Stephanie Haack is from Berlin, Germany and lives with type 1 diabetes. Today she shares her story on how the Internet changed her life in several ways and how she is giving back to the diabetes community through Pep Me Up!
The Internet is a magical place. You can find all kinds of information, inspiration and connections - endless possibilities are only a few clicks away. It can literally change your life.
The Internet changed my life eight years ago. I had been feeling tired and unwell for a few months, battling infection after infection, when I started noticing that I was unusually thirsty. One day, after gulping down two huge bottles of water and still running back to the kitchen, I realised that this couldn't possibly be normal. So I turned to the Internet. It didn't take much more than googling thirst and reading the first few results until I called my boyfriend and told him: “Google says I have diabetes. But that can't be it, right?”. We both laughed it off, but the next day, the doctor made it official. All I needed to say was thirst and tiredness. All they needed to do was a simple finger prick. They immediately sent me off to see a specialist, who immediately sent me to a hospital to get settled in for a week and learn everything I needed to know about the condition that I would now live with for the rest of my life.
During the years that followed, I had a hard time accepting that diabetes would be a big part of my life now. I couldn't admit to myself or my friends and family, that diabetes is actually a big deal. I didn't know anyone else who had type 1 and I didn't feel that my healthcare team understood what I was going through. I wanted to be perceived as strong and independent rather than sick and weak. So I told myself and anyone who would listen that this condition didn't take a toll on me.
But let's be honest: Even despite all the advancements in technology and modern diabetes management, diabetes will always demand a lot of time and energy from the person living with it.
And then, after years of feeling isolated with this diagnosis, the Internet changed my life again. After an appointment with my endocrinologist we were trying to figure out the date for our next meeting. When I checked my calendar on my phone, he said something like "You're a young, modern woman. You should get in touch with these crazy people I met at a conference recently. They play blood sugar bingo on the internet!". I had no idea what blood sugar bingo was, but he handed me a flyer and that is how I found my way to the diabetes online community. I still can't believe that after diagnosing myself via Google, I had never thought of googling "Diabetes" again - and that I needed an old school flyer to finally find out that there was a whole other world out there!
I couldn't believe how many people with diabetes were active on social media, exchanging thoughts and experiences, helping each other out in difficult situations or just lending an ear. So many different blogs, online forums and Facebook groups - I knew immediately that I wanted to be part of this and contribute to this incredible community! That is why, two years ago, I started my blog PEP ME UP.
Ever since then, the diabetes online community has been a huge part of my life. I've met so many inspiring people and made really great friends. Knowing that I'm not alone, that I'm part of something bigger, gives me a daily boost of motivation. That is why I devote a lot of time and energy to the diabetes online community - by writing about my experiences on my blog, creating fun or helpful products for my little shop, advocating for patients and representing them at industry meetings or simply by sharing, caring and listening.
This community has helped me so much and still helps me every day. That's why I will do whatever I can to support and strengthen it, so that it can help many, many others. Because, as it turns out, the Internet can change your life – it certainly has changed mine.
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