Meme-ing my way through Type 1 Diabetes
I knew something wasn’t right, deep down in my gut I just knew. Why was I grumpy all the time? Why did I feel like my brain was constantly in a complete fog? Why did my body seem to want to completely shut down every day after my 3 p.m. cafe mocha?
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 20 years old, in the summer after my first year of University. After I talked to my family doctor about my weird symptoms, he sent me for a few blood tests to check my iron. High fasting blood sugars lead to a glucose tolerance test, which showed that my beta cells absolutely sucked at producing insulin. When I got the call from my doctor to come to his office right away, I knew what he was going to say, “Meredith, you’ve got the beetus.” What does that mean? What do I eat? What do I do? I had no idea. All I knew about Type 1 diabetes was from what I had learned from watching my older sister.
My half-sister Julie was diagnosed at 7 years old. I came into the world six years later, when she was in her early teens. I was much younger than her, and we didn’t always live in the same house. Still, I remember all of the bad lows she had, the middle of the night ambulance calls and the seizures. This put a pretty serious imprint into my brain: “Type 1 diabetes is terrible, it controls you and your loved ones around you.” Julie really struggled, and it was safe to say that Type 1 diabetes put an overbearingly negative cloud on her life. Tragically, my sister Julie passed away at 22 years old, when I was 9.
So, when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I was both devastated and absolutely terrified. All I could picture while my doctor was giving me the news were those bad lows my sister had. All I could think about was how scary those moments were for her, and for my family members who had to deal with them. After a week of processing the news, I made an important decision. “Okay Meredith, you will not be like your sister. There has to be another way. You have seen Type 1 diabetes at its worst, but it will turn out differently this time.” And you know what, that’s exactly what happened.
In the beginning, I didn’t know very many Type 1s, and the people that I did know personally, did not like to talk about it. I wanted to find others like me, so I went to the first place a newly diagnosed diabetic would look, the internet. I made a few connections online, but my circle of friends with the betes remained small for the first year or so. The first time I was in the same room as a group of Type 1 diabetics (at an event in 2011 hosted by Connected in Motion) was absolutely surreal. I was accepted into a community of people who knew exactly what I was going through, and it felt amazing. It was here, that I met my friend Kayla Brown.
Kayla and I were still in undergrad, and a trend at both of our universities was the creation of “memes” pages on Facebook. These pages used quotes on top of photos to highlight funny things that happened on campus, or funny things only students at our schools experienced. One day while browsing her school’s page, Kayla thought, Why doesn’t this exist for Type 1 diabetics!?! As I was a big fan of memes, I was one of the first people to like this new Type 1 Diabetes Memes page, and to make photos for it regularly.
After about a month, we decided to partner up and run the page together. Since we are both very positive people, it was a fun way to share our day-to-day life with Type 1 diabetes through humour. Our goal for the Type 1 Diabetes Memes community was to share our funny diabetes moments, promote a positive attitude towards life with Type 1, and to provide Type 1 diabetics and their supporters around the world with a supportive online community.
After another month or so our page was getting hundreds and hundreds of “likes” at a time. We couldn’t believe it! We kept creating photos from our real experiences, and the likes kept piling up! So many people could relate to our posts, it was amazing.
In the three and a half years since the Facebook page was first created, we have shared almost 2,000 memes, gained over 40,000 likes, expanded our social media platforms (to Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr), and created our online store. It has been such a fun ride so far, and we really look forward to continuing to share our memes, making people laugh, and to see what the future holds for us. Laughter may not cure Type 1 diabetes, but by creating these memes, we think it makes a huge positive difference in the meantime! Now that I have had it for 7 years, I look back on how different my journey with Type 1 diabetes has been from my sister’s. Not only have I been determined to stay positive since my diagnosis, I’ve never let Type 1 diabetes stand in my way. I’ve accomplished everything that I have wanted in life so far, from going on wilderness canoe trips, to travelling overseas, to getting my Masters of Science degree, to making a positive influence in the Type 1 diabetes community. I’ve seen Type 1 diabetes at its worst, but I think that it has helped make me the strong positive person I am today. Every day is a challenge, but if we laugh about it together, I think it takes a bit of the burden off of our shoulders. Type 1 diabetes, you aren’t so bad!
For more humor, read Libby Russell’s Freaky Friday — A Day without Type 1 Diabetes.