Dear diabetes…

This September, I celebrated 19 years of type one diabetes. 

We call it a “dia-versary” – our diabetes diagnosis anniversary. I think it’s a cute little play on words!

Why not celebrate how far you’ve come with a disease that takes so much out of you, so much time, effort, and energy? To celebrate how far you have come, from worrying to being more prepared. From holding back to now sharing it all. 

I think diaversaries are a beautiful thing. I think celebrating anything that you once saw as scary or a reason to hold youself back but that you now see as your strength is a beautiful, and wonderful thing. 

Way back when – way before I had a blog, I always spent my diaversaries as a time to look back and reflect. I like to think about everything that I have accomplished and overcome with diabetes along for the ride. Things that I learned from, things I executed well, moments I could have handeled better – all of it. The good, the bad, the ups and the downs. Because diaversaries don’t just celebrate the past year, it celebrates the years you’ve lived with diabetes and have thrived – living your best life one day at a time.

I wanted to share with you guys my personal letter to myself for my 19th diaverssary this year. It’s personal, it’s raw, it’s real – and it sure as hell is something worth celebrating. I hope you guys enjoy it. And remember, it’s never silly to celebrate something monumental in your life. 

As always, please let me know what you think below. 

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Dear Diabetes, 

It’s been 19 years! We did it, you and I. It’s been a long time since you first came into my life, and it’s certinately been quite the ride. There have been ups and downs, literally and figuratively. I think the past couple of years have been the most insightful – college has taught me a lot about handling and managing my social life, classes, health, and diabetes all together and prioritizing what’s important. 

As I come up on almost 2 decades of diabetes, I can’t help but feel overwhelming gratitude towards my support team.

My parents are my #1 support team. They are always there to pick me up when I don’t understand why my blood sugars are not behaving and when I seem to be doing everything I possibly can to reign them in. They listen to me, let me vent my frusterations, and allow me to see the good when all I see is fury. My parents have done a lot, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without their love, guidance, and support. 

My friends – namely my dia-buddies. This year has brought a lot of diabuddies into my life. Social media is so interesting in that regard… it’s taught me a lot about how people you look up to on a screen are actually like in real life. It’s taught me most importantly though, that we’re all the same. We all experience stubborn highs, scary lows, fruit box and gummy bear moments and we’re all equally paranoid about repeatedly checking our cgm graphs to see where our blood sugar is at the moment. Thankful for these people who understand how difficult it can be trying to explain to people who don’t live with type one what we’re feeling or how diabetes isn’t easy to control. The late-night group chat vents are therapeutic, they make you feel less alone in a disease that is already so isolating. 

But even my non-t1d friends. People who I have known for years, who know me other than my type one. They know me for being obsessed with coffee, loving a good shopping trip, anything Grey’s Anatomy and ready for a fun adventure. They know me for everything that my life comprises outside of diabetes, but they the friends who are ready to listen when I’m frustrated, who ask me if I need a snack, and who goofingly ask me – are you sure you can eat that, with a twinkle in their eyes. They get our inside jokes and loudly announce in public “stop shooting up, Bas!” They make me laugh about the little things and they are always learning something new about diabetes cause well… I just can’t help but force them to listen 😉

Since I touched on social media, why not delve into that some more? I’ve definitely opened up more on there than I have ever before. To me, social media is about making real connections and getting to know people beyond their pretty feeds and well-polished captions. It’s about reaching out to people you normally wouldn’t and finding out how amazing they really are. It’s starting friendships from what seemingly seems like an innocent comment under their Instagram picture. 

But you know what social media is also about? Trying to fight the anger when you see a meme video that makes fun of type one diabetes. When you comment back – politely and kindly – letting the people know that it’s neither funny, nor appropriate to turn an autoimmune disease into the butt of a joke that they will never understand. Social media is seeing accounts which you followed and enjoyed their content – make light of something you live with everyday.

Just a couple days ago, I reached out to a fitness account who posted on her story it was a wonder she didn’t have diabetes already in regards to a sugary snack. I knew she didn’t mean it on purpose, but I wanted to let her know that it was still hurtful to read that. I let her know that even though she may know that carbs don’t cause type one diabetes, other people who are undereducated or don’t know anything about diabetes might quickly believe that to be true. Social media is a powerful tool, one that we all must take more seriously because of the consequences that can arise due to what we may find funny at a time. 

Although the response I got back from this person on instagram was rude and quite honestly, very defensive for someone who was making light of a condition they had no idea about, I realized that to them this isn’t a big deal. They don’t understand how complicated and how personal it is. To them, diabetes is a far off land that they don’t spend every moment of their day thinking about. Diabetes to them is a commercial on the TV, or a joke someone says when looking at a Starbucks frappachino. 

To me, diabetes is so much more. I hope and wish for a cure, but until then, I take my job as an advocate seriously. We may not be able to prevent people from being diagnosed, but we can further educate others and raise awareness for diabetes in the meantime. We can let people know that diabetic-targeted jokes are not funny. I don’t think it’s right to laugh at any disease or condition, much less one that you don’t personally have to deal with yourself. And with 19 years under my belt, I know that the least I can do is try to dispel the stereotypes and common myths around diabetes, and I’ll continually work towards educating others.

19 years of diabetes has been insightful. While a cure is what we all want and need, I wouldn’t take back the lessons and memories diabetes has brought into my life. I’ve met amazing people, many who have become some of my closest friends. I have taken part in once in a lifetime events and opportunities that have changed my life. And most importantly, I get to do what I love the most – educate, raise awareness, and connect with other type ones everyday. 

I love what I get to do – share my ideas and thoughts about how crazy life is trying to balance diabetes at the same time. It’s not always easy, but nothing worth it in life is, right? 

I have to stop myself sometimes and remember that while I have diabetes, it’s not working against me. We’re a team, and with a little patience and a lot of coffee, I can get through it all. ❤ 

Cheers to 19 years! 

Xoxo, 

Bas 

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