I came across this article which I wrote back in 2011 for one of the early DWED newsletters. I am publishing it now with a few revisions, because it is all still entirely relevant.
Type one diabetes.
So many people think it's no big deal, or that it's purely medical. You just test your blood and can't eat as much cake as you'd like sometimes, right? Your friends would hate to be you because they're too scared of needles [“Wow, 5 times a day?! Does it hurt much?” I never could be diabetic!!”] but they just figure you must just be used to it by now. They say they wouldn’t mind that perk of being allowed to always be front of the canteen queue at school for lunch though as you got the freshest chips straight out the fryer..
The reality is it is far less tame and in no way simple. I can’t speak for everyone with diabetes but I don’t think that you can ever become used to it but rather just tolerate it.
Diabetes is complex, deep-rooted, and just as draining on your brain as the rest of your body.
Quite honestly? I wholly resent being a type 1 diabetic and for about the first decade after diagnosis at age 9 would keep asking myself ‘why me?' What did I do wrong?” It was all too easy to dwell on that question, and it fed an existing self-hatred like dry sunflowers sucking water. Surely, I must deserve it? I tried to make sense of it and could only find nonsensical explanations. 5 years later in autumn of 2013, my eating disorder became a way for me to try and cope with how having diabetes made me feel, and it slotted quite snugly into a space already littered with ketostix, lancets, Diet Coke and self-hatred.
I was always very good at denial. A few days before I was officially diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I recall overhearing a conversation between my mum and a family friend. I stood in our hallway with my ear close to the slightly open door as my mum expressed concern over my excessive thirst. exhaustion and constant peeing. The friend suggested diabetes could be the cause and I instantly I stormed into the room shouting with urgency “No I am not, there's nothing wrong with me!”
The same dismissive attitude continued past confirmation of my diagnosis. During the first few weeks my mum would administer my insulin but when given the responsibility to inject myself on insulin I became sneaky and remember squirting my Mixtard 30 (remember that one?) dose down the toilet on numerous occasions. This was not because of any desire to lose weight at that point but because I thought I didn't need insulin,
All I wanted was to be like everyone else,
I would sit in lessons at school with the shakes from low blood sugar but would never ask to my excused and would only then guzzle down a Lucozade after the bell went and I was alone. I thought leaving the classroom early would bring me unwanted attention would cause unnecessary fuss. I feared being labelled as different and was ashamed that my broken body needed extra care. This belief was amplified after I was discreetly eating a snack during registration and my form tutor asked me a question In Front of the whole class. I had my mouth full and had to speak out loud while trying to chew and swallow at the same time. The teacher then abruptly asked me why I was eating at all. I felt ashamed and humiliated and never eat another snack in class time from then on.
The widespread ignorance hurts, too, because no, none of us are this way because we eat too many sweets. All my friends thought I was lucky because I got to eat a mini chocolate bar before P.E lessons, and I wanted to scream at them that they could have the stupid Milky-Way if they wanted, if they took the diabetes too/ I never once told them this though.
Moments like those made me felt so very alone and as if nobody could understand.
Type 1 diabetes is a pestering, demanding child that needs constant attention and consideration You can't forget, ever, no matter how much you try to pretend otherwise. Like the snacks and emergency glucose, you should carry around with you (I still struggle with this now), it's always there, persisting, getting in the way, and as difficult as it feels, survival means have to actively take care for yourself. With an eating disorder the desire to ignore and reject #t the need for that self-care is compounded but the fact is that trying to work with diabetes instead of against it, is the only way you can diminish its presence.