25 years old, living with diabetes and FreeStyle Libre ambassador
Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a teenager can affect your self-esteem and mental health. But getting better at diabetes management helps you accept your situation.
In the run-up to her 13th birthday, Laura Yates started to experience several worrying symptoms. “I’d lost a lot of weight,” she remembers. “I was also really thirsty all the time, so I was taking a two-litre bottle of water to school and constantly needing a wee. I’d wake up lots of times in the night to go to the loo, too.” Plus, she always felt tired.
After her GP had run some tests, Laura was told that she urgently needed to go to hospital, where more tests were carried out and a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes was confirmed.
“It was only for an overnight stay, but it was scary,” she says. “I didn’t know anything about diabetes, but I was suddenly told that I would have to prick my fingers at least four times a day, to test my glucose, and inject myself multiple times a day. I was terrified of needles, so it turned my life upside down and I struggled to come to terms with it. I suppose I was also angry with the unfairness of it all.”
I know you can’t switch off from diabetes, but it helps to accept that you can’t be perfect all the time.
Being diagnosed with diabetes as a teenager can affect your self-esteem and mental health, says Laura. “I was very conscious of other people’s opinions and wanted to fit in with the crowd,” she says. “I was embarrassed to inject myself in front of anyone, even though I knew regular injections were vital for my health.”
Becoming confident about your diabetes management
Yet after a couple of years, Laura — now 25 — grew more confident about her diabetes management routine and began to accept her situation and be more open about it. “Diabetes is relentless,” she admits. “There’s a real pressure to maintain your glucose levels at a good range — and that can be really draining.”
Her advice to anyone in a similar situation is simple. “You have to give yourself a break sometimes,” she says. “I know you can’t switch off from diabetes, but it helps to accept that you can’t be perfect all the time. Sometimes you need to think: ‘I’ll do better tomorrow’ and reflect on what you could have done differently.”
After a rocky start, Laura has accepted that diabetes management is part of her life and doesn’t let it interfere with the things she wants to do. For example, after university, she had no qualms about travelling to Australia and New Zealand. “When I was younger, I was frightened that diabetes might stop me living my life,” she says. “Now, with experience, I realise it absolutely won’t.”