The T1Dictionary: Confidence with T1D
Updated: Nov 17
This National Diabetes Awareness Month, we're diving into the 'T1Dictionary - an eddii campaign exploring new words, along with accurate definitions, that share an insight into the T1D world and their daily lives.
Last week, as you may have read, we explored the T1D 'Commyounity'. This week, we're interviewing Haley Burnside to discuss confidence with T1D, and the art of being 'Characterrific'!
Haley is a 25-year-old who has lived an active life with T1D since she was diagnosed at 4-years-old. She also helped her younger sister Molly find confidence living with T1D when she was diagnosed 8 years ago as a high schooler.
How did T1D affect your confidence at different school levels?
In elementary school, I don’t think that my confidence was affected by my T1D. I was blissfully oblivious to how others perceived me. As a child, I just wanted to play and explore like every other kid. The only time it really bothered me at that age was when I had to sit down and drink a juicebox if I went low during recess, or at home if I couldn’t have the same things as my siblings, such as, you guessed it… candy.
I really started to feel the impact on my confidence in middle school. I wanted to fit in with the crowd (as all 12-14 year olds do), and my insulin pump felt like a bulky reminder that I was different. It always seemed to beep loudly when I was trying to blend in during class. I became less open about my condition with my peers around that time, and I tried harder to hide it.
What about during high school?
High school felt slightly easier, especially in my junior and senior years. Other than struggling to cover bruises and bumps from insertion sites at homecoming and prom, I felt less self-conscious about my T1D. I was more open about my needs with my teachers and volleyball coaches (something I didn’t have the confidence for in middle school). The support of my friends and family members played a huge part in the added confidence.
What can people who don’t live with T1D do to help their T1D friends feel more confident?
That’s easy--be supportive! Don’t be afraid to tell your friend that you admire their resilience, or that you’re impressed by how tough they are. As someone living with T1D, we often forget that our daily lives require a certain amount of grit, toughness, and dedication. Remind your T1D friend that their hard work toward their diabetes management is impressive and that it doesn’t go unnoticed. Do you have any practical advice? Of course, it varies on the closeness to each friend and how much you want to share, but it’s important that your friend group has an idea of what a high and a low looks like, as well as what to do if they think you may be having one. If you’re traveling, such as going on a plane or bus, it wouldn’t hurt for them to know where you keep your insulin, how your CGM works, or even how the finger-prick test works. Extra snacks in the group are also never a bad idea!
Now you’re an adult, looking back, how has your view on confidence changed compared to how it was when you were young?
How hasn’t it changed? Growing up grants you the freedom to realize that being different isn’t embarrassing or shameful. In fact, I’ve found that my T1D makes me seem interesting, intelligent, capable, and resilient to others who don’t have it. I gained so much confidence from realizing that I had not only survived, but thrived living with a condition that most people can’t even understand. I’m ‘characteriffic’ in a way that people admire, and that gives me confidence.
Do you think having a friend like eddii would have helped you when you were growing up with T1D?
100%!!! Adolescence is isolating for everyone. As a child living with T1D, I felt even more alone knowing that I was dealing with so many things that my peers didn’t have to. I think having a friend like eddii would have normalized my daily challenges and triumphs with my diabetes management.
What specific T1D experiences can make a person feel self-conscious?
Anyone with a CGM has experienced a moment of embarrassment when an alarm draws attention in a quiet room. Similarly, there are times when your management requires a moment of “special treatment” from teachers, coworkers, or even strangers around you. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned not to be self-conscious about these things. Most people want to be helpful when they can, and asking for help takes courage. Don’t shy away from your T1D because you are afraid or self-conscious to ask for help when you need it. In my experience, the vast majority of people are happy to have a real opportunity to help or support a fellow human being.
What advice do you have for someone struggling with their confidence?
I truly believe that the greatest cure for low confidence is remembering how big this planet is, and realizing that we are lucky to have time on it. Surely, T1D can make that time more tedious or troublesome than expected, but living with diabetes is a clear sign that you are tough. That’s when you can embrace how ‘characteriffic’ you are. Not everyone gets a chance to prove how strong or capable they are, but you do. Every day you live with diabetes is a day that you’ve shown genuine strength. That’s something to feel confident about!