The cliché opening to any blog related to diabetes is as follows: “On October 2, 2002 at the age of four my life was changed forever. I was tragically diagnosed with Type One diabetes.” I will save you from all of the sappy, over exaggerated stuff. But, yes, surprisingly or not, I have Type One diabetes. I have lived with this disease for over 12 years and still make mistakes.
As I was diagnosed at such a young age (4) I do not know anything different than constantly worrying about my blood sugar. As a child I just assumed everyone had to cope with diabetes, it was a part of life and simply something I had to deal with.
Fast-forward a couple of years to middle school, my mind set drastically changed. I wasn’t upset I had diabetes, I was FURIOUS. The usual, “why me” thoughts occurred at least twice a day. It was totally unfair I had to deal with diabetes when my friends’ biggest worries were how they were going to get home from a Friday night football game. I was worrying about not waking up the next morning due to a seizure.
By the time high school arrived, I was fed up with diabetes.
Like any other teenager, I wanted to fit in and be apart of the cool crowd. As you can imagine, I was unlike any of my friends; none of them had an insulin pump attached to their hip or had to prick their finger every time they ate. I wanted a boyfriend, but what boy would ever date me, with all this baggage? I wanted to wear a pretty dress, but could never find a place to hide my insulin pump. I wanted a good night’s rest, but was woken up to test my blood every night. In my eyes, diabetes stopped me from being a normal person. I was passed the pissed off stage and arrived at the stage of sadness and disappointment.
I decided the most logical solution to my problems was to ignore diabetes entirely. I stopped checking my blood sugar and would randomly bolus when I could feel my blood sugar rise. Do not, I repeat, do not ever try this at home. My A1C shot through the roof and I was very sick, but luckily I escaped DKA. One night in December I was alone in my room praying — I was sick of high blood sugar and feeling sick 24/7. I believe God answered my prayers and showed me two clear paths I could take: 1. I fall into DKA and die soon or 2. I take control of my diabetes and use it to help others. In that moment I knew I could not let diabetes win, I had to tackle it head on.
Reflecting back on my freshman year, I realized I was in a deep state of diabetes burnout, when one gets tired of the endless attention diabetes requires.
After making friends with many teenagers who also have Type One diabetes through my social group Type One Teens, I learned that it is impossible to live through teenage years without going through diabetes burnout. As a teen you want to be independent, but the attention diabetes care requires is too strenuous for a young teen to handle. Any teenager, one with diabetes or not, is already overwhelmed with starting high school, making friends, striving in school, looking at colleges, etc. Add diabetes to the mix and it is one more thing that falls to the bottom of the priority list.
I am sharing my tough experience with diabetes for two reasons: the first, some of you reading may also have experienced what I have. If you have, I am sorry. Know that you are not alone, diabetes sucks, but there are many of us going through it and we can help each other. Secondly, it does get better. I went through this horrible stage of burnout and now I have better control of my diabetes and am much a more empathetic person.
To pull myself out of my burnout I followed these steps. Nine out of 10 diabetics will go through burnout at one time or another. Trust me, you will be okay. Don’t let diabetes win — take control and kick diabetes in the butt!
Type One Teens Survival Guide
1. Set Daily Goals
- Something small and achievable, e.g.: “Today, I will bolus at every meal.”
- Don’t set monthly goals, with diabetes everyday can be different2.
2. Remember Nobody’s Perfect
- Don’t get discouraged, you’ll make mistakes
- If you forget to bolus for a meal the world isn’t going to fall apart
- Do not dwell on past mistakes and move forward
3. Educate your friends
- Advocate for yourself
- Find a friend that can support you!
4. Stay Positive
- Follow encouraging sites like Beyond Type 1
Read Dr. Mark Heyman’s Diabetes Burnout.