When I was 11 years old, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. At the time, I really had no idea what that meant for me, my diet, my lifestyle, anything. I just remember recalling what I had learned about diabetes in the 11 years of being on this earth and thinking of the worst scenarios possible. It was full of myths. Wasn’t diabetes for unhealthy people? Did I do something wrong? I’m healthy, I play sports, I’m happy (well, I was pretty miserable before being diagnosed), why would I have this disease?
I know it’s cliche to ask that question, but I’m telling you right now: when something like that happens to you, it’s the first thing you think about.
It’s been nearly 8 years since I was diagnosed and it’s definitely been a journey with its highs and lows (thank you, blood glucose levels), and I couldn’t feel better about myself. I’ve never pitied my situation, I’ve been optimistic about the things that I struggle with because in the end, it’s going to work out.
I feel like on a daily basis I have to combat the stereotypes that people tend to believe about diabetes. “Why are you eating that? You can’t eat that.” “Is it hard not to eat sugar?” “For being diabetic, you sure eat a lot of sweets.” It’s something that we as a society are working on, and it takes time, but the myths are starting to fade.
Recently, Sierra Sandison showed off her own insulin pump during the Miss Idaho beauty pageant. I was incredibly excited to see her photo and it made me proud to be a pump user as well. Her hashtag, #showmeyourpump, spread online as people began posting their stories and pictures. I, myself, had never been one to hide my disease, and since going away to college, I have started wearing the pump so that people can see it, rather than it being hidden away in my pocket.
Over the course of my life, I’ve learned that we should embrace the challenges that come our way because that’s the only way to truly live. As I take control of my diabetes, I take control of my life. Sandison is a role model for not only us diabetics, but every person who has ever had something that might be different. Each one of us has something that we may want to hide at some point, but in the end, it’s best to make the most of it. Let your symbolic insulin pumps fly because by taking a stance, you can change your life for the better.
Rachel Erickson is a college sophomore who enjoys animal crackers and all things yellow. She dreams to one day write for television, publish her book and dress as fabulous as Mindy Kaling. You can see more of her ramblings on her blog and Instagram @racherickson.