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I didn’t know that this past year would be so stressful and full of mental obstacles when I flew back to America from Thailand in 2020. It was February and I hadn’t been to the states in over a year to visit. My mom surprised me by buying a flight back for a 2-month return. Little did I know, a pandemic would be the massive event that returned me to my home country for the foreseeable future.
I had been living in Chiang Mai, Thailand for three years and my tropical life was very much an oasis! Me, a Black-Indigenous woman, living with type 1 diabetes, staying abroad in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house all to myself for less than $300 a month!
I frequently traveled to several countries, built a beautiful network of friends and became truly united with my spirit while living independently abroad. I was most definitely living my best life, so you can imagine why I wasn’t planning to officially move away from my sanctuary any time soon!
In Thailand, we were all well aware of the COVID-19 virus that was slowly creeping closer to us in Southeast Asia, however it did not seem like a disruption to my daily life.
Prior to returning, my self-care and diabetes management had evolved to a place of instinctual routine—weekly oil massages, float tank sessions, gorgeous vegan foods and plenty of exercise and sunlight in the form of outdoor adventures. I was blessed to have access to regular doctor visits as well as the ability to afford medications and supplies for my T1D management.
It really didn’t hit me with how well I had been managing my diabetes, depression and physical health, until I returned to America and no longer had access to the same healthcare routines I had created for myself.
I would say that my first three months back were some of my darkest moments yet.
I was quarantining at my dad’s apartment in Maryland after my return flights to Thailand were cancelled due to COVID-19. I spent four long months not leaving my accommodation. I was uninsured, unemployed, and completely alone—my father stayed elsewhere for four months because he was still working his 9-to-5 job and didn’t want to risk getting me sick.
We were all just so afraid and unsure. In response to these stressors, I began doing more meditation, cooking healthy plant-based foods from the grocery deliveries my dad had set up for me, reuniting with my love for painting and journaling more than I had in the past six years.
Returning to these practices and moments of stillness really helped my anxiety regarding the uncertainties of the world, but then there came a day that absolutely turned my life upside down again.
George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020 was something I never expected to witness, yet the viral video made its rounds. It completely slapped us all in the face. Following this tragedy, I was enraged, hurt and disappointed at the lack of societal progress in America. It was overwhelming living with depression, anger and the fear of catching COVID-19.
The forced isolation and yo-yo-ing blood sugars made things worse. Some days I was so numb; my only answer was to stay in bed. There were days of just lying in bed.
I neglected my T1D management by doing fewer finger sticks and “rage bolusing” when my glucose levels were high. Insomnia eventually crept in. The thought of my Black brothers and sisters continually being murdered, oppressed, abused, and having limited chances to thrive here, rolled through my mind all day. I knew if I didn’t try to get my life, diabetes and depression under control, I would slip further into despair.
So, what does one do when there is a battle to be fought right outside your door?
I found myself breaking out of my quarantine—usually double masked—to join the groups of activists in Washington D.C. as we marched and protested for racial justice.
I also signed up for Medicaid and found an endocrinologist who worked with me to get my T1D management back to a healthy place. The security of being medically covered during a highly infectious pandemic, added a sense of security to my life and eased my anxiety of being out in public.
Upon reflection, the year 2020 was a time of seeking help regaining control of my diabetes, joining in a global protest movement, and ending my social isolation, which contributed to a healthier approach to managing stress from unprecedented world events.
We are over a year into the pandemic and the racial revolution. I continue using my growing social media platform as a Black Vegan woman living with T1D, to connect and share stories with others who may resonate with my intersectional plights.
Through these conversations, recognizing when I must ask for help and finding moments of retreat, I continue on my journey of healing.
I never have a day off from living with diabetes, and although it may be challenging to stay on top of this disease while facing unimaginable stress, I must continue to check in with myself so as not to neglect my first, and most important priority emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Asé!
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