MiniMed Ambassador Addie  is your classic cheerful high-school teenager who loves napping, is working through college applications, and socializes with friends. She also happens to live with type 1 diabetes. When high school started, instead of worrying about her A1C, she was worrying about her GPA. Realizing she needed an effective balance between school work and diabetes management, Addie established four routines for diabetes management in high school.
I’m just about as typical as teens get. I dress like a trendy grandmother from the 1980s, identify as a professional napper, am obsessed with Mac and Cheese, and am always stressed; whether it be about boys or college applications.
I also just so happen to live with type 1 diabetes. I wear my bubblegum pink MiniMed insulin pump like a pair of cute jeans—with confidence. Or, at least I try to. Along with chronic illness can occasionally come insecurity, which almost seems ridiculous. Why feel embarrassed about something beyond your control? That’s like apologizing for your eye color. You had nothing to do with the genetic lottery ticket that produced a blue-eyed diva with a dysfunctional pancreas, so why not embrace the winnings?
Why not love yourself, even for the burdens?
But loving yourself isn’t just about putting inspirational sticky notes on your bathroom mirror that read “UR BEAUTIFUL :)”; loving yourself is about respecting what it means to be healthy, especially as a high school student. Attention teens with diabetes—from one overly-panicked, hormonal pre-adult with a lifelong disease to another—managing your health must be your first priority. However, just like the old saying goes, you can lead a teenager with diabetes to a glucose meter, but you can’t force him/her to test. We may have everything we need to achieve an A1C of 7.0., but a variety of factors can contribute to our diabetes management being swept under the rug. School, especially.
I used to be a model person with diabetes. I was like a tiny medical professional that made diabetes look like a mere inconvenience to my utter awesomeness. But then high school started, and everything I’d learned about diabetes management packed up and left. Suddenly, instead of worrying about my A1C, I was worrying about my GPA. Glucose testing was replaced by standardized testing. I was the person with diabetes I never thought I would ever be—careless.
It wasn’t until after my endocrinologist informed me that my A1C was 10.3 that I realized I needed to find a more effective balance between my school work and diabetes management. The classroom couldn’t be dedicated strictly to learning, because diabetes has no consideration for lectures or exams. It doesn’t magically disappear when most convenient. I had to accept that I must have a different lifestyle than my peers. I couldn’t get good grades unless I had good diabetes habits, too. Health and success are interconnected, and even though I was still a typical teen, my routines had to reflect that my body was anything but ordinary. The word “routine” being key.
1. Establish Times to Test
The most preeminent word of advice I can offer to people with diabetes in the classroom is establishing specific times to test, or routines. Have a little downtime between a passing period? Set a reminder to check your blood glucose (BG) everyday during that time. Go to your locker before lunch? Keep a meter ready. Always get to your last class a little early? Test while you’re waiting for the bell to ring. Soon, these routines will start to feel as ingrained as your class schedule.
2. Be Conscious About Your Behavior Patterns
Start to become very conscious about your behavior patterns. If you find yourself unable to focus on your homework during a time when you’re normally in the right state of mind for concentration, don’t hesitate to test yourself. I’ve found that Netflix’s distracting call is much more prominent when my blood sugar is high.
3. Explain Your Diabetes To Your Teachers
Nobody with diabetes should feel like they’re managing their illness alone. At the beginning of the school year, send your teachers a detailed email explaining that you have diabetes, and what that means. Inform them of the signs of high/low blood sugars, and ask them to keep an extra eye out for you. Then, give them “low packets” or glucose tabs to keep in their desk all year—just in case you need them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out for a little help, which I’m slowly learning as I grow more independent.
4. Love Yourself
Finally, just like I mentioned earlier, love yourself. Take care of your diabetes so that you may live a life worthy of celebrating and sticking around for. Take care of your diabetes so that you may remind yourself of your strength every day. Take care of your diabetes so that you may eat an entire bowl of Mac and Cheese, and feel great about it. And finally, take care of your diabetes so that you may transition into your adult life knowing that you are far from typical, but extraordinary.