My Mental Health Is Affected By Autoimmune Diseases

Graphic / Max Grant

Graphic / Max Grant

There is an outbreak across the country of teenagers’ lack of knowledge about autoimmune diseases and their effect on the mental health of high school students. Autoimmune diseases are seeing a steady increase among adolescents. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), it is only supposed to get worse with protein increases inside the blood that are damaging the tissues of teenagers especially.. Having to deal with these autoimmune diseases as a teenager is extremely challenging and it takes a toll on your mental health.

I have two autoimmune diseases that I have put up with everyday: Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease. These two diseases are classified as autoimmune diseases because my body doesn’t know the difference between cells that are not from my body and my own cells. This causes my cells to be hurt mistakenly because of this. Beta cells in my pancreas are harmed by the foreign cells, which led to the development of Type 1 Diabetes. My body produces little to no insulin and I have to give myself insulin manually through injections. This was enough for a sixth grader at the time, but there was another bitter blow to come. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in sixth grade and it drastically changed my life. Celiac Disease is when an abnormal reaction occurs in your immune system if you eat articles of food that contain gluten. My diet changed completely, as I was now having to eat strictly foods that are gluten free (foods that do not contain wheat, barley or rye). 

There is not a day that goes by where I do not question where I would be in my life if I did not get diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I wonder if I would still be playing sports. I think about if I would be catching touchdowns in the endzone at Turco Field and hearing the roar from the crowd as they celebrate my accomplishment. I wonder about the friends I would be talking to if I did not worry about whether or not my blood sugar is going to drop to a low level. I wonder about the parties that I could have been to and the great food I could eat if I was not dealing  with the everyday effects of Celiac Disease. The childhood memories I could have made from trick-or-treating with my brother, the New Year’s parties I could have gone to or even just simple moments such as enjoying a delicious chocolate cake while laughing about the stupid things my friends and I did as kids. 

Although Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease have prevented me from doing certain activities, it has not stopped me from becoming the person that I am. Since being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I have had to manage my blood glucose levels while also having to stay on top of day-to-day necessities like school work, self-care, exercise, etc. Type 1 Diabetes has made me more mature in handling situations that most teenagers would not have to deal with until their older years. Staying responsible with counting the correct carbohydrates that I am going to eat for a certain meal while considering and double checking if the food I am about to eat is gluten free or not. I have delved into becoming mature when problems arise from these diseases. It has helped me advocate for myself in times of need with a low blood sugar or telling the waiter that I have an allergy to gluten. I probably could not talk to a waiter today if I did not get diagnosed with my autoimmune diseases.

There are good periods and rough periods with both diseases, but that is not going to hold me back. There are times where I do get quite emotional about my diseases, vocally expressing how much I wish that I was not born with these diseases. I often blame my religion, crying out that God put these two diseases on me to make me suffer and to hurt more. I also blame my old habits of eating unhealthy. If I ate those vegetables like my mom and dad told me, I would not have Type 1 Diabetes or Celiac Disease. Now, I learned to not be so negative about myself. To take the lessons I have learned from these diseases and think of it as a good thing. I am outstanding in so many ways and my two autoimmune diseases are just a fraction of why I am outstanding.