I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 6 and was told that I took it like a champ. I was not afraid of the injections or the frequent blood tests while I was hospitalized. When the doctors told me to look away I would usually tell them no, I’m not afraid. In fact, my only major problem was I missed being home with my family and toys.
At that age I was pretty open with the fact I had diabetes. I would often inject or test in front of family and friends and they would be in awe at my bravery. When I returned to school, my classmates and teachers were informed about my health issues and they all looked out for me. Anytime I the opportunity arose, I would show off my needles and other diabetes gear.
Throughout my teens I started to be less open about having diabetes. Many people don’t know the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. As far as they’re concerned, diabetes is diabetes. The disease carries much stigma, and PWDs are often criticized for being fat, lazy and making poor health decisions. I wanted to be perceived as normal, as well as avoiding the nicknames, the hassles, the questions and most of all the judgment. The only people I told were a few close friends, as well as my P.E coaches and teachers.
When I was sixteen years old my best friend introduced me to a gorgeous young lady, K. We talked quite often and eventually she became my girlfriend. Things were going great, but I would often have to find an excuse to go home, check my BG and take insulin. I would also refuse food, candy or chocolates, especially when I could feel my BG rising. I was afraid that if I told her I had type 1 diabetes she would think I was sickly or weak and we would break up. She was way too cute for me to risk it.
One Saturday evening we planned to grab dinner and a movie. After eating quite a bit of carbohydrates, I knew I would have to go home to take insulin. Back then I was prescribed Novolin 70/30 so traveling with it was quite a hassle. At least that’s what I thought. Of course, I came up with a plausible excuse to return home before heading to the cinema. After hiding in my own home and taking my insulin, I immediately felt annoyed with myself. My shame of having diabetes was uncalled for. In that moment I decided I needed tell K I had diabetes. I also had to accept my situation before expecting someone else to accept me. The reality is I have diabetes and it’s not going anywhere. It’s a controllable disease and with tight control I could live a long and healthy life.
The next weekend K visited me and I took this opportunity to break the news to her. I told her, “I am a diabetic and I need to take insulin to live”. I showed her my insulin, syringes and glucose meter or as I call them, my life support system. I expected her to freak out, but instead she looked at me with a smile and asked if she could give me an insulin shot. I was speechless! It turns out she was no stranger to diabetes. Her grandmother also had diabetes and K would often assist with administering insulin shots and other medications. I decided to pass on the injection offer, but a huge burden was lifted. The days of making up excuses and hiding my disease from her were over. Being accepted by her made me feel a bit more confident about myself.
Over the years we became closer and eventually, this amazing woman became my lovely wife. I actually feel very comfortable now with her checking my blood sugar and giving me insulin injections. It was quite silly of me hiding the fact I had diabetes from almost everyone in my life. Silly and dangerous. Pretending to not have diabetes could have resulted in several issues. Not to mention if I had a severe hypoglycemia event and no one knew I had diabetes. I even stopped wearing my medical emergency necklace to avoid attracting attention. Type 1 diabetes is nothing to be ashamed of and contrary to popular belief; I didn’t bring this on myself due to poor lifestyle decisions.
In my early twenties and onward I overcame the stigma and welcomed the opportunity to educate anyone about diabetes. There is no longer any shame or guilt, just a sense of purpose and pride about what I have been able to accomplish in my life.
When it comes to a significant other, it’s extremely important to let him or her know you have diabetes. This gives you the opportunity to educate them about life with the disease and all of the warning signs if something should go wrong. If they truly love you, everything that comes in the package will be accepted.