by Jessica Preciado
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) when I was seven years old. When I learned I had T1D, I had no idea what it was – but it would shape my life in so many ways.
I consider myself extremely fortunate with the family I was born into with my diabetes. My mother is a registered nurse and my father is a retired paramedic/firefighter. The two of them had no problem understanding any of the medical terminologies, nor did they have any issue administering my insulin injections. When I look at the friends I had growing up who also had T1D, I often wondered how they managed it themselves. I had the knowledge of my parents, while their parents had to learn basic terms all while coping with their kid having T1D. I also noticed that my friends seemed to be more stressed about having T1D. They were also greatly struggling with day-to-day management and had a hard time coping. One of my friends even said she didn’t want kids because she didn’t want to pass T1D to them. This was baffling to me. It wasn’t that I thought having T1D was necessarily easy, but I didn’t think it this horrendous thing that my friend thought it was.
But no matter how successful or unsuccessful my friends and I were with managing our T1D, we could all agree our parents were stressing us out, and we were stressing our parents out. Our parents were always worried about our A1Cs and we knew it; if we had one hyperglycemic episode, no matter how minor, to our parents it was as if we were actively dying. In turn, this pressure made us extremely anxious about our diabetes management. This realization of how our emotions and feelings about T1D were related to our parents and vice versa always stuck with me.
When I was earning my Bachelor’s, my mom introduced me to a psychologist she worked with and mentioned that I was studying psychology. She asked me what I wanted to do with my degree, and I admitted to her that I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. She looked at me and said, “Your mom tells me all about how amazing you are with your diabetes, maybe you could become a psychologist for people with T1D.” That set off a light in me. I then became dedicated to researching T1D from a psychological perspective. When I entered grad school and had to decide on a thesis topic, I thought back to my realization of how big a role family played in my friends’ and my diabetes management and immediately knew that is what I wanted to study now, and for the rest of my life.
I am not yet done with my Master’s, but I hope to take the lessons I learn from my study and help those who, like my friend, are struggling to manage T1D.