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I Control My Diabetes, It Doesn’t Control Me

I was two years old when my parents learned I have type 1 diabetes. 

For weeks beforehand, I’d been lethargic, not eating as much, peeing a lot, and I had these deep dark circles under my eyes. I’ll always remember my Grandma telling me that she could still picture the circles under my eyes.

As all parents do, they adjusted to life with a type 1 kid in the house. My older sister didn’t understand, but she grew too.

When I was six, my dad took me to diabetes summer camp, and for the next twenty years, Panther Day Camp was the highlight of my summer. Dad volunteered with me right through my adulthood. I went from camper to counselor-in-training to full counselor… And then our camp director made me the lead counselor for the best age group ever, 9-10-year-old girls. Those girls are my beautiful T1 ducklings.

While camp has been an integral part of my life with diabetes, I always thought that I’d never have good control and I’d never be able to lose weight as a type 1 diabetic.

I first discovered the tire around my middle in the fourth grade, in an embarrassing moment when I pinched it in my hand only to glance up and see the math teacher giving me a look of pity. From that moment, I knew I was fat.

I adopted that as part of my identity, as much as I didn’t want it. Through high school and college I tried to lose weight trying everything I could with my limited knowledge—but I was missing one thing.

I didn’t know that carbohydrates are optional.

Every time I tried to lose weight, I tried to cut calories, use supplements, medications, weird diets that I knew wouldn’t work… But through it all I continued eating carbs, I continued having terrible blood sugars, I continued gaining weight, and I continued being absolutely miserable.

When I reached my highest weight at 225 pounds, I had what was probably my worst ever day of blood sugars. 

I rode a constant roller coaster from over 400 mg/dL down into the 40s… Three separate times.

The last crash completely emptied my liver’s glycogen stores and it took over 300 grams of carbs just to lift me into the 100s. 

For a while, before that, I’d been lurking in the Reddit /r/keto sub and the day after that roller coaster fiasco, I jumped in with both feet to eat low carb.

  • Over the past almost 5 years, I’ve lost over 65 pounds. 
  • My A1c went from the high 7s and 8s down to 5%. 
  • My time in range stays between 85 and 90%.
  • I only use between 19 and 30 units of insulin a day.

It’s a journey I share continually, so much so that I wanted a dedicated platform for it.

In September 2019, I started a podcast called This is Type 1 with a friend from Panther Camp. She was my camper first, then my counselor-in-training, and hopefully when we get back to in-person camp she’ll be my counselor, too.

This is Type 1 has brought me closer to the diabetes online community, improved my own control, and given me so much more confidence not just talking about my diabetes, but also talking about mental health, emotional management, and self-improvement. 

I’ve had type 1 diabetes for over 25 years. This is one of the biggest blessings of my life. It’s my mission to educate on type 1 diabetes and give everyone a voice.

I control my diabetes. It doesn’t control me.

Colleen Mitchel
Colleen Mitchell is a life coach, host of podcast This is Type 1, author, and full-time analyst in the power industry. She was diagnosed with T1D in September 1995, has been on pumps since 2002, and CGM since 2015. She currently wears a Dexcom G6 with Tandem’s t:Slim X2 Control IQ pump. You can find her on IG @inspiredforward or at www.inspiredforward.com.

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