When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes almost 20 years ago there was no such thing as the ‘Diabetes Online Community.’ Heck, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t even such a thing as ‘online’. Sure, I went to diabetes camp as a child, and sure there was one or two other kids at my school that had diabetes that I knew of, but we never spoke or bonded over sharing our personal experiences about living with this disease. We lived in solitude with one another. I did’t meet another person with diabetes until about two years ago when I flew to Wisconsin to participate in a charity bike ride I had signed up for on a whim. A couple months after this I started my blog and began sharing my own experiences online through my Instagram. It was only then that I connected with so many others going through the same things as me. I am truly grateful for the connections I have made and people I have met through this online tight knit community.
Not only has technology changed the way we manage this disease with access to insulin pumps, glucose monitors, smartphone apps, and continuous glucose monitors, but it has also changed the way we are able to connect with others around the world on a digital scale across various social media platforms. However, I have noticed a downside to this that I have been taking the time to reflect on. We live in a scoety where the media is constantly telubg us how we should look, think, speak, feel and act. On top of this, social media has amplified the pressures we put on ourselves. Not only do we have to live with this incredibly challenging and frustrating disease 24/7, along with the pressures of the media that is inclusive of everyone, we’ve created an added pressure on ourselves within this niche community to be the “perfect diabetic”. How sick and twisted, right? How is it that we are comparing ourselves to others living with an autoimmune disease and telling ourselves, “They are so much better at diabetes than me” or “I wish my A1C was as good as so and so’s”? I’ve often caught myself feeling like a fraud when I have a bad day and my blood sugars are all over the place, or when I eat something “unhealthy”, or if I accidentally bolus too much or not enough. We’ve created this amazing online community and yet I can sometimes still feel like I don’t measure up.
To this day, diabetes continues to have a complex approach to the way we view and manage this disease. The stigma and disconnect between diabetes and mental health continues to be an immense issue within the diabetes community. When we see someone sharing a good glucose reading or lower A1C, we automatically compare and put ourselves down. We should be using these platforms to empower one another, to show the good, the bad and the ugly. There is no such thing as a “perfect diabetic”. Let’s embrace all the realities, the ups and downs, that come with living with this disease. Let’s create a positive and inclusive platform that encourages everyone to do their best, and guide one another when we’ve fallen off track. I want to eradicate this false idea of the “perfect diabetic”.
Now, I realize with this comes a personal responsibility to take ownership of my own thoughts and views on myself. When someone shares their numbers online, no one is pointing back at me with blame or shame other than myself. I am bringing up this issue because from what I have learned in the past is that I am never alone. I hope that bringing this topic into light, we as a community can be more mindful of our thoughts when scrolling through our social media feeds. What you see online is rarely ever the full story. This is a disease with so many unpredictable variables, and each and every one of us is a unique human being with different needs. At the same time, I think we need to be all-encompassing showing all sides of living with type one diabetes. It can sometimes get real ugly, and why not share those messy moments? Sharing the difficult, and sometimes awkward, conversations is when the magic happens and we are able to learn and grow.