Chronic Illness, mental health, Type 1 Diabetes

The Good Diabetic

Good: adjective. To be desired or approved of.

The Oxford Dictionary

I share a lot of aspects of my life with people, and I find that I am the most open about my life with Type 1 Diabetes. This wasn’t something that happened overnight, but rather it came from me being frustrated with stereotypes surrounding Type 1 Diabetes, and my want to break those stereotypes. I am coming up on my fourth anniversary of being diagnosed, and while I wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone, I have found that I have become quite good at managing it. Good being a term that I like to use loosely.

I think one of the consequences that has stemmed from being so open about my diabetes and sharing my blood sugar and A1C levels with people is that a lot of people have started using me as a baseline for how people manage their chronic conditions. I don’t know how many times I hear the phrase, “You are such a good diabetic” directed at me, and I cringe every single time I hear it. You want to know why? Because there is no such thing as a good diabetic.

Type One Diabetes (T1D) is a complex disease, and while food is the biggest influencer on my blood sugar levels, there are so many other moving pieces that affect my blood sugar levels. I didn’t know that when I first diagnosed so I don’t always expect non-diabetics to understand that either. What I do expect is for them to realize that unless they have someone very close to them that is living with this disease, they have a very small understanding of what life is like with T1D. I wish we lived in a perfect world, but as anyone can tell you from being human, it’s easy to judge someone from the outside looking in.

I have a lot of people in my life who know someone who is living with T1D by association. It’s always something like, ‘my brother’s girlfriend’s sister,” or “my cousin’s fiancĂ©.” Most of the people in my life are not close with the people they know living with Type 1 Diabetes. They don’t know that these people living with T1D are exhausted each and every day they have to wake up and battle this disease. They don’t know that they’ve been living in a diabetes burnout for months, and for whatever reason they can’t tell their physician that T1D has become just too much for them to handle. They can’t see that they’ve been on the phone with their insurance company almost every night for weeks trying to figure out why they won’t cover the specific insulin pump they want or the continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that has the possibility to be a game changer for the way they manage their diabetes. Or maybe what they don’t know is that they’re struggling to afford all of things that make living with T1D so much easier because the cost of insulin went up again.

What most of my friends, and some of my family, doesn’t see is that I live a very privileged life with Type 1 Diabetes. I have excellent health insurance. I not only have access to affordable insulin, but my CGM and insulin pump supplies don’t bankrupt me each month. I also have a supportive diabetes team who encouraged me to see a mental health professional when life with T1D became too much for me to handle. I have people in my life who don’t associate therapy and mental illness with hurtful stigma. I was dealt a shitty hand of cards, but I am privileged to have the support system and resources available to me so that I can manage my T1D the way that I do. Without all these tools at my disposal, I don’t think people would use words such as ‘good’ to describe my diabetes management.

The playing field for people living with Type 1 Diabetes isn’t even, and that’s why you can’t compare one diabetic to another. It’s heartbreaking to know that it is 2020 and not all people living with diabetes can afford insulin, even people with insurance. If you know someone in your life who is living with diabetes, or really any chronic condition, I urge you to not judge their management. I wake up every day know that my blood sugar levels can change without any warning. I have to life with the fact that most of what I do on a day-to-day basis impacts my blood sugar levels, and I might not even understand why. That can be so hard to live with some days.

There are no good or bad diabetics. Just people living with diabetes.

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