When you hear the words teenager and type 1 diabetes in a sentence, most reactions can probably be summed up to: DISASTER ZONE. At least that was the case for me. I was diagnosed at age 14 and had immediate control (or lack thereof). I lived my teenage years with out of control blood sugars and a horrible mental outlook. Anyway, I am completely impressed with how Lauren, who I’ll introduce below, motivates herself in relation to T1D at such a young age. Most teenagers spend their time fighting the disease and pretending like it doesn’t exist, and thus pay the consequences later in life. I wish I had Lauren’s motivation back when I was struggling. But I’m wondering why we had such different experiences. Lauren was sweet enough to answer a few questions about living life as a teenage Type 1, full of motivation. I think teenagers with Type 1 and their parents will benefit from Lauren’s outlook.
So, help me welcome Lauren for this Type 1 Teen Q&A.
Tell me a bit about yourself, when you were diagnosed, etc.
Well to start off, my name is Lauren and I am sixteen. I am from Dublin, Ireland, and I was diagnosed on the 24th February 2014. Originally however, I was misdiagnosed with Slap Cheek Syndrome in a local health care clinic a week before I was admitted with serious DKA in hospital and with ketones of 8.7! I started off using insulin pens before moving onto a Medtronic pump nearly 18 months ago (I absolutely love it!) and I have had a Freestyle Libre for over a year now. I think I owe my HbA1c success to both of these devices and I love them because they enhance my life with T1D!
You seem very independent in your diabetes decision making. Is that really so, or do your parents give some direction?
I am very independent when it comes to decision making of my diabetes. I have a strong relationship with my parents, so they know that I know what I am doing. I do not really need their advice because I like to attain the responsibility so that I can be independent and control my life. With that responsibility, I can go on foreign trips with my school and orchestra. So, to any teenagers out there, make your parents trust you with your diabetes and you can do anything you want!
How involved are your parents in your diabetes management?
Although my parents are amazing and supportive, they do not help me much with managing my diabetes. I prefer to attain most of the responsibility when it comes to handling my diabetes. They do check my blood sugars in the middle of the night just to check if my blood sugar line is okay. They were vital in the early stages of my diabetes as I was extremely squeamish when it came to needles so they stood by my side and supported me. Even though they do not know the full ins and outs of having and controlling diabetes, they have never let me down and have always been there for me, cringy and cliché as it sounds!
Are you open with your friends about your diabetes?
From day one, I have always been open to people about my diabetes as I feel that it is very important to do so. Provided you don’t go on and on about diabetes, I believe that to have a healthy and happy relationship with your friends and yourself, you need to accept that you have diabetes and you need to tell your friends. What is the worst that could happen? If they don’t want to be friends because you have diabetes (which is unlikely), they shouldn’t be in your life, they are not true friends and it is not good for your mental health either.
You have an instagram account where your focus is diabetes (and now a blog). What made you start the instagram account?
When I first joined Instagram, I started to see a lot of diabetic memes on my feed and I laughed so hard and was also so happy that there was a diabetes online community. Soon, I started to investigate diabetes accounts and I found so many! I also met some diabetics online before I set up my diabetes account and I got thinking, why can’t I start one?! So, on the 17th July 2017, I set up my diabetes account. I met so many people and learnt so many things, e.g. I did not know you could get specialized diabetes bags or stickers for your pump/CGM. By five months, I already had 1,000 followers and a blog!! I feel so complete now that I am using my diabetes for good and that I have so many amazing diabesties, like you!
What advice would you give to a T1 teenager regarding their parent’s help? And what advice would you give to parents of T1 teenagers?
To teens I would only say that your parents want what’s best for you and you will be thankful for them setting boundaries when you’re older! And to parents, gather good trust with them and not to be so strict on their kids as they could easily rebel.
Thanks so much, Lauren!
Did you have type 1 diabetes when you were a teenager? What was your experience like?