First off, here’s some background information about me. I’ve been a type one (caused by genetics/not by lifestyle choices) since I was 10 years old. I’m currently 22, so at this point I’ve been diabetic longer than not. Also, I grew up in Kentucky. If there’s one thing people in the south do well it’s cook. From the time I was born I was constantly surrounded by delicious food. Naturally, when I found out I was diabetic as a child, my world was turned upside down. The day I found out remains one of the scariest days of my life. My mother had a parent who was one, so she knew the symptoms. The week that followed was spent mainly at Children’s Hospital. I hadn’t had much experience with hospitals at this point in my life, well, minus the tonsillectomy I had at age 6. So this is the point where the doctors begin to tell you how careful you have to be from now on with essentially every part of your life.
This is somewhat hard to accept at age 10.
So, after spending a week of people injecting me and making me bleed (repeat many times), I had to return to school and my normal life. As a child I was about as shy as they come. Having to explain to everyone in a classroom and all of my teachers that I now had a disease that was going to make me different for the rest of my life wasn’t easy. I remember I had to eat snacks in the morning and afternoon and having kids question why I got to do that and they didn’t. I’ve always tried my best to avoid awkward scenarios, but these were unavoidable. I also had to deal with kids saying things I knew were wrong and having to politely correct them, such as “If you just exercised this would go away,” or one of my personal favorites “I knew if you ate too much sugar you would get this.” I got these statements from kids for years.
Then I had to learn how to deal with it in public scenarios that weren’t school. Taking an insulin shot in the mall food court surrounded by all kinds of strange people was not an easy thing for me to do. I always felt so nervous and embarrassed. Even though they weren’t, I felt like everyone was looking at me, judging me. It made me feel different. I felt like I wasn’t normal at an age where acceptance is very important. It wasn’t just other kids that made me feel different either. I would around adults who would eat things they thought were “too sugary” for me and apologize because they “knew I couldn’t eat things like that.” The ignorance of adults was more frustrating to me than other kids asking questions that I felt too awkward to answer.
Fast forward to age 22.
I could give a damn what people think about me taking an insulin shot in public. I’m thankful now for insulin that comes in what looks like an EpiPen, instead of having to carry around syringes. I can assure you, taking a girl out on a first date and having her find a used syringe in your car is not the way you want to start out a relationship. I have grown to be completely comfortable with my diabetes. I’m much more willing to explain things to people now because I believe the more people are educated about this disease, the better off us as people with diabetes will be. Not only for the fact of knowing how to care for someone who is having a hypoglycemic emergency, but also helping to remove the social stigma I felt taking insulin in public as a child and how different I felt. If you know a person with diabetes, I encourage you to educate yourself and make sure you don’t make them feel any different. It took me almost ten years to become comfortable with myself, so I just want to reassure that if you are a person living with diabetes, no matter what people may tell you, we are strong.