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Doubling up on T1D

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

#DiAview with the Diabetic Duo - who you can follow on Instagram @the_diabetic_duo & TikTok @diabeticduo

Forget The Olsen Twins or Bert & Ernie... in this DiAview we head to Northern Ireland to meet Beth and Ellen, two best friends from their youth from Banbridge, County Down. Both had Type 1 diabetes enter their lives, but with diagnosis occurring at two very different age brackets of their lives – Beth as a 20-year-old, 9 days after her younger sister Grace was also diagnosed. “It came as a huge shock to my family,” Beth shares, “Luckily, I had a bestie who had already lived with the condition for years and taught me everything I needed to know.” Ellen, the other half of the ‘diabetic duo’ (of which has been a real hit across social channels – especially TikTok – to share awareness of type 1 diabetes since lockdown times) was diagnosed just before her 7th birthday. “That was a… lovely birthday present,” Ellen reflects. “I always felt very isolated with my diabetes until my bestie Beth was diagnosed and that’s when my outlook on everything changed for the better!”

The girls have more than Banbridge, being besties and diabetes in common… they also share creative interests and talents – as the success of their Diabetic Duo social accounts can provide a testimony to! Beth and Ellen both work in Marketing. Beth, with her love for Art and Creative Media, is a marketing exec at The Boulevard in her Banbridge hometown, while Ellen, having graduated from Uni in July 2022, is a Digital Content Executive for Part Three Digital.

Hello Beth and Ellen, 'the Diabetic Duo!' – thanks for bringing a fun and positive energy into sharing to others about life with T1D. What has been your main motivation to engage so openly and actively on social media channels such as TikTok and Instagram?

Beth: “Our main motivation to be so open and honest online about living with type 1 diabetes, is to reach as many people as we can and let them know they are not alone!”

Ellen: “when I was a young girl living with type 1 diabetes, I would have done anything to have a role model to look up to, who I could relate to. Being a teenage girl is tough at the best of times; when you are trying to build your confidence and your identity! Living with a condition that made me seem different definitely made me feel alienated at times. I would have loved to have had a strong woman to look up to.”

…Would you say that social media linked with peer support has in recent times become that key platform to help people on their diabetes journey?

“As soon as we entered the online diabetes community, we were blown away by the amount of fellow type 1’s online sharing their stories, advice and tips and tricks! We couldn’t believe the sense of community and friendship. We talk to other diabetes on a daily basis, from topics such as hypos right through to fake tan advice around your CGM!”

Beth, you were diagnosed as a young adult, which is perhaps a different experience there to Ellen, having been diagnosed in her childhood years. What were your initial challenges in coming to terms and adapting to life with this condition? - were you reaching out to Ellen right away for guidance?

Beth: “Initially, I was extremely overwhelmed with the changes I had to face. If I’m being honest, I was very low and down for the first few weeks. I kept hoping that it would be a dream and someone would pinch me and wake me up! But I truly believe that your mindset is so, so, so important… once I came around and had a positive outlook, it changed everything! I couldn’t have done this without the support of Ellen. Being able to look at Ellen’s life and how she was able to go to university, drive, go to discos and so on, really spoke volumes to me! Ellen and her mum visited me straight after my diagnosis to reassure me and my family and I will always be grateful for their support.”

Ellen, same question there, however, would you say being diagnosed at a younger age had differing perspectives - maybe family being more involved - than what Beth experienced as a 20-year-old?

Ellen: “Getting diagnosed so young definitely has given me a different perspective. As a young child my parents really took the emotional burden of my diabetes. I am blessed that my mother is a nurse so she made my childhood seamless, always closely monitoring me and making sure I was looked after and healthy. I loved how my family didn’t make me feel ‘different’ and I was able to attend birthday parties, sleepovers and school trips like any other child.”

As two close friends with T1D in common… things like carb counting! So, who between the two of you, is the Queen at it?

"It’s safe to say, neither of us are the queen of carb counting… we will settle for the title of princess! We haven’t quite mastered carb counting as we have extremely busy lifestyles. We do both have our individual ratio’s for calculating how much insulin to inject, and we keep in close touch with our diabetes team if we feel that adjustments need to be made. We do however plan on attending the DAPHNE course! We are both in the waiting list.”

What are some of the key 'pros’ and (if there are any at all) ‘cons' of having such a close friendship and sharing type 1 diabetes in common?

Beth: “I think there are zero cons and probably a thousand pros! What could be better than having a bestie who understands exactly what you’re going through?! We continuously say that diabetes takes a huge toll on your mental health, and we are so lucky to have 24/7 access to a bestie who can give all the ‘diabestie’ advice needed! I suppose the only con is that if both of us are low at the same time… who is going to grab the hypo treats?”

Beth, in knowing Ellen before you yourself had diabetes, what was your opinion of both Ellen and understanding her ‘diabetes side’ back then, and how has it changed in these years since living with diabetes yourself?

Beth: “I am always open about the fact that even I myself had misconceptions about type 1 diabetes when I first met Ellen. I remember when I first found out she was type 1 diabetic, I thought she was joking! The media and the TV/Film industry portrays a blanket stereo type across all types of diabetes, which in turn leads to people having an idea of what a ‘diabetic person’ should ‘look like’ or act like. This is why we are so open when people when they ask silly questions about type 1, or if we hear someone in the work place make an incorrect comment, because we know that there are so many misconceptions and the more silly questions we are asked, the more opportunities we have to abolish these myths and stereo types!”

Ellen, from your experiences of differing stages of life with diabetes - childhood, late teens, entering adulthood etc - has your relationship with how you see diabetes changed through this journey?

Ellen: “my relationship with my diabetes has improved in my twenties. Whilst I still have days where I feel upset and frustrated, I definitely feel more self-assured and confident that this is my body and I know how to deal with it. My teenage years were definitely more difficult as I started to become more independent with my diabetes. There were years between the ages of 13-16 that I didn’t look after myself and whilst I have regrets, I know that being a teenager alone is hard enough never mind also having diabetes!”

So… what exactly is TikTok?! (and what happened to the world?!)

“TikTok is the BEST! We have so much fun creating content, both educating and entertaining our followers around type 1 diabetes. We do not take ourselves too seriously and love to hop on the latest trends to give everyone a giggle. We love when we receive comments from our followers saying they can relate to our videos or when they say they have had a bad day and we have cheered them up.”

What would the Diabetic Duo’s message to someone else diagnosed with T1D be, from your shared experiences?

"Please try not to get bogged down by the numbers surrounding type 1 Diabetes. We are big advocates for staying healthy and monitoring your levels, but it can become toxic when you are hard on yourself and constantly strive for perfection. This can be especially hard when you hop onto Instagram and see another person has posted their perfect blood sugars for the day on their story. Comparison is the thief of joy, so please don’t compare your bad day to someone else’s best day! Just go at your own pace and remain open with your diabetes team so they can help you. Lastly, remember that your diabetes does not define you! You can still be you and do all the things you love!”

DiAview’s are interviews sharing personal experiences and holistic projects connected to type 1 diabetes. Content may be associated to an individual’s opinion or response to their personalised diabetes care; for any medical decisions, always feel welcome to ask questions but please consult your healthcare team for clarification or final decisions you may look to make regarding your personal management.

DiAview shared in Feburary 2023.



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