Abby Wirth says her Type 1 diabetes can be isolating, but a host of social media platforms have allowed her to meet others facing the same condition, and break away from feeling so alone.
“My perspective has changed over the years. When I was younger I used to hate my illness…I looked at it as something that held me back. But the more I’ve grown and changed, my perspective has as well,” says the 26-year-old from Connecticut.
Studies have shown that symptoms of depression may be up to 10 times more likely to be associated with individuals with disabilities or chronic illnesses, like Diabetes, and social media has been shown to reduce isolation and depression.
Wirth says the social media has been a “game changer” for the Type 1 diabetes community. “Diabetes can be a huge controlling factor of how I live my life, but it’s not my entire life,” says Wirth.
“It really has opened doors communication wise. I wouldn’t have been able to chat with other people with this illness without it.”
A literature study on the relationship between co-morbid diabetes and depression in adolescents found that children with diabetes have a two-fold greater prevalence of depression, and adolescents up to three-fold greater than youth without diabetes.
Neurologist Paola Sandroni, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, says there is always a “risk” to social media but mostly it’s a good place to vent, to feel like you’re not the only one. “But it’s important to separate the physically disabled from the impaired from a neuropsychiatric standpoint,” says the Mayo Clinic Physician.
Poking Fun At Your Disease…
Twitter is a place for conversation surrounding diabetes and depression, but the conversation doesn’t always have to be so sad. Twitter is one platform full of those funny ‘memes’ related to diabetes, many with humorous jabs at those who think they know the condition better than those who have it.
Laura Marston, an advocate for lower insulin prices, has Type 1 diabetes and says without insulin, she will die. ‘You could charge me whatever you like. If I have money, I’ll pay it. But what choice do I have?’
It is understandable that those suffering from debilitating disabilities, especially adolescents, can’t avoid depression, simply because of the connection of pain and quality of life. Facebook and other social media can be useful tools to those who are bed ridden or restricted to an at-home lifestyle. “Without Facebook, my isolation and depression levels would be much higher,” Katie Tastrom wrote on the online blog “Rooted in Rights,” where she is one of many writers who are disabled or allies to the disabled.
There are several online platforms including DisabledPassions.com, Disabled-world.com, and Yourable.com to name the most popular. Facebook has a group called the “Person with Disability group of 24,000 members. Instagram has 388,000 posts under the hashtag “disabled” where people post pictures to lift each other up.
Wirth says that she now sees her diabetes more as something that has propelled her forward.
“It has given me more of a can-do attitude when it comes to different obstacles in life,’ she says. ‘I’ve never been thankful for this illness, but I am definitely aware of the motivation and drive to do well that it has given me.’