My name is Andrew J. Schreier. I was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of 12. I ended up in the hospital with a blood sugar level of 1,500. At the time, social media was pretty non-existent and I had no friends or family members diagnosed with diabetes. I felt different from the get go and did what I could to isolate myself because of feeling uncomfortable with living as a diabetic. I hated the word; and even dreaded hearing about it. That’s one of the toughest parts about living with type one diabetes is the daily management and reminder of living with the disease. We do not get breaks or times where we can just take a step back from taking care ourselves. I was learning how to do that at the age of 12. My parents struggled as well because I often pushed them away due to the guilt and shame of them having to inject their son with insulin. For years and years I continued to struggle silently, thinking I was the only one who could possibly understand what I was dealing with. Over the years, I caused damage to every area of life. Finally, some events started to happen where I began to make some changes and see things differently. I realized my diabetes does not define who I am but is a piece of the puzzle. I started taking better care of my health, reaching out to others, and doing things that made me believe that I could be happy and healthy with type one diabetes. It’s been almost nineteen years now and reflecting on where I am today seems like an entirely different person. I take care of my health every single day from the moment I wake up to when I fall asleep. Whether it’s changing insertion sites, counting carbs, or testing my blood sugar… I accept the fact that I need to do it everyday because each day is a truly a gift to enjoy. Now, I am a counselor, graduate student, and marathon runner. I also recently published my memoir, Life on Insulin, detailing the story of what it’s like living with type one diabetes.
What is the weirdest question you’ve been asked about your diabetes, and how did you respond?
How do you get used to the pain of needles? I tell people one of the hardest parts of being type one diabetic is that you don’t get used to taking insulin injections. What I focus on is trying to get used to the routine and process; but getting used to a needle going into you is unrealistic. There are times it comes with unbelievable pain and other times you barely feel it. I focus on getting through the process and moving on.
Has anyone told you that you couldn’t do something due to your diabetes, and you proved them wrong?
I used to tell myself I couldn’t be happy with diabetes. I tried convincing myself over and over again that you could not possibly be happy living with this chronic disease. It’s a good thing I stopped listening to myself and started making changes.
How do you inspire others?
I support people with their diabetes fundraisers, I purchase t-shirts and other merchandise supporting fellow diabetics, I read books by other diabetics and learn from their stories. I make it a habit to comment on social media to other diabetics who post their struggles and try to provide them with some encouragement and support. I recently released my memoir about diabetes and currently working on developing on app for living with diabetes.
How has diabetes contributed to forming you into the person you are today? Mentally, physically, or emotionally?
I don’t think I would be where I am today mentally, physically, or emotionally without diabetes. I am a counselor because of it. I am a marathon runner because of it. I am an author because of it. My compassion and empathy towards other is strong because of it. My drive to live a meaningful life is incredibly strong because of what diabetes has done for me.
Would you rather fight one horse sized duck or 100 regular sized ducks?
I would rather fight 100 regular sized ducks. I feel as if I could use the other ducks against each other and they would probably get in each other’s way or distract one another.