery. My new foundation of care was how I was able to not only adjust but thrive in my visibly brighter world.
Not every day (or month!) is easy for a diabetic but we are certainly not alone.
Natalie has been living with type one diabetes since she was six years old and is based in NYC. She loves to travel and has been to all 7 continents. Over the past year, Natalie’s diabetic eye complications required surgery (a vitrectomy). The surgery was a success and she is grateful for the support from her friends and family.