The Vulnerable Truth About Being Different

I’ve always used my disease(s) as a conversation starter, a selling point, a point of differentiation. As a recent alumnus of Seattle University, and a former division 1 tennis team player, captain, honor student, club president, and “professional volunteer”, I feel I have lived a “normal” and quite extraordinary life thus far, with two autoimmune diseases.  Since my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, almost nine years ago, I have embraced that I was different—or so I thought. In fact, I have been focusing all my energy on proving that I was stronger, smarter, more capable because I felt I had to, and neglecting the negative mental and physical impact. All these years, I have only shared how diabetes strengthens me. Yes, diabetes has strengthened me, but it also has ripped me to shreds, and does so daily.

I have a distorted view of food, carbohydrates specifically, because I am different. I can never look at or eat food without constant mental math depicting a perfect insulin to carb ratio. My relationship with food caused body dysmorphia in college, feeling guilty when I had to eat something because I was low, not hungry.  I can’t go out to eat, or even for a walk, without a bag filled with fruit snacks/glucose tabs/coconut water, a glucose monitor, and insulin. If I have more than a glass of wine, I can assure you I will have a severe low glucose at 3 am, putting my health at risk.  Dating gets difficult, when you must preface dinner with an insulin injection into your arm at the table, followed by questions and assumptions ranging from “wow, you look healthy,” to, “my grandma has diabetes and neuropathy”.

The worst part is the guilt. When my corrections are off, or god forbid I eat a banana because it sounds delicious (and don't take insulin 15-25 minutes prior), and spike to 250mg/dl within minutes, I feel defeated. I am letting myself down; I am hurting my health. Simple daily tasks, such as “a corporate desk job”, which many do with ease, hinders my insulin resistance resulting in poor mental and physical health. The cost of diabetes; i.e. pen needles, insulin, glucose monitors, testing strips, alcohol swabs, and frequent doctors’ appointments, even with great insurance, is astronomical.

Okay, vent session over. I am sharing this not as a "feel bad for me post" or a sob story, but to help any other T1Ds who are going through burnout, or have before. I make diabetes look easy on social media, and to my friends and family most often, but I am here to tell you it can be a exhausting uphill battle. I wouldn't take diabetes back, truthfully. Even with all of the pain it's inflicted, it's shaped me into the person I am today. If you are having burnout, or just need to chat about the daily struggle of having an "invisible disease" (diabetes or other), please reach out-- I'd love to chat. Xx, Maddie