Number 8 – Eleven year old me – by Helen Whitehouse
So, I’m continuing with this list. I don’t know why I wanted to do a list really, but I think its probably my obsessive compulsive characteristics coming through. Unfortunately, I am also rather flaky, so I begin to tire of the uniformity of a list. Anyway…!
So, if you have read the rest of my blogs, you will know that I got diagnosed with diabetes when I was 11, in January 2007. At the time, it was very strange. My mum kept saying to me “well, you’re drinking loads…” and asking why I kept buying two litre bottles of water to take to school in my massive year 7 bag. I was so relaxed about going to the doctors on a Monday night, that I forgot I was even going and ended up with 15 missed calls and a confused parent looking at the empty school and wondering where her daughter was. I didn’t know what diabetes was even really. I was more worried about the stay at the hospital and the cannula in my arm – apart from getting home, I didn’t care.
I didn’t even cry, which, even now seems weird – I broke down in tears at the Bupa advert with the adorable old man and the chickens just the other day. It was afterwards, when I was back to school but only getting 20 minutes of dinner time because I had to go somewhere else and inject my insulin, or when I missed lessons to go and eat biscuits (yes, it sounds good but you end up being a target of jealousy and also, people ask you to bring them biscuits back. Which is illegal) that I realised things had changed.
I don’t think I got quite how much it effected me at the time, and it was weird because even though I was so young, I soaked everything up like a sponge. In hindsight, not a completely good thing. Like the fact that the doctors mentioned how surprisingly well I was at diagnosis considering my blood sugars, HbA1c and ketone level… I then took this as I had everything else wrong with me but just wasn’t getting symptoms.
After a few months, they gave us the all clear to stop testing twice a night – but I stopped sleeping to test myself because I was worried I would go into a coma. Annual clinics terrified me- I knew they were testing for other things in my blood, not just sugars, and for days after I was on genuine tenterhooks, worried that they would tell me I had something else wrong with me. After literally about 3 years, I began to get over this extreme behaviour. Still though, I hate the sinking feeling you get when you realise you have no test strips on you…
Something which helped me tremendously though, was just meeting other people with diabetes. A receptionist at my secondary school approached me one dinner time and said her daughter had been recently diagnosed, and could she talk to me about it? And to be honest, it really helped. I started emailing her daughter, who is a few years younger than me. We kept writing and meeting up and I felt so much better just talking to someone who knew what it was like to have to drink diet coke in every restaurant because no where stocked diet lemonade, or that feeling you get when a woman in a cafe gives you a dirty look for whipping your needle out.
We shared a love of those stickers you get for your blood testing kit, and a shared love of Ben and Jerry’s helped when it came to carb counting – she knew how many carbs a scoop of cookie dough ice cream had in it. It was nice to normalise things, because, in a world where all my friends had a fear of their TB jab and of blood, where they could eat chocolate at break and not worry if the vending machine had sugar free ribena. I felt so much less isolated, because I think that most people will agree, diabetes does take you out of a world you know and shove you into completely new ground- whether your a parent with a diabetic child, or if you’ve just been diagnosed yourself.
Anyone, just talk to each other about it. The next time you go to clinic, just strike up a conversation, because if you get someone to just be diabetic with, it makes you feel like you’re back down to earth, instead of watching people on a different, non-diabetic planet.
If you would like the chance to talk to someone with diabetes, check out our Peer Support service. Open three times a week, you can use it to speak to someone with diabetes andask any questions you may have, or just share experiences.