Sharing My Journey
A conscious decision
When I was first diagnosed a little under a year ago, I made the decision to share my journey on social media. I remember the fear and anxiety I had about my first post proclaiming to the world that I have type 1 diabetes. I must have typed and untyped my first caption 10 times before I finally decided to commit to sharing my journey. It was scary to take that leap of faith and be so open about one of the hardest obstacles life has thrown my way. Regardless of if the feedback was positive or negative, I knew I had to share because there is a lack of African-American perspective when it comes to living with type 1 diabetes.
The most difficult aspect of sharing your journey is the self-doubt that comes from the spiteful comments or degrading messages that you receive. Most of the time these comments come from people who are not even living with diabetes. There have been many times where me being African-American has been associated with the number one reason for why I have diabetes. People have blamed my ethnic background and put me at fault for developing an inevitable chronic illness. Living with type 1 is difficult enough but when you add your ethnicity into the mix, you find yourself battling so much more adversity. No one should have to fight for the right to have a disease and not have that disease be blamed on the color of their skin.
I remember one day specifically when someone sent a hateful message and I almost deleted my social media. I thought to myself, “Sharing my journey is not worth it if my mental wellness is being destroyed along the way.” That was a real turning point for me because if I had deleted my social media platform, I would not be helping or representing those that feel they do not have a voice. Adversity is an understatement when it comes to living with diabetes and being a minority adds yet another level of adversity onto that. You are constantly fighting for your words and your journey to mean as much to society as everyone else’s words do. You can never fit in so you are forced to stand out, accept your differences and try and make society accept those differences as well.
Born to stand out
My main goal is to take what makes me different and use that to speak to a group of people that might not feel they have a voice. For every hateful message I receive, I in turn receive a handful of positive messages. Other type 1s have reached out because they finally feel like there is someone they can relate to, who looks just like them and is going through the same exact challenges every day. To receive feedback that I am spreading positivity and hope to a group of people who feel underrepresented and misunderstood is what makes all the negative chatter disappear. To know that my words hold empowerment and give hope to those battling this chronic illness every day is what motivates me to continue telling my story.
At the end of the day, I really hope to display to other minorities that there is power in sharing. You do not have to fit a certain mold or represent what society accepts as someone of influence to make a difference. There are plenty of days where mentally, I have to take a break from social media because living with diabetes is a full time job in itself and adding the extra stress of justifying to myself the beliefs of others is too much to handle. I just encourage anyone to fight through the hardest days and share your perspective because your voice matters. There is never a topic that is unimportant when it comes to living with diabetes. We all face obstacles every day and what may seem like something small to you might be a life circumstance that someone else can relate to.
One of the best aspects about the diabetic community is that it is so welcoming and accepting. If you reach out to any type 1 influencer, they will respond and answer your question to the best of their ability. It is hard to take that first leap and share your own journey but the more perspectives we have in the type 1 community, the stronger that community will grow. I hope to continue inspiring and helping anyone I can by sharing mine. You never know what impact you might have until you take that leap of faith and let your voice be known.
Read another piece by Janae—Finding Myself Again.