confessions of a type 1 diabetic

So you probably don't know this about me, but I have Type 1 diabetes. I was diagnosed when I was one month shy of turning 10, so I've been dealing with the disease for a long time. I really don't even remember life before diabetes. I just read this article which got me thinking about how misunderstood Type 1 vs. Type 2 diabetes is. I definitely already recognized that, but it was nice to see that someone else felt the same way.

First, there is absolutely nothing I could have done to prevent getting this disease. Type 1 is an auto immune disorder unlike Type 2. Type 2 is much more common and is typically what people think of when they think about diabetes. They are extremely different. I didn't eat too much sugar nor was I too inactive. My pancreas stopped producing insulin. That means that every time I eat food, I have to take insulin. So I have to know how many carbs I eat and I take insulin accordingly. So, I have to have my diabetic supplies on me at all times. I also have to check my blood sugar at least four times a day (I need to be better about this if I'm honest :/). Plus there are several factors (hormones, stress, being sick, etc)that can alter my blood sugar. I can actually take too much insulin and die, and I can take too little insulin and go into a diabetic coma. The disease is complex and emotionally draining, and there is absolutely no one who understands expect other Type 1 diabetics. As you can imagine, that can be lonely at times.

Another big misconception is that all diabetics can't eat sugar. I absolutely can eat sugar. My diabetes is not controlled by diet. As I mentioned previously, I take insulin based on how many carbs I have or will be eating. So technically I could eat an entire cake and just take the required insulin. Obviously, eating an entire cake is bad decision for anyone, diabetics and non-diabetics alike. However, this is not the case for Type 2 Diabetics. Their bodies still produce insulin, but their cells do not receive the insulin well. Having too much sugar, being overweight, not exercising, etc can contribute to this cellular dysfunction. This is why Type 2 diabetics are supposed to keep their sugar/carb intake low. A lot of Type 2 diabetics can completely rid themselves of the disease by eating healthy and exercising (this is not always the case). Outside of miracle, there is nothing I can do to make my diabetes go away.

People also think diabetes is death sentence. Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics can live a normal life span if they manage the disease properly. Also, yes I have seen Steel Magnolias and yes I can have children. Type 1 diabetics CAN have their own children. It is more tricky and you have to manage your blood sugar closely, but it is possible to have a baby and not die. I could go on with more misconceptions, but I'll leave it here.

I'm sharing all of this information with you because you will probably meet a Type 1 diabetic in your life, and they would probably appreciate a person who better understands their disease. Diabetes has one of the biggest stigmas attached to it and people judge diabetics a lot. Also, people often voice their opinions. As a nurse, I actually experience this with my fellow nurses. I have been scolded by so many of my coworkers for eating candy. That is how widely misunderstood my disease is. Even nurses don't get it right. It is incredibly frustrating and I'm constantly defending myself.

I also need to point out that I am not a hero because I'm a Type 1 diabetic. I'm not brave because of it, and I'm not a survivor (technically I still alive so I am a survivor of the disease but we're all still alive so we're all survivors in a way... that's for another post). I have no choice. I have this disease and I either manage it or I die. That doesn't make me brave. However, if you want to extend me a compliment, you can be sympathetic to the next Type 1 you meet. Ask him/her questions. And by all means don't question their dietary choices.

I'd love to hear from other Type 1 diabetics. Let me know in the comments if there are any of you out there in Hey Wandererland. I'd love to chat with ya.


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  1. Great to see other bloggers bring this disease into the light. I was diagnosed a week before my tenth birthday - and I'm two months away from my 17th d-anniversary.
    I worked at JDRF for several years in development (I left last year). Every once in a while I'm having to educate people on the difference between type 1 and 2. And my fiance has picked up the habit of educating people too.
    Love to chat more!

  2. One of my best friends has Type 1 diabetes. He was diagnosed when he was 9 or 10, I think, and he was a local high school football star. :) He went on to play in college, and he uses an insulin pump now to manage his blood sugar. It was great of you to share your story, since there are a lot of people out there who don't understand there are 2 types of diabetes with very different causes and presentations.

  3. Hey :)
    I'm a diabetic myself since 3 years and just recently started a second blog about Diabetes.
    I already met a lot of other people and just love to write about all the struggles we have to deal with, it helps soo much!

  4. It's great that you wrote about it, it's really interesting! :)
    I can understand how hard it must be to fight against the prejudices sometimes... So we must continue telling people about it :)

    Greetings from Germany xx

  5. Omg! Thank you so much for writing this article! I'm a Type 1 Diabetic and have been since I was 4 years old, I'm 23 now. Needless to say, I've been hearing these stereotypes and dealing with the judgement for my whole life. I've heard it all. I even had one of my friends mothers tell me that if I adopted a vegan lifestyle my Diabetes would go away completely. It's hard to explain to people that this disease isn't my fault and that I'm going to deal with it for the rest of my life, but that stuff doesn't really bother me.

    One of the most powerful things you said was about how you're not a survivor. While Diabetes is a serious chronic illness that could prove fatal if not managed, I don't see it as a death sentence. It's just something I live with. I don't feel that different from other people, except I walk around with an insulin pump (which most ppl think is a beeper until they see the tubing) and a CGM (which some people think is a phone).

    My one pet peeve though is when people want to watch me test my blood sugar or put in my pump site. It makes me feel like a freak of nature. I understand the curiosity to see someone stab themselves, but it seems so intrusive to me. It's so nice to see people talking more about T1 Diabetes and their experiences.

    Btw, I LOVE your blog!


  6. I was diagnosed in May 2014 with mature onset insulin dependent diabetes(I am pushing 60) I have worked through being mad at my body for failing me and now just focus on keeping my blood glucose numbers low, eating right and exercising. The funny thing is I had a decent eating plan in place and exercised 5-6 days a week before the diagnosis. It makes me a bit crazy when others ask me what I can eat. I tell them I can eat anything I want to eat. They look at me like I am out of my mind...."but you are diabetic! Yes I am, thank you very much" Thanks for writing about this-makes me realize I am not alone