Type 1 Diabetes- an interview

Today's post is going to be about something very close to my heart- type 1 diabetes. As it is Diabetes Awareness Month, and National Diabetes Day on the 14th, I feel that now is a very appropriate time to be talking about this. My younger brother was diagnosed at the age of 1, making me about 4 and a half years old at the time. This means we've both had to grow up with the affects of T1D in the family, and don't know any different really. It's been a journey for us all, through various types of medication, life changes, and with battles against the ignorant that are often mistaken by what the word 'diabetes' actually means.

From excessive amounts of football, to spontaneous McDonalds trips, as a family, we have all adjusted to accommodate whatever my brother needs, in order to fulfil his life in the exact same way as anyone else. Diabetes will not stop him from doing whatever he wants to do, he might just have to do it a little differently. Honestly, I am just so proud of him, for being the brave boy that he is, having to manage his diabetes every day, with no escape or day off.

I'm not going to lie, sometimes it gets tricky, for all of us. But it's something that we have to deal with, until the day that we find the cure. We will always be hopeful, though strange as it may seem, I wouldn't now wish that my little brother was never diagnosed. It just shows how strong he is, to have had to deal with everything that he has done, and makes him who he is, giving him an identity. Sometimes, it even enables us to skip long queues!

Without it, I would have to sadly admit, that yes, I may too be someone unbeknown of diabetes. So here I am, hopefully educating and bring awareness to others. Because there are approximately 400,000 people currently living with type 1 diabetes in the UK, with over 29,000 of them being children, it is really important to know about it. Especially with the use of the media portraying 'diabetes' as a whole in a typically incorrect and negative manner, we need to make sure the correct facts are in the open, and that as a society, we are supportive of the incredible type 1 diabetics out there.

I came across someone named Connor on Instagram, a 15 year old type 1 diabetic. He was diagnosed when he was just 3 years old, in January 2006. Using his Instagram by the name of @T1D_Teenager, Connor has accumulated a following of almost 3000 followers and counting, and posts every day, informing his audience about every aspect of living with T1D. As there's no better way to get an insight into the life of someone with T1D than talking to one themselves, I decided to drop him a message, and conduct a little interview to find out more about his journey.

 

Please may you begin by telling me a little bit about what it feels like to be T1D?

Having T1D (type 1 diabetes) feels like there’s always something there watching you, and making sure you know they are there. It constantly tries to get me down and keep me there, blood sugars constantly going high which makes me angry, grumpy and makes me not be able to concentrate and gives me bad stomach pains, then the lows where I’m weak I can’t think I have no energy I don’t care about anything I just want to survive. Then there are the constant finger pricks, that sums up T1D little and often, I have to keep making little choices to enable me to live every day and every decision I make impacts my health, my finger tips are full of holes they are sore and ache from all the pricks. Then I have an insulin pump which gives me my insulin and keeps me alive and I have enlite sensors that give me an estimate of what my bloods are, and the pump beeps a few times every hour and it’s like T1D is just reminding me it’s there. So I feel like there is always someone there trying to knock me down.

I’ll be real with you, it gets me down but I don’t let it keep me there. I would say I’m one of the most positive people with T1D, most days- I don’t let T1D get to me. I’m happy and aim to inspire and motivate all the other diabetics by doing this. I’ve developed a belief which is T1D is my superpower, my biggest advantage and greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. I get rid of the 1 million bad things it gives me and focus on the 10 key positive things I have got thanks to T1D.

Having T1D comes with a stigma people assume you got it from being overweight and lifestyle but that’s not the case at all! Some people view 'diabetes' in a bad way and I’ve experienced bad bullying because of diabetes. It’s made my life significantly worse. However, moaning about it won’t change anything so I preach the positivity.

Is there anyone in particular that has inspired you?

I have many inspirations for lots of different things, but In general I would say my biggest inspiration is @garyvee [on Instagram]. I’ve been following him for years well before he was mega famous like he is now! He has taught me so many things and I learn new things every day from him!

Have you ever tried to hide your diabetes?

Yes I used to hide it all the time. I was embarrassed about having diabetes. I would lie to people and tell them I had other stuff, because I didn’t want to explain what diabetes was and I didn’t want the jokes. In year 7, I would literally silence my pump all day so no one heard it, as I didn’t like it when everyone stared at me every time it beeped. I didn’t test my blood at all at school, as I didn’t want people staring at me and asking all the questions they do. I put my set In places where people couldn’t see it, so when I got changed in PE I would seem “normal”. I didn’t have dextrose or gluco tabs (sugar tablets) when I was going low, as I didn’t want to be seen eating and have to explain I’m diabetic. And when my pump battery went low, it stopped: the thing I needed to be working to live. I was too embarrassed to change the battery as I’d have to get my pump out and it would beep, so I would wait until I could go to the toilet and I’d do it then. I hid diabetes from my teachers, peers and everyone I could, but now I don’t. Most people know I have it, and I’m not embarrassed about it any longer. I’ve accepted it’s a part of me, and I’m not hiding who I am.

