Picture of Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD

Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD

Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD, the founder of Milk & Honey Nutrition, is a diabetes dietitian (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) renowned for combining her knowledge of diabetes and culinary expertise into easy-to-follow recipes and articles!


My Experience Living with Type 1 Diabetes For 30+ Years

Article Overview

woman living with type 1 diabetes

Living with type 1 diabetes is a unique experience that comes with its own set of struggles and experiences.

I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes for almost 30 years and have seen quite the spectrum of treatment and management advances. Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have been living with type 1 diabetes for quite some time, I hope you find reading about my experience helpful.

What is type 1 diabetes and how does it affect someone’s life? 

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. This means the body’s immune system decides to attack a certain part of the body. For type 1 diabetes, this means the immune system attacks the beta cells of the pancreas. As a result, the pancreas can no longer secrete insulin. 

Insulin is necessary for life and allows the glucose you eat (and the glucose produced by your liver) to enter your body’s cells. Without insulin, the level of glucose in the blood stream becomes too high (because it can’t enter your body’s cells) and is life threatening. People with type 1 diabetes, need an external form of insulin for the rest of their life. This is given through multiple daily injections or via an insulin pump.

Make sure to read more about type 1 diabetes and the role of insulin if you’re curious!

woman living with type 1 diabetes

Can a person with type 1 diabetes live a normal life?

If we had asked this question even just 10 years ago, the answer was honestly, no. But with the recent advancements in diabetes treatment technologies over the last 10-20 years, I can confidently say yes! Living a pretty normal life with type 1 diabetes is very possible. It certainly takes effort and more brain power, but it is possible. 

Thanks to insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors, and a variety of types of insulins available, people with type 1 diabetes can eat what they want, do activities they want to do, and everything in between. 

What is it like living with type 1 diabetes?

I saw a meme one time that said living with type 1 diabetes is like living with a never ending to-do list. You check one care item off the list and it automatically adds 5 more things to your list of things to do. While diabetes is manageable, it can be overwhelming at times.

Common struggles of type 1 diabetes

Did you know people living with type 1 diabetes have to make approximately 300 more decisions everyday than a person without type 1 diabetes? Let that sink in. THREE HUNDRED more decisions. Every. Single. Day. This is why people with type 1 diabetes have a far greater risk of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and many other mental health conditions. And it’s why I’m a big advocate for therapy or counseling for people living with type 1 diabetes. Even if you feel “fine”. Even if your blood sugars are well managed. It’s hard. It’s ok to have support.

Living with type 1 diabetes on a daily basis

Here’s a quick example of all the decisions required in just 1-2 hour timespan: Test your blood 

sugar. Then treat or don’t treat. But wait, you’re going to exercise later. So then you eat a snack. But mid-workout you feel funny and check your CGM/test your blood sugar. 120. What to do? You suck down half an applesauce pouch and finish your workout. An hour later you’re 200 and trending upward so you give a small correction and hope the exercise doesn’t cause a delayed crash… AND IT JUST KEEPS GOING.

woman taking insulin in syringe types of insulin

Can you live a healthy life with type 1 diabetes?

In spite of the struggles listed previously, living a healthy life is very much possible. I encourage you to checkout more information on living healthy with diabetes and managing blood sugar levels.

What’s it like living with someone with type 1 diabetes?

Living with someone with type 1 diabetes definitely comes with it’s own set of responsibilities and struggles. The support from loved ones, friends and family, is crucial for emotional stability for people with diabetes. Rather, than delve deeper into that topic here, I encourage you to check out the post I have on how to support a loved one with diabetes

woman with diabetes devices dexcom omnipod different types of diabetes

Living with type 1 diabetes blog 

Much of the content on my blog is a reflection of living with type 1 diabetes for almost 30 years. I didn’t always have this seemingly positive outlook on diabetes. There have definitely been periods of depression, anxiety, and burnout

I was a typical teenager living with type 1 diabetes, that didn’t really care about my health and did not do a good job of taking care of my blood sugars for many years. I had feelings of bitterness and definitely a “Why me?” kind of attitude.

But, one thing I’ve learned over the last 5-6 years in turning my story into my job essentially, is that when you’r living with type 1 diabetes (or any chronic illness for that matter), you have two choices:

  1. You can feel sad and angry and think “why me?”
  2. You can accept it for what it is. Allow yourself to have normal emotions about it. (It’s ok to be sad and upset!) But then, try to think how can you use the fact that you have this disease to help other people? How can you make it a force for good rather than a source of pain and resentment?

That second option certainly isn’t always easy, but it’s far more rewarding.

For more information on living with any form of diabetes, make sure to head on over to the Diabetes 101 section of my website!

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