World Diabetes Day: How I Overcame Shame and Loved My Imperfections
For over 20 years of my life, I was ashamed to say I was a Type 1 Diabetic. I was embarrassed to admit I was different from my friends and family. I was annoyed at the fact I had to chug juice at the most inconvenient times (like in the middle of a cycling class or work meeting). And most importantly, I was fearful that people might label me as "the diabetic girl." Some might call my embarrassment juvenile, but I call it Juvenile Diabetes or Type 1 diabetes (T1D).
T1D is often described as the roller coaster disease. Unlike Type 2 diabetes, it is not caused by environmental factors. It's caused by my own body attacking the good cells that produce the hormone insulin. And without insulin, you can’t survive — not even for 24 hours. At the age of seven, I was forced to understand and learn the important role of responsibility while also realizing that this disease may never be defeated. It will be a daily struggle of balancing just the right amount of insulin to keep me alive, not to mention balancing my emotional highs and lows with blood sugar control (just ask any of my family members, friends or husband about my infamous blowups) and having a love/hate relationship with food.
When I was little, I was the poster child of a perfect T1D. I attended multiple Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation events and even started a national “Bag of Hope” program with my mom, which helped others cope emotionally after being diagnosed. Little did I know that coping emotionally with T1D is also a big part of the struggle with the disease. I found this out the hard way in 9th grade when I no longer wanted to live. I couldn’t fathom injecting myself for the rest of my life, dealing with scar tissue, the fear of not waking up in the morning and or wearing a bulky pump on my side on top of dealing with the highs and lows. I was exhausted.
High school is such an awkward time in everyone’s life. I wish I could go back in time and hug my 14-year-old self and say, “Everything is going to be okay. Stay strong, Liddy.” As well as, “Liddy, those Juicy track suits will haunt you forever. And when they do come back in style in 2017, don’t fall for it again." Unfortunately, we don’t have time machines (yet), so I can’t take back those awkward moments, moments that ended up ruining my relationship with diabetes to the point I wanted to give up.
Most girls have that one "mean girl" moment that they never forget. I was in a science class and my teacher was explaining what causes diabetes (not explaining there are 2 types) and had mentioned being overweight being a big factor for the disease. Someone across the class yelled, “Now we know how Liddy got it!” and that moment is when everything changed for me. My weight was an easy target and because there is little to no education around the difference on Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, everyone assumed I had brought T1D onto myself. Those frequent hurtful, nasty comments about my weight still affect me today. And because of those comments – I hated myself and blamed it all on being a T1D. So I hated T1D.
I was carried away with having other people accept this disease for me, instead of accepting it for myself. It didn’t hit me until I was 25 years old that I had wasted a lot of time and effort in ignoring one of the most essential relationships I will ever have, and that was my relationship with diabetes.
November is National Diabetes Month, and I can say I am finally a proud Type 1 diabetic. I am now a mom, a wife, and the person I always hoped to be. It sounds insane when I say,“I am finally proud” out loud. But I think majority of people struggle with accepting something they think is unconventional about themselves. Adversities and unique circumstances are what make one individual different from the next.
Our genetic footprint is locked in science, and there’s not much we can do to change that. But what we can change, however, is our attitude and how we cope with adversity. Thriving on a relationship with oneself is the first relationship one should focus on. People will come and go in life, but at the end of the day, it’s just you and your weird, beautiful imperfect self.
If you can’t embrace and love those imperfections, then it’s impossible to be able to love others. And what’s the point of life without the most powerful emotion — love?
Liddy Huntsman, Bumble BFF Brand Manager, for The BeeHive