How Instagram changed my life - and not in the way you think.

I know what your thinking...oh god here's another influencer wanna-be....but hear me out, I wanna show you why this for me, is SO much more than that.

I’ll start by saying I actually re-wrote this whole thing about five times. This started off as a blog post about social media. And it kind of still is….because whilst, its true that there are many reasons for why online platforms get a bad rap sheet…I wanted to show what happens, when people use a keyboard for love and positivity.

It been over a year since the birth of my instagram handle @t1diabetica, and I feel like I’ve never been more happy. I originally debated it for a very long time, because I had many “what if’s” weighing on my mind.

What if people think I’m attention - seeking?

What if I instantly regret opening up to a world of strangers?

What if I run out of things to say?

What if I become a target for online bullies and hate?

The thing with “what if’s” is that nobody ever asks the opposite. What if they don't? What if it's the best thing I ever do?

February 2019

The first couple of months of the year had been seriously hard for me. My blood sugars were uncontrollable and I just couldn’t catch a break. I was lonely, because at the time, I was quite reserved about my type one diabetes. No one knew about my secret everyday battle to even just get out of bed. I was crying everyday, and I felt like a huge burden on my fiancé, who in all honesty was going to run out of pep talks very soon. I needed to make a change, but I didn’t know how.

Of course, I made changes to my control. My endo helped a lot and despite my reservations, I tried the Freestyle Libre. I was worried at first…because my diabetes would now be visible for the world to see. That’s huge for someone who’d never even inject at a restaurant table. I was desperate for better control so I accepted the freestyle Libre into my life. I googled about it, researched, I searched the hashtag on Instagram. I was shocked at what I found.

I found hundreds of posts…hundreds of people like me.

I started to follow accounts on my personal profile, but I stayed hidden. I wasn’t ready to be “seen.” But it seemed that finding the diabetic online community started a domino effect. I began to realise I was thinking differently, my relationship with my diabetes was changing - for the better. I was getting more and more tired of hiding when so many others had shown me I didn’t need to.

16th April 2019

I bit the bullet….I decided to make an instagram account. I wanted to create a safe space to document my journey through life with type one diabetes. T1diabetica was born that day. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t sure what to do. But I did it anyway. I posted my very first photo holding my pens and my new Libre reader (pictured), and I posted more and more with my diabetes “on show”. I felt free for the first time ….ever. Like, truly free. I started commenting on people’s posts….other’s introduced themselves. I made connections with real people who knew exactly what I was feeling because they felt it too. I made diabuddies. I’d never had that before.

I posted pictures of my accomplishments, but also of my bad days. I talked about my worries, my successes. I documented my insulin changes.

And then one day I received a message from a young girl who had been recently diagnosed.

She wrote that she found my account inspiring and reassuring, and it helped her begin to find her own confidence. I was speechless. I hadn’t even thought of the possibility that the account I made to help myself would end up helping someone else. I knew right there and then, I had made the right decision.

This was a new beginning for me, I finally felt like I was free to just be me….and people were thanking me for it. Family were telling me they had no idea I lived this everyday. It was raising awareness. Friends finally saw the real me. People were messaging me thanking me for putting into words, the things they couldn’t.

April 2020

Fast-forward a year, and honestly I feel like I’ve belonged to the DOC my whole life. I realise now that it was less about the blood sugar control, and more about ME. I still have bad days…but now I can come online and talk to people who just…get me. People who know what it’s like to try your best and still get your carb count wrong. People who know what it’s like to go to bed, scared that their endless day of hypos will continue through the night. It’s different now. I inject in front of friends and strangers. I don’t hide in loo’s when I need to bolus. I’m comfortable with being me. Me with my type one diabetes, who I like to call Betty…especially when she’s misbehaving.

I’ve made real life type one friends…people I have found real connections with! Some from far, some from across the seas, some from just close enough that we could actually meet….like my friend Cally (pictured).

We had the best afternoon.

For the first time in my life, I was not the only person double checking that their diet coke was really diet. Or grabbing sweets from my bag because I’m low.

Or eyeing up my plate of nacho’s trying to guess how many carbs were in this bowl of goodness. We did it together. It was amazing.

I know I would not be writing this post if I had not stumbled onto the online diabetic community that day. I’d still be looking for a toilet to bolus, or finding a corner to hide in so no one can see me finger prick. And, who has time for that! I wasted so much time caring what others would think that I only realise now how time consuming it was.

I am so grateful for every person I’ve met through the DOC, for every message I’ve ever received and I’m so glad I had the courage to start putting my journey into words. It’s often hard to put things into words, it's hard to be open and vulnerable sometimes, but I figure if my words reach just one person who happens to have needed them in that moment…I think that makes it worth it.

C x

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