Hello, Diabetes Self-Management community! This is my first blog post for DSM, and I am absolutely ecstatic to be writing for them. Aside from my love of writing and general obsession with blogs, I love talking about diabetes. Strange perhaps, but it’s true.
A little bit about myself though. My name is Maryam, and I am currently a freshman in college. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes eight years ago at the age of 10, and since my diagnosis, diabetes has turned into one of the greatest blessings in my life. Seven months after my diagnosis in December of 2003, my family attended the Children With Diabetes Friends For Life Conference, and we haven’t looked back since.
It would be a lie to say that diabetes is easy or fun, but through the relationships that I’ve developed and the experiences I’ve had, it has become just another part of my daily life. Though it takes an enormous amount of attention and careful management, under no circumstance does it run my life. Through having diabetes I have had some extraordinary experiences, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
There have been a lot of recent changes in my life, and I feel that it’s only appropriate to start my first blog entry talking about my experience as someone with diabetes on a college campus. Going into college, I thought I was prepared for absolutely anything and everything that could possibly come my way regarding diabetes. I knew exactly how I was going to explain everything to my roommates, I had my phone preset to go off at 3 AM every night so I could monitor (and then text my mom, who would without a doubt be awake worrying about my sugars), I had an entire suitcase filled with supplies and extra snacks; the works.
What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the emotional toll that it would have on me. Having been diagnosed in my first year of middle school, I essentially grew up surrounded by people who knew I had diabetes. People I wasn’t even friends with knew I had diabetes because of a massive team I had gotten together for the annual JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes, two years in a row. (We were called the “Murmabots” and had a very popular t-shirt design). If they didn’t know it through the walks, they knew it because my senior grad project was on Type 1 and how it affected family dynamics. And if not through the project, they knew it from seeing me check my blood glucose in the restroom, from hearing me talk about all of my best friends with diabetes, or from seeing pictures on Facebook of all the places I went to that related to diabetes.
Until I got to college, I didn’t truly realize how important diabetes, or rather, the experiences that I had had as result of the diabetes, had been in my life. Coming in to college, I found it difficult to talk about my diabetes because I felt that my friends simply didn’t get it. For me, it’s not just merely explaining the physical aspects of it; that I have no qualms about. I have no problem checking in front of anyone, whipping out my pump for a bolus, etc. What I found difficult explaining was how diabetes has had such a major role in shaping my life, and why it is such an important part of who I am.
For someone who loves words, I truly found myself at a loss. How does one summarize eight of the most beautiful, wonderful, difficult, confusing, exhilarating years filled with so many memories, friends, and experiences? As a very social person, opening up to people and making new friends isn’t a daunting prospect for me. However, trying to express the personal diabetes part of myself was, and still is. I think it’s because it’s beyond just personal. It’s something that involves me, my family, my friends, and the entire community of people with Type 1 around the world who have this “thing” in common.
What I’ve learned in my eight years since diagnosis, however, is that the connections we all make with each other as people with diabetes are much deeper than the simple fact that our pancreases don’t work. It’s that first moment you meet someone else with diabetes and you see them wearing their pump without a shred of self-consciousness. It’s the first time you meet someone who can understand the insatiable hunger of a low and how miraculously everything in sight looks particularly delicious. It’s being able to call the friend who completely understands everything you are going through when all you can muster up is “diabetes sucks.” It’s being able to lean on someone’s shoulder during this long and tumultuous journey, knowing that somehow everything is going to be just fine.