How Social Media Helps the Chronically Ill Community


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I’ve always struggled with my body image, but never really felt shame until one of my specialists stared pointedly at my stomach and said in a dry, drawling voice, “We have to do something. something to keep those rolls from getting bigger. ”

My heart collapsed. I was 17 and beginning to fall in love with myself, finding confidence and relishing the feeling of ultimately feeling beautiful after years of self-loathing. But in that moment, every sliver of confidence I felt was shattered and a searing wave of anger and hatred surged, not against the specialist, but against myself.

It’s a sad reality that most people are dissatisfied with their bodies to some degree, but for those living with chronic illnesses, accepting their body and loving it becomes a problem on many levels. Not only do you have to accept that this chronic illness will always be a part of your life and relearn your self-concept, but you also have to reframe your entire identity.

And for a 17-year-old girl with type 1 diabetes, who based her value on her physical appearance, the bumps, bumps and scars on her belly from fat accumulation after 12 years of injections. insulin, have made it even more difficult to separate disease, value and identity.

The truth is, I might have liked my strong but sick body if I had seen more people like me in the media – a young woman with type 1 diabetes exploring and speaking out. Although I had friends with diabetes, living with an invisible disease that forces you to give up your autonomy over your body and your life can be incredibly isolating.

So when I went looking for some form of representation who told me I was able bodied enough to be represented in media, movies and magazines – and all I saw were models , perfect, fit and able-bodied celebrities and actors – this hatred has remained alive and strong.

I admit, some days the hate is still there, but now it’s different. Because now I’m opening up social media and seeing other people like me living with chronic conditions – and I feel like we’re finally being seen for our authentic selves.


From Lila Moss walking the Met Gala red carpet in a see-through Burberry dress that proudly sported the Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) device on her arm to Australian content creator Carmen Azzopardi using her online platform to normalize chronic disease , social media is completely changing the narrative around diabetes.

On TikTok alone, #type1diabetes has 2.1 billion views, with content creators showing everything from how people insert their CGMs to ‘day in a life’ videos, to how they process the hypos, how often they prick their fingers and their normality. daily activities. Providing a voice and a platform to a community that is often told upon diagnosis “you will never be like the others” is a refreshing alternative to making friends in hospital waiting rooms.

And while you might think a girl in a cute dress on the red carpet, a social media queen posting bikini pics, or even a humorous video about what not to say to a type 1 diabetic n is no different from normal social media content. on your FYP, for many people living with chronic, invisible conditions, this can be completely life changing.

Start conversations about body image, relationships, mental health, and even sex (because people with chronic conditions need to consider the impacts in all aspects of our lives, including our sexual well-being), social media – which is often demonized for portraying unrealistic and aesthetic lifestyles – has enabled people with diabetes and others living with chronic conditions to form a community where they can share their experiences while feeling heard, understood and valued.

When British digital designer Jasmine Jaffar (@thetypethat_) struck up a conversation about sexual health with diabetes on Valentine’s Day, she brought to light a topic that rarely comes up in a clinical or educational setting. Writing that “empowerment is key,” the post quickly garnered more than 100 comments praising, thanking and even adding to her advice, breaking some of the stigma around sex and chronic disease.

But the conversations don’t end there. Using her Instagram and TikTok accounts to talk about chronic illness in a way that doesn’t focus on it 24/7, Sydney-based content creator and PR expert Carmen Azzopardi (@zigs_mom ) normalizes talking about living with diabetes while leveraging social media to curate a space where others feel safe, supported and educated.

Discussing everything from mental health to fashion, Carmen’s online profile not only provides space for interaction and conversation, but shows other diabetics that they have control over how they present themselves and about their illness. And by starting these conversations, showing her followers that they are “normal”, Carmen is helping to eliminate the fear of stigma, the discrimination that four out of five people with diabetes have experienced at some point in their lives.

This is the focus of National Diabetes Week 2022. Bringing attention to the real impacts diabetes stigma can have on a person’s mental and emotional well-being, including people who don’t share their diagnosis with others, get the help and support they need, or do what they need to do every day to manage their diabetes – this sparks important conversations about the daily experiences of people with type 1 diabetes.

Personally, over the past 18 years, I have been blamed and shamed for having diabetes, received derogatory comments when I pricked my fingers at work or in public, and been judged for taking the basic measures cure my illness and stay alive. The list continues.

The truth is, living with type 1 diabetes is similar to living with a mental illness – sometimes you can physically see the effects, but most of the time you can’t. And while the fantastic conversation around depression and anxiety evolves after years of advocacy, the same understanding and empathy must be applied to people living with diabetes.

While some people might not see the value of an Instagram post about being “cute, comfortable, and chronically ill,” or a news article about a model wearing her pump insulin on the podium, for me – and others in the diabetic community – it completely changed something that sank into our skulls the moment we were diagnosed: we are not like the others, we never will be and this disease is our only burden.

Yet, there are other people in the world who experience the exact same frustrations and problems. They know what it’s like to be 13, 16 and 23 and living with a debilitating disease. And they’re approachable, friendly, and genuine, breaking some of the stigma we face one post at a time.

I wish I had seen someone like me at 17.

For more information on National Diabetes Week, visit

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