Children have been impacted by social restrictions, school closures, and financial stressors over the last year.
Mental health issues for children have increased since the arrival of the pandemic, but for two sisters in Bismarck, they never let their challenges compromise their confidence.
“It was hard. Very, very hard. It was driven by a lot of fear of the unknown. You know, any new diagnosis that a person is given there’s a lot of fear around that and that’s what we had to walk through together,” said the girls’ mom, Melissa Artlip.
10-year-old Lydia and 7-year-old Natalie were diagnosed with autoimmune diseases.
Natalie says, “First, it was kind of embarrassing cause everyone was kind of looking at me, and then I started telling people about it and they stopped staring.”
Since being diagnosed with Type I Diabetes in 2019, Natalie went through several trials to find the right way to track her blood sugar levels. She tried everything from finger pricks to medical devices. Now she uses one she can check from her phone.
Melissa says, “When she goes low it alerts us. It will beep and we can also follow it on my cellphone,
and my husband’s and grandma’s. And our school nurse follows her blood sugar when she’s at school. Basically, this thing will see when she’s trending down and we’ll give her more carbs.”
Melissa says this device has saved Natalie’s life more than a dozen times. Along with diabetes, she was diagnosed with celiac disease.
Melissa adds, “It’s a disease where if you eat gluten it attacks your body, your insides. It’s like poison.”
Just a couple of months later Natalie’s older sister, Lydia noticed her hair was falling out. After getting tested, she was diagnosed with Alopecia.
Lydia says, “I just thought that other people had it, too. They’re not afraid. So I could be like that, too.”
Alopecia is a condition that causes hair to fall out in small patches. At first, Lydia tried wearing a wig but later decided against it.
Lydia explains, “One, because it was super itchy and I’m just not gonna wear that, and two because I don’t need to hide it so why would I wear it?”
When asked if they sought counseling, they all said briefly but mainly relied on the support of their friends and family, and faith. The girls never got lost in comparison or compromised their confidence.
In fact, they both have individual quotes that help them stay strong.
Natalie says, “If I sometimes feel a little down I remember the saying ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.'”
Lydia adds, “It’s not fancy hair, gold jewelry, or nice things that make you beautiful and stand out. It’s what’s inside you that God looks at not what the outside looks at.”
Both the girls say they are happy and healthy and looking forward to summertime.