When the word ‘Diabetes’ commonly pops up in an article or in a conversation most people think of it as something connected to obese or old people, a disease that has, and will have, nothing to do with you unless you start spiralling down towards a really unhealthy lifestyle. The more rare kind of Diabetes is type 1: a disease you most commonly get diagnosed with at an early stage in life – for no, yet, known reason. For many kids who have this disease, or any other disease that makes you “different”, it is something well connected to shame.
Growing up, my friend was diagnosed at a very young age with diabetes type 1. We watched her struggle, having to think twice at many decisions, decisions that for others were obvious. Can I do this? What do I need to do that? Feel, plan, prepare. We also watched her at her very lowest, literally, when she sometimes was hit by a sudden dip in blood sugar level and went into a coma. In periods, this was something that occurred fairly often.
For us, her friends, this was partly chocking, partly confusing and maybe most of all, scary. The worst part of all was probably to witness her shame of having to deal with everything that no one else had to deal with, things that for her were vital.
To explain this a bit further to those who aren’t familiar with Diabetes type 1: at some point, for unknown reason, your body’s own immune system sees the insulin producing cells in the pancreas as foreign and starts attacking them. Without insulin, you can’t use the glucose taken into your body for energy. Instead the sugar stays, and builds up, in your blood and your body’s cells starve from lack of glucose. When not staying on top of things by taking a sufficient amount of insulin every time you eat food with carbs – or when not eating enough carbs when low – Diabetes is life threatening, both long and short term.
Little did I know two years ago, carelessly walking up and down the rows of wine grapes in New Zealand while filling up baskets to keep my traveling going, that the urinary infection I thought I had caught was in fact Diabetes and the beginning of a new life for me. Just over night I got to know the unfamiliar feeling of not longer being “normal”, and all the plans I had were suddenly not so certain anymore.
The amount of times I’ve felt forced to run into the bathroom just to do an injection and instead skipped it, to not eat anything when on the go because I would have to ask others to stop and wait, or to ask for help when my blood sugar is running low – it’s not worth it.
This isn’t an attempt to convince anyone of how horrible it is to have Diabetes, or any other disease of the kind, but rather how important it is to ditch shame and take care of your self.