How has social media influenced your T1D experience?

I think I started this account just to interact and talk to others who are going through the same as me. I felt alone and isolated, and I never talk to anyone about T1D and how it effects me. I don’t like talking to family, friends or anyone about it, as at the end of the day, unless you have it, you have no idea what’s it’s like to be 2.2 with 4 units active insulin, and all you want to do is survive. I wanted to make new friends or “Diabuddies” and then when I started posting, my aim was to educate people about T1D. But at the same time, I posted my bloods and I was a lot more negative about T1D back then. However, now my goal is to literally inspire, motivate and help every type 1 diabetic I can. I want to end the stigma about T1D, and educate as many people as I can. I didn’t start this Instagram to gain followers, get likes and comments. I started it to be part of a community and feel understood by others. I didn’t start as a business and aim to sell my stuff, whilst being diabetic at the same time and posting about it. Now I haven’t even made a business or product to sell to people like most people do- I made this account purely and simply because I want to impact people's lives for the better, change their perspective about T1D and just help them. I want to be the person they look up to, like 'he’s diabetic too but he’s not making excuses'. I don’t care about anything else, just being positive and changing diabetics' lives.

What do you think about people who don't educate themselves on the differences between T1D and T2D?

It’s not the people, it’s the media. You see, if I didn’t have T1D I wouldn’t know what it was. But I would of heard about diabetes on the news. I would of heard that’s it’s caused by diet and unhealthy eating, and that’s all I would know, so I’d assume that’s what diabetes is. The media portray diabetes in only one way and don’t educate people about other types. So obviously it annoys me when people don’t understand or know the difference, but it’s not their fault. They know no different. But it’s when they refuse to accept they are wrong, and actually try to grasp T1D, is what annoys me, when they think there is only one type and refuse to think otherwise.

Do you think that there will be a cure?

Now that’s an interesting question. I think there will be a cure, whether that’s in my lifetime or not I don’t know, but 100% one day there will be. The problem is, the charities like JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) etc who are looking for a cure, hardly get any funding money if you put it into perspective, compared to Cancer Research etc. Now that’s understandable- I’m not saying we should get the same funding because T1D doesn’t affect as many people as cancer, but if we link it back to the other question, we don’t get funding by people because they don’t even know type 1 diabetes is a thing. Why would someone want to give money to find a cure for something that is caused by people making themselves fat? That is what people think. They only know of type 2 diabetes, and even then, T2D isn’t always caused by that! So we need to educate people about T1D, end the stigma and then maybe funding will start coming, and we will be able to do lots more research.

What cheers you up when your T1D is getting you down?

T1D could easily get me down everyday, like it does to most people, but I make sure it doesn’t. I don’t know how I just stop it from getting to me. But by always blocking out the pain, it just builds up and up and then every now and then T1D just punches me in the face, knocking me out and keeps punching me when I’m down. I’ll be honest with you, on those days, I can’t really do anything. I'm just exhausted and fed up of T1D, and lose all hope, but I just try and think that it’s just today I’ll feel like this, and tomorrow will be better! I try and put it into perspective: I could be terminally ill or dying, or I could be in a much worse position. It’s hard to explain, but when T1D really gets me down on those days, I can’t really do anything just get through the day

Is there anything else specifically that you do to help? Yes, I listen to music a lot every day it makes me focused and I enjoy it! If I’m down, I like to watch Gary Vee, and listening to him can make anyone’s day better. I watch videos where he talks about perspective and not moaning etc! Also, I love to play football (soccer for all you Americans) and go running to help me relax and feel better!

And lastly, what's the best advice that you can give to others with T1D?

PATIENCE! You can’t just run a marathon overnight, or become the world's best chess player, it takes time! If you want to be good at something, it takes hard work, effort and patience, yet people expect to have perfect bloods every day without doing anything! You need to make little changes, small and often. If you're high, tweak your basals a little bit and be patient. I’ve had T1D 13 years in January, and my bloods are still all over the place! Also, I’ve said it a lot, but think about perspective- you could have it so much worse. Lastly, change the way you see T1D. This took me 12 years to do, but now I see T1D as my strength and super power. It’s literally changed everything.

 

Thank you all for reading this post, it really means a lot that you've taken the time to listen to myself and Connor on such an important and personal topic for us to address. And to anyone with T1D reading this, keep doing you and embrace who you are- you rock! Many thanks to Connor for taking part in this interview, and for being the amazing inspiration that you are!

{Some grammar is amended for clarity}