Last week my favorite bartender overheard my conversation with a dear friend. We were laughing about how our bodies are changing since turning the big 4-0. The bar was packed with attractive men so when she announced, “Amber – there’s no way you’re 40!”, I almost fell from my bar stool. Instead of freaking out, I announced with pride that I turned 40 a few months back. The girl talk continued and I proclaimed how happy I am to still be alive. This declaration fueled my desire to begin a new series of posts – diabetes over the decades, yes decade(s).
The Early Years: I was diagnosed 21 days after my eighth birthday so this period of my life is kind of foggy. I shared my diagnosis day post, Final Hours Of A Normal Life, shortly after co-founding the DDG. Even though the diagnosis flipped my life and my families lives upside down, diabetes actually came in handy from time to time.
- My tester made it easy to prick the fingers of brave souls who wanted to be blood brothers (why were we doing this???).
- I sweet talked my teacher into getting me a Diet Coke everyday for the long bus ride home.
- I had snacks with me at all times. At first, this drew unwanted attention, but I turned it around and made friends. Everyone was on board to sneak a few Teddy Grahams from the kid with diabetes.
Pre-Teen Years: As I rolled into middle school (6th – 8th grade), shit hit the fan. Denial, serious denial set in. I wanted to be like everyone else, but it was becoming LOUD and clear, I was not. I rarely tested, but never skipped my multiple daily insulin shots (NPH & Regular). I often felt isolated and alone even when fluttering around as a social butterfly.
Around age 14 I changed my dietary choices by cutting out beef, pork & lamb. It didn’t really have anything to do with health, but more so about not wanting to kill animals (the inner environmentalist had been discovered). My diet consisted of baked potatoes which was running havoc on my body, but I had no idea since I wasn’t testing. I hated myself. My body was changing and so was my diabetes. I’ll never forget noticing how large my thighs were getting and knew it wasn’t from working out, but from scar tissue build up. Damn It – the doctors were right about changing injection sites.
I often snuck sugary cereals and snacks when staying the night with friends because they were no where to be found in mine. I don’t think my parents were trying to deprive me of anything, but probably thought – out of site, out of mind. I’m very thankful I didn’t go into DKA during this point in my life. Seriously thankful.
This photo sums up my attitude during those years.
The pre-teen years are one of the few times I wish I could take back, but I don’t believe in the shoulda, coulda, woulda mentality so I have to view them as a learning experience on my journey with this disease. I don’t really recall what brought me joy during the dark times other than tapping into the arts. I began writing poetry, doing collages, taking dance classes and fell head over heals with 80’s fashion. Totally frightening, but it helped and took my mind off of what I hated about myself.
Parents of T1D kiddos in this age bracket, I dare to share a little advice should you listen – Let your child be angry. It’s okay to be upset with the hand you’ve been dealt. Better to face the anger head on before it BLOWS up into unhealthy eating habits and self hate. Please encourage them to find outlets to express this energy; soccer, sleepovers, painting or whatever brings them joy.
Chapter 2: the high school and early college years will be out when I know my parents are on vacation and won’t have access to the internet… Stay Tuned.