Prior scholarship examining chronic illness experience within the United States is limited and fails to capture the experiences of college-age women living with type one diabetes (T1D). This study attempts to explore perceived stigma and social support available to college-age women with T1D in hopes to highlight the pressing need to utilize the sociological model to understand the emotional labor produced by the tensions existing between expectations and reality for the chronically ill within our ableist society. To do so, I performed a systematic review of existing research and cross-referenced this review with qualitative interviews of twelve present and former college-age women with type one diabetes. The twelve women interviewed reported that stigma was pervasive throughout their lives as a result of their identities as individuals and women with T1D. Stigma was reported to manifest in reactions of ignorance and pity. While physicians were knowledgeable about the disease, these women found they ignored the social and emotional impacts of type one diabetes, which led to these women internalizing unrealistic expectations for disease management. The qualitative interviews shed light on the taxing nature of living with T1D and echoed themes of emotional labor in the form of feelings of uncertainty and social isolation reflected by the existing literature. The results of this study support the need to stray from application of the medical model to better combat stigma’s amplification of the already enormous tolls of navigating life with type one diabetes.
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