Those living with diabetes are faced with a whole new handful of struggles. Being diagnosed at age 10 with type 1 diabetes changed not only one girl’s lifestyle but also her entire body image.

Julia, now 21 years old, was faced with the same aspects of growing up as any other teenage girl. “After my junior year of high school, I was going through a rough patch of self-loathing and body image struggles. I went through a period in my life during my junior year of high school where I believed I had to look a certain way in order to be accepted, but I was wrong,” says Julia. “I think a lot of girls go through something like this, but when you put juvenile diabetes on top of it, it’s even more of a detriment to your well-being.”

Knowing that her body mustn’t suffer as a result of a poor self-image, Julia changed her mental concept and self-vision. “I realized that my health was my biggest priority, and as a result my A1c levels have been great ever since, along with my focus on nutrition and exercise.

"Don’t get me wrong, I have day-to-day struggles, but my overall results have been good. When diabetes tries to put you at a negative ‘x’ (you decide the number), you have to put your health as number one, because without it, you won’t necessarily have things to fill the other slots after one. Realizing I could manage my diabetes and put other things in those slots was hard, but after I got over the hump that was my poor self-esteem, I have been a more positive person and better person who has juvenile diabetes.

“I’ve lived more than half my life with juvenile diabetes. Realizing how my body changes with age has also been something I’m becoming accustomed to, as there has been fluctuation as of late. I’m 20 now, so my metabolism levels are changing and so are my activity levels. It’s always been a balancing act.

“You can never let diabetes come out victorious. You have to own it and you can’t let it own you. Managing it may be difficult, and oftentimes it will seem as if type 1 is the victor, but you have to celebrate your life, so to balance things out, you have to make coping with diabetes something worth celebrating. Showing yourself that you are self-managed is the most important lesson I’ve learned in having juvenile diabetes. I’ve become very self-aware, and it has made all the difference.”

Diabetes shouldn’t impact the way you feel about yourself. You are not diabetes—you are someone who has diabetes. “Juvenile diabetes has made me feel like the outcast. It has made me feel shyer and more vulnerable, but in truth, I would assume that everyone has something, even if it’s a little something, that makes him or her feel this way,” she says. “There are a lot of intimate feelings that come with having juvenile diabetes. It’s hard to let those feelings out any day, but it’s especially hard to let these feelings show when they are what you’re feeling around the clock. It doesn’t make you necessarily make you want to talk about them more.

“We’re all different, and I guess that’s what makes us all the same. Juvenile diabetes has made me feel complicated, but I’m on a mission to prove to myself that you can live simply and have juvenile diabetes. You can live, be in love with others and still have juvenile diabetes. You can let down your walls and still be self-managed. These are my ideas, missions and goals about having juvenile diabetes. It’s up to me to take action in making them realities. So far, I’m off to a good start… I think. Who’s to judge? There’s never a wrong time for new beginnings. I hope to show the world I’m so much more than my disease that does not define me."