Living With Diabetes
By Joanna, age 20, South Wales, United Kingdom
I've been diabetic since I was four, and although I find that a lot of the things I have to consider regarding this come naturally, not all of them do. I should specify I'm a type one diabetic, which means that my blood sugar levels are controlled by insulin injections. I have to inject five times a day, but I know that this differs, so some people will inject twice and others as many as ten times a day!
Although I don't struggle with knowing what I'm meant to eat - the guidelines are pretty much the same as they are for everyone else, a healthy balanced diet - I find I do struggle with sticking to it. The temptation posed by a forbidden chocolate bar is sometimes too much to bear and I become weak willed. This isn't always a problem for a diabetic, as there are ways around it, like taking some more insulin for example, but sometimes taking insulin can be a challenge in itself.
I was lucky that I never had the chance to develop a phobia of needles, but I can imagine it must be difficult for people who are scared of them and are diagnosed later in life than I was! I find it hard to inject sometimes because of where I am or who I'm with. If I'm sitting in the middle of a posh restaurant I don't really want to stick a needle in my arm, or if I'm out with some friends I don't know that well who might not know that I'm diabetic yet, it's the same. It can be inconvenient when you have to rush off to the bathroom to take your insulin before your meal, but I have found, with a little courage, that if I ask the person I'm with if they mind, and generally they don't, it's not too bad.
That's another major battle with diabetes. How and when do you tell someone that you're diabetic? I tend to find ways to slip it into conversation, but there aren't always those opportunities, so sometimes I'll introduce a topic or ask a question like "what is everyone's favourite dessert" so that I can later slip it in that I have to be careful what I eat because I'm diabetic. People tend to ask a lot of questions about it and what it means for me, which I don't mind at all, but I have had a few reactions like, "Is that contagious?" as they move away in alarm. That doesn't happen very often, and luckily for me I tend to see the funny side, and once people know it isn't contagious, they seem a lot more settled.
I used to feel embarrassed and ashamed of my diabetes. Although it's not caused by anything I've done, it does mark me as being different to everyone else, and people can see that and pick up on it when I have to think about what I eat, test my blood sugars and inject. Now, I've learned to live with it. It's a part of me that will never change, and although sometimes it can be challenging to control my blood sugars and still maintain the same kind of social life that my friends do, I try to see it as just another one of life's many challenges to be met.