Living Beautifully with Juvenile Diabetes

This article was written exclusively for Information About Diabetes by Julia Flaherty, a type 1 diabetic college student, editor of the Arts and Entertainment section of her university's newspaper, blogger and promotions director.

Truthfully, I cannot remember a time before I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. I can remember significant birthdays or other special events before Jan. 5, 2005, but I can’t remember any continuous period of time before I was giving myself at least four daily injections and pricking my finger at least five or six times daily.

Some might call me sad for this, and others might call me fortunate that I don’t remember anything else. I wouldn’t call myself either. I’d just call myself me, because if I have learned anything from having this disease for almost 11 years it’s that you can’t let it control or define you.

Being the pilot to my own body is often a struggle, as some days with this condition are worse than others, whether I am drained mentally or physically. I adapted to having juvenile diabetes fairly well. I gave myself my own shots right away and managed to maintain a good A1C for years as I do now.

I embraced the initial challenge that was being newly diagnosed.

Overcoming Body Image Issues

However, it was around high school that I began to transition into someone I was uncomfortable with. You could say we all did, but with having juvenile diabetes it was a different story. I was hypnotized by images I was seeing in the media that inadvertently, or perhaps more purposefully than we’d like to believe as a web-savvy society, told me I was supposed to look like a model.

Puberty was not something I was fond of. As my body changed from slim and narrow to a more womanly figure, I tried to avoid signs of maturity by attempting to do fast diets. None of them worked, of course, and my juvenile diabetes suffered.

The “perfect” body, I realized a lot later, was not possible. The perfect me wasn’t either, but she was at least a bit closer to my heart and condition. Learning self-acceptance while having juvenile diabetes has always been something I’ve struggled with.

Though I’ve grown better at it since leaving high school almost three years ago, I know it will be something I continue to feel at some level throughout my life. I’ve realized the key to overcoming these self-pressuring thoughts is to surround yourself with good friends and family who care about and support you.

Embracing Positive Distractions

Things that make you happy are the most important things you can do in life. Trying new things is also good therapy. Insulin does the physical part, but your emotions need to be wholly filled by effervescent experiences that pleasantly surprise and challenge you.

In high school, my effervescent experiences were acting in musicals and plays, doing public speaking and participating in Destination Imagination. In college, it’s become my work that I’m insanely passionate about. I’m a blogger outside of my academic life and inside of it, I’m an Arts & Entertainment Editor and Promotions Director for two of my campus media organizations.

Being a part of something outside of myself has made all the difference. Because of my juvenile diabetes, I have become very self-aware and intuitive about others, so I am often too inside of my own head.

Letting go and letting life be as it is has been a treat I am constantly getting more out of as I learn to accept what I cannot predict or fully control.

Letting Go of Negative Thoughts

I’ve learned life can be sweet after all. I can eat ice cream as long as I dose for it, and I can participate in the same activities everyone else is. Juvenile diabetes is not a stop sign.

The only stop sign that can be put up is one you give yourself, not because of your condition, but because of the way you feel about it. I’m learning to feel more positively about not letting it get to me. “Let it go” is a beautiful theme of a now classic holiday movie, and it’s also a great motto to live one’s life by, especially when managing a lifelong, chronic condition.

I’m letting it go one day at a time, while managing it too. It can be achieved, though it sounds kind of impossible. I did it and I know anyone going through juvenile diabetes has the power within to do the same.

Feeling Empowered by Diabetes

We are not what our condition tries to make us. We are so much more and we get the chance to show the world how strong, passionate and determined we are everyday. It’s a beautiful thing to feel empowered by your condition.

I recommend this feeling to everyone and anyone managing juvenile diabetes. I’m living proof that perseverance and positive self-reinforcement are feasible fixes for otherwise toiled self-concepts. You have the power to make this life beautiful despite your condition.

Don’t let juvenile diabetes ever be the reason you didn’t participate in your own life. You are worth every smile you try to hide away. Let your happiness shine.

Click here to check out Julia's blog.

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