by Jenny (she/her), 22
You can listen to this here: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5wemmePztIhPbhl2yZ3oL2?si=27c149f730e94564
When I got diagnosed it felt like I had gained this huge weight of responsibility, like I had this massive load to carry around with me at all times. Luckily with Type One diabetes the advancement of the medication meant that it can fit in a little case, so the weight was only metaphorical. It was like someone had handed me an ikea bag’s worth of worrying that I had to constantly lug around with me, even when I slept. It’s because diabetes is one of those conditions which constantly reminds you of your limited mortality, if you eat too much, you die, if you don’t eat enough, you die, if you inject too much, too little, play sports for too long, go somewhere without available snacks, sleep in, you die. And that’s exhausting. For a long time I thought that this was as bad as it could get and I always was so jealous of people who could just bite into a sandwich and not have to plan or think about it. But that’s the thing, by having to think about it I am so in tune with what is going into my body and know how it is going to perform as a result, which is more than most people. It also policed my bad relationship with food in my teens, kind of giving me a kick up the backside like ‘you need to eat! Get a grip!’
So I started to think of my diabetes like a misbehaving pet that always
needed looking after, but I really cared about it’s future and the good experiences it was going to give me; something that I could build a good relationship with if I really tried. It took a lot of work; monitoring my blood sugars, doing research, and finding the courage to talk about it and express when I needed help from friends and family. And eventually it becomes a normal, even mundane, part of life which feels pretty good.
It’s definitely not all inspirational, and everyday I yearn for a cure for those young people who can’t afford (looking at you, America) or don’t have access to insulin, and of course myself. I think there’s sometimes a guilt around wanting a cure for chronic illness because you feel like you’re supposed to love your condition the way it is and embrace it into your identity, be this inspiring person who wouldn’t change a thing about yourself, run a marathon to prove that you’re not only as good as healthy people but can do better because of it. First of all, I hate running. Second of all, I want a cure even though I love the traits I now have because of diabetes. Would I love to be able to stop thinking about dying all the time? Sure! Am I still grateful for the compassion and strength that diabetes has taught me? Absolutely.
So, really, what have I lost? Not much when I think about it. Well, I don’t have a fear of needles anymore, and I don’t hate food anymore. I’ve just gained this understanding of my body, and that’s kind of cool. And I still look at people biting into sandwiches without a second thought and think “I wish you knew how lucky you are!” But conditions like these give you that lucky outlook on life, and indeed, remind you of your own mortality. I can get up and walk to the shops if I wanted, I can read, I can listen to music and communicate with whoever I want to, I’m alive! How cool is that? I’m so lucky!
So with days like this one that brings light to all these amazing stories about lives you might not have even thought of, it’s really a special opportunity. And if you’re listening and can relate to any of this, know that you’re not alone, even with conditions that do so often feel really internal. You are doing great. Don’t be afraid to reach out. I’d love to go get a sandwich and we can think about biting into it, a lot, together.
(Originally published 23rd March 2020)