My name is Hollie, and I’m a Diabetic. There. I said it.
It’s only within the last year or so that I’ve embraced being diabetic. I’m finally in a place where I am comfortable enough to joke about it. After all, it is a massive part of who I am, however I feel it is important to remember that it does not define me. An expression I often hear/see is “You have Diabetes, but Diabetes does not have you”.
Something I have touched upon in a couple of my posts is the embarrassment and fear of judgement that can often come with Type One Diabetes. When I mentioned it, I was surprised afterwards by the amount of people who messaged me to say that they felt the same, and some of these people have been living with Diabetes longer than I have even considered having it myself. Yet again, it is the issue of the lack of awareness around Diabetes. It always worried me that people would jump to the assumption I was a drug addict or something ridiculous if they ever saw me treating myself in public and although I’ve been in fortunate in only having to deal with stares and whispers, as I’ve grown up and joined forums to connect with other diabetics, I’ve heard far too many stories of verbal abuse being given and it appalls me.
I have said before, Diabetes is a condition that does not leave a visible trace, at least as long as you don’t look too closely. Close family and friends might recognise the change in my facial colour when my blood sugars are unstable (white for low, a grey/yellow when high) but to others, I might just be having a bad day. People might notice that my finger tips are scarred and slightly ridged from the constant blood sugar testing, but I doubt they would realise what caused it and I’ve learnt after years of being self conscious, no-one is actually looking at my fingertips. My stomach and tops of my thighs are slightly damaged from injecting too much in certain spots (I can’t be the only one to have a favoured area, right?) and only last night, I was walking round the house in a t shirt and pair of shorts showing my mum all my lumps and bumps. After all, surely it is best to acknowledge these kinds of things, be open about them and own it, rather than spend time worrying, trying to cover them up. I’ve begun to realise the people who truly care for me don’t see all the flaws I do.
However, there are times when I’m out in public where I do draw attention and until recently, it use to mortify me. From having to sit down and test my blood sugar whilst shopping, or (shock horror) having to inject in a restaurant, the very thought of having to acknowledge in public that I’m a bit different use to both upset me and anger me in equal measure.
People stare. People are nosy, people whisper, people even point. For a long time, I really was ashamed. My parents always encouraged me to just get on with it and not to worry about what others think but as someone who is incredibly self conscious anyway, without then having to whip out an injection pen or a blood testing kit, it was never that easy.
Injecting in public has always been a big issue for me. More often than not, I’ll take myself off to a public toilet to inject, but I hate it. It’s hardly the most hygienic place to be administering an injection is it? Nowadays in a restaurant, I’ll just do it at the table. I’m aware that people may have phobias of needles and I always ensure I’m discreet, for my own benefit and for those around me. Recently I did have to inject on the bus home, which was quite an experience. Have you been a bus lately? It’s rattly, it’s jerky, basically it’s not the safest place to be giving myself insulin, however through some miscalculation on my part for a big lunch I’d eaten, my blood sugars rocketed whilst I was on my way home. Now it’s a 45 minute bus journey for me and that’s a long time to sit with high blood sugars, especially as I was so nauseous. There weren’t many people around, I tried to cover myself with my coat the best I could, but even then I still got a few stares plus a disgusted, disapproving glare. I’m pretty sure though, if I’d passed out on the bus and delayed her journey, she would have been even more disapproving.
On a more positive note, there have been times when I’ve been grateful for people taking notice of me. On a couple of occasions when I’ve been on my own out shopping, my blood sugars have dropped and I’ve began to hypo. Other than the time a community support officer did stop to ask me if I was drunk (he was so apologetic when I explained and even waited with me until I felt a bit more steady), people have stopped just to check if I’m okay and for that I’m so grateful. As embarrassing as I found it, it was nice to know that there are people out there willing to put themselves out bit to help others.
So I’m Hollie, I’m a diabetic… and I’m okay with it.