Telling your friends about your diabetes – by Gray

I’m Gray, I am 16 years old, I currently identify as genderqueer and I was diagnosed with T1 in 2009.

I’m lying in bed, sick (and yes, I have read the ‘Sick Day Rules) and I thought, what a wonderful opportunity to tell you wonderful people a little something about telling your friends about your diabetes, ’cause speaking from experience, it’s not exactly a piece of cake, even though it should be.

The first time I actually had to tell my friends that I was a type one diabetic, was in Year 7, so I was about 12 or 13. Now, what I should have done was be straight forward and just told them about it because I can’t change the fact that I have diabetes, it’s as much a part of me as my ears are attached to my head. But, being the new kid at school, being desperate to fit in and already being super worried because I didn’t have any friends there and I didn’t know the culture (I moved country and school), I just wanted to be completely normal, so I didn’t tell anyone, not even my best friend, for about half of Year 7.

I was on a basal bolus system at the time and so I had to do an injection at lunchtime and so at lunch I would disappear off “to go get some water from the water fountain” and I would go to the nurse’s office to take my insulin. I did that for 6 months, and it was driving me insane. But being the frightened little 13 year old I was, so insecure about being different, I kept doing it, but then I realised I was missing out on time with my friends, so I stopped taking my insulin at lunch. Yep. Go on, scorn me, I learnt my lesson, I definitely learnt my lesson, my hbA1c’s were everywhere and it was a disaster.

Telling my best friend

But anyway, so after a particularly awful set of high results one week, I decided to tell my best friend at the time, her name was Ella, that I was diabetic. So I invited her to my house and I sat her down, extremely seriously for a 13 year old, and I said, and I will never forget it because I look back now and think ‘Oh my god, did I actually say that?’, “Ella, do you know anyone with diabetes?” – she nodded – “Ok good, because I’ve been meaning to tell you for a while now…” – I took a really long pause and I honestly don’t know why – “I am a type one diabetic pleasedonttreatmeanydifferentlypleasepleasepleasealsodonthatemealsopleasedonttellanyoneatschool.”
And she, also weirdly seriously for a 13 year old, nodded and said “That’s okay, I don’t mind.” And then she asked me to paint her nails…

But I was terrified to tell her and I distinctly remember afterwards wondering why I was so scared to tell her and then I thought about it, and it was because I thought kids at school were going to bully me because of it, and I wasn’t wrong, but that was very much because of the school I was at, and the kids there who I pity actually, because they didn’t have the tools to help them realise that different was okay, and that “NO IM NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU DIABETES BY SITTING NEXT TO YOU IN MATHS YOU MUPPET.”

So that was my first experience telling my friends about diabetes, and when I moved schools because of bullying (not completely related to diabetes but not solely about my diabetes) at the beginning of Year 10, I learnt my lessons from the first time and went about it, in the complete other extreme.

First conversation at school

This is actually the first conversation I had with any student in my year group at my school when I first arrived. This was the first person I talked to. It was a guy who I’m now quite friendly with, I’ll call him K for the sake of anonymity.

K: Woah, this place is massive, and I’m like, the only Indian Londoner here… Woah.
Me: Heh, well, I was the only type one diabetic at my last school, it wouldn’t surprise me if the same was true here..
K: Nice, nice.
Me: Yeah, so what’s your name?

I’m laughing as I write this because it’s such an extreme difference to the first time and I would like to say that at my school there are actually two diabetics so, I’m not actually the only one… But close enough.

And when I was actually telling my friends, instead of just literally everyone, they were super good and supportive, even if they still don’t always understand what I’m on about most of the time.

Three tips for telling your friends

So, if you are telling your friends for the first time, or if you’ve just been diagnosed and you’re telling people at school, here are three things to think about:

  1. You cannot stop being diabetic, at least for the moment, so if it’s something that you can’t “cure”, be proud of it, type one diabetics are only like, 10% of diabetics, so you’re unique and special, and that’s not just because of your diabetes. It’s for so many reasons. So if when you’re telling people, and someone is unsupportive or rude about it, you don’t need that person in your life, just no. That is some negativity we can all do without.
  2. A lot of people know nothing about Type 1 Diabetes. Think how little you probably knew before you were diagnosed. So you have to be hella patient with people, friends and family and teachers etc, and you have to teach them if they don’t already understand.
  3. It’s important that you tell people that you are diabetic so that they can help you, when maybe you can’t help yourself. For example if you’re out with your friends and your blood sugar goes low and you aren’t able to help yourself because maybe you’ve passed out or you don’t have good hypo awareness, then your friends will be there to help you, but they can only do the right thing if you’ve told them.

So, think about that, stay safe and stay happy T1’s.
TTFN.
Gray.

Read other stories from teens with Type 1 diabetes on the Diabetes UK website.
Teen information section of the Diabetes UK website.

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