Diabetes As A Superpower
In recognition of International Youth Day, AFH had the pleasure of coordinating an opportunity for athletes with Type 1 Diabetes to come together to share their “origin stories” and diabetes journeys with the Children at Children’s Diabetes Foundation Colorado. Having a chronic illness can take its toll on a young person’s mental health.
Children with diabetes battle with depression and thoughts of suicide longer than medically healthy children their age.Jaser, SS
Despite the mental and physical toll diabetes takes on children, much like the AFH athletes, the children at the Children’s Diabetes Foundation have learned to view their diabetes as a superpower.
Whether diagnosed as a child, teenager, or adult our athletes shared similar experiences when it came to their management of Type 1 diabetes. As we know, practice and exercise are very important tools for athletes’ success. For athletes with Type 1 diabetes practice is not just on the field, practice includes finding a routine that works for their insulin management; what and when to eat before a game; how much and how often to take their insulin during games, and of course what their go-to pre-game snack is so their blood sugar doesn’t get too low.
Ultimately Type 1 diabetics practice listening closely to their body and this is where their ‘superpower’ comes from- being disciplined and consistent with taking care of their bodies. AFH athletes encouraged kids to continue to exercise as it has become a positive tool in their mental health battle against Type 1 diabetes. Above all, our athletes could not stress enough how important loving yourself and having a support system is to one’s mental health battle with diabetes.
“In any 18-month period, 33% to 50% of people with diabetes have diabetes distress.”CDC (2022).
Every superhero, like every athlete, needs a team. In addition to working closely with their doctors and healthcare professionals, the athletes recognized that they needed to include their teammates, coaches and friends in their journey. Having the patience and courage to talk about their diabetes and educate their friends and team made it easier for those around them to support them in their journeys. Raising awareness and deconstructing misconceptions through education on diabetes not only helped these athletes gain the trust and support of their sports leagues, but has also made it easier for more athletes with diabetes to join professional sport teams.
Based on the amazing session we had with Children’s Diabetes Foundation, AFH has put together a superhero profile for the amazing athletes that took the time out to join the session and inspire others like them.
Seattle Sounders Assistant Coach
Origin Story: Diagnosed at 26 years old in the prime of his professional soccer career in England
Super powers: Discipline, professionalism
Favorite pre-game snack: Gummy Bears
Motto: Be your own best friend!
Mental health hack: You have to be able to talk through things
Former hockey player, Dental student
Origin Story: A former professional Hockey player and currently a qualifying dentist and diabetes researcher, Anissa was diagnosed when she was 8 years old.
Super powers: Gratitude and Being Purposeful
Favorite pre-game snack: Peanut butter
Motto: Smooth seas don’t make good sailors, so give yourself a pat on the back!
Mental health hack: Exercise, loving yourself, and checking into yourself regularly
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker
Origin Story: Diagnosed at 13 years old while going through puberty
Super powers: Positivity, discipline, and consistency
Favorite pre-game snack: Fruit snack
Motto: I’m still going to do what I said I’m going to do!
Mental health hack: Educating those around you so they know how to support you
As Diabetes Day (November, 11, 2022) approaches, AFH looks forward to sharing all the work these athletes and other athletes with Type 1 Diabetes are doing to advocate and raise awareness for children and athletes with diabetes.
CDC.gov (2022), Managing mental health. retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/mental-health.html
Jaser SS. Psychological problems in adolescents with diabetes. Adolesc Med State Art Rev. 2010 Apr;21(1):138-51, x-xi. PMID: 20568561; PMCID: PMC3721971.