Living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) is no small feat by any means. I chose to celebrate the good and the bad days throughout my T1D journey. I recently celebrated my diaversary — five years living with T1D. I say “celebrated” because, to me, this is an accomplishment.
Here’s what I’ve learned after five years with T1D.
YEAR 1: I remind myself, “Don’t give up.”
During my initial diagnosis, the thoughts for everyone are probably similar. How do I adapt this new way of living into everyday life and keep a routine that works for me? I was diagnosed at 21 years old as a senior in college. I didn’t want to tolerate a new way of living because I wanted to enjoy my last year at college. After leaving the hospital with my first vial of insulin, a slew of pen needles, a glucose monitoring kit, and a little hope, I was still reluctant to make T1D a real part of my life.
I think, at first, I experienced denial about my diagnosis. But, once I pushed through the negativity that can surround this autoimmune disease, I started to accept how strong I am and that I wasn’t going to give up on my ambitions. There are over a million people living with T1D, and I am now one of them. I chose to fight and make the best out of my new situation. Having emotional support from my family and close friends was essential to my fight in the first year of living with T1D. Having the people that surround me on a regular basis also educate themselves on T1D and be a part of my journey made me feel less alone.
YEAR 2: I realized: technology is power
When I first started learning about T1D technology, I quickly refused to wear something on my body. I felt like having a T1D device instantly called me out to the public for being “different.” But after living with T1D for a year, it was time to take advantage of the incredible technology that the T1D community has access to. The technology could only benefit my health in the long run.
In year two of my T1D journey, I started using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), and I truly cannot imagine having to live without it. Having access to my numbers every five minutes became addictive and helped me to explore the whys of diabetes. Why are my numbers high, why are my numbers low, and why is today’s rollercoaster different than yesterday’s?
After adapting to my CGM and realizing that having a device on my body was truly not the end of the world, I began to explore different insulin pump options with my endocrinologist. I decided using an Omnipod pump was the best option for me. Once I was comfortable with wearing both a CGM and an insulin pump, I felt better and more like myself pre-T1D diagnosis.
YEAR 3: Feeling burnout is okay & community helps
It is okay to be not okay. After having to make decisions for my health 24 hours a day, every day for three years, burnout was the only natural response. I was exhausted not only physically but mentally and emotionally, too. I remember thinking: will this ever get easier? I don’t think it does, but I have adapted to a new routine after living with T1D for so long.
I knew that my next steps were to join the T1D community and be as involved in making a difference as I could be. Connecting with other people who are going through the same journey was essential to managing my burnout. It reminded me that I’m not alone in this journey.
Emerge yourself in a T1D community. The T1D Exchange Online Community connects people living with T1D from all over the world. The Community comes together daily to answer the Question of the Day. It is powerful to see other people living with T1D sharing their thoughts, opinions, stories, and challenges. The community provides strength for those living with T1D.
I learned to accept burnout instead of hiding from it or blaming myself for feeling it. I’ve learned to conquer it by fully immersing myself in a community and connecting with others who are in the same boat.
YEAR 4: I should celebrate the wins
In year four, I really came to terms with my routine and how it feels to live with T1D. Every day will not be easy, so it is important to celebrate the little moments whenever possible. Making the best out of every situation and having a positive outlook can make a difference. For me, I chose to celebrate my dia-versary with a positive perspective, as I have come so far and can say I am proud of myself.
When I see that 99 mg/dL on my meter, I give myself a pat on the back! When it says 299 mg/dL, I take a deep breath, think about what might’ve contributed to that number, address it with insulin carefully, and move on. I simply cannot ride at 100 mg/dL all the time. Sometimes I need to take a break from staring at my numbers and just simply go with the flow. My hardest adjustment is learning not to rage bolus after enjoying pizza or Chinese food, even though there may be a glucose rollercoaster that comes out of it.
YEAR 5: I can do it
After five years of living with T1D, I know that I can do it. Even though I feel like five years have flown by, I recognize the challenges of living with T1D and choose to come out stronger. Taking a deep breath can really go a long way. I am honored to be able to share my voice within the community and look forward to what else is to come from living with T1D.