Number 7- It’s always there – by Helen Whitehouse
Bit obvious this one really. But, diabetes- once you get it, you have it for life. At first, my main question was “Am I going to die? No, seriously just tell me straight.” When the answer was, “well no one is immortal but if you look after yourself and manage your diabetes, it shouldn’t effect your lifespan”, I was rather relieved. It never sort of bothered me that I would have it forever; in fact, it still doesn’t. I am lucky, compared with all the other terrible stuff that could have happened, I got off lightly to be fair.
I think for this reason, I don’t like telling people. Because as soon as you get out a needle, people automatically go “oh, wow, you’re so brave, does it hurt? I could never do it…” when really, it’s just nature – and if you were faced with a Type one diabetes situation, you would be able to cope with a few little needles every day. People have more willpower than they expect – it’s not that terrifying.
You carry this situation everywhere you then go – from schools, to colleges, to universities and work. They always need to know about the diabetes, obviously, because if anything happens in the workplace they have to be aware.
But for me, it ends up being part of my identity – I stop just being Helen, and end up being “the diabetic”. In secondary school, as a person, I ended up being defined by my being able to get out of lessons to eat biscuits for 15 minutes, or carrying round needles in my bag.
If I ever have to inject in front of a new person, I sort of feel obliged to explain. “Yeah, just sticking this needle into my arm… Yeah, cause I’m diabetic… Oh, yeah don’t worry, I can eat that bar of chocolate/bag of jellytots/ consume that milkshake as long as I inject.” And so on and so forth.
I got a new job the other day, and we had an induction day which meant a group of 6 sitting and watching those outdated health and safety DVDs. We also had to fill in a medical form, with questions about ongoing medication and conditions. I got about half way down the page when the question “Have you had any recent hospital visits?” came up. I have, for clinics, but obviously this is different from a trip to A&E for example.
So I had to sort of awkwardly announce, “Hi, so yeah I’m diabetic, do my regular check-ups count?” – therefore everyone knows now. Or when you decide to get off the bus home 5 stops early and walk because it’s a sunny day, and everyone gets an ice cream, you have to think whether your blood sugars are okay, do you need an injection? Even right down to the tiny things, like not being able to drink Fanta fruit twist whenever you want because its not sugar free, or explaining the differences of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes because everyone assumes that one means you need sugar, one means your not allowed it.
I once got asked by a teacher if I was okay to walk to reception on my own just in case – in his words – I “wasn’t going to fall and smash my face in or anything”. Well, I hope not anyway.
I just wish that sometimes people, especially new ones, sort of disregarded the fact you have diabetes. Rather than assuming it controls you, just accept that its in control and therefore not an issue.