(REPOST) My diabetes and me...

This is a repost from last November but as #DiabetesWeek comes to an end, I wanted to share my story as diabetes is something I am incredibly passionate about. Some things have changed since then (moving house, graduating, getting a job) but diabetes has remained a constant throughout, for better or worse!

I know this is a bit of a heavy topic but diabetes is something I am really passionate about. I have written about diabetes on the blog before but I thought that 'World Diabetes Day' was as good a time as any to share this. I originally wrote this article for the Elle writing competition back in August but as I never heard back from them I thought it may be interesting to share it here. 

I was seven when it happened. I left the doctor's surgery with a feeling of dread but without truly knowing what it would mean. On 5th August 1997 I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and nothing was ever the same again. Now I realise this all sounds completely over-dramatic, I mean there are people in much worse states all over the world, but adjusting to being diabetic has been an ongoing process and has led to more than a few ups and downs over the years. To be honest, I don’t know how my parents coped. I am the oldest of five children and my youngest brother had been born only a couple of weeks before, yet my parents (and my mother especially) just took it in their stride. For the first few years after diagnosis I refused to tell anyone, including my friends at school, because I felt that if I ignored it then it would disappear. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case at all and I was in hospital more often than I was in school. A yoyo is a fitting metaphor for me and my diabetes; I have swung from high to low (quite literally with my blood sugars!) over the years and at one point I was given only a few months to live if I continued at the same rate. After some horrific teenage years where I refused to take my injections, again thinking that denial would be the best policy, I realised the horrific impact I was having on both my body and my family. I also suffered from low self esteem and depression for a long time and I think this is a direct result of these actions. It wasn’t fair to keep putting my family through this, so I really tried to get it all under control but once again my body wasn’t co-operating. When I was 15 I had 50% attendance at school due to my hospital stays and my diabetes was spiralling out of control, despite the 4 injections I was taking every day. It is no joke to say that I felt like a pincushion for most of my teens... luckily this ensured that I would never ever try drugs as I failed to comprehend why people would choose to stick needles into their body. I’m sure this is one thing that my parents are grateful for!

Just before I took my GCSEs I started insulin pump therapy and started dating Mark, two other huge milestones in my life. The insulin pump meant that I was able to fulfil my potential at school and eventually college and the support of my boyfriend has ensured that I never gave up on my dream to go to university. My parents weren’t keen, after all everyone has heard the horror stories about the binge drinking and wild parties that go on at uni and diabetes has never coped well with either . Determination, and more than a hint of stubbornness, meant that I started at the University of Warwick in 2008 and I can honestly say that they were the best three years of my life. Of course it was difficult, I didn’t have the safety net of my family and I actually missed my first week because my diabetes decided to play up the night before I was due to move into halls. Luckily though, Mark ended up at the same uni and this reassured my parents that I wasn’t going to be completely thrown in at the deep end. University taught me a lot of things but most importantly it taught me that I can do anything I want to. 

For years, my diabetes seemed like a punishment; who was going to want to employ someone who wasn’t always capable of looking after themselves? Who would want to date someone who has ‘hyperlipotrophy’ or as I fondly named it, a ‘salami sausage’ ring around their stomach as a result of insulin injections? Who would want to be friends with someone who has to be more careful when going out, who may have to leave the party early to go home? The answer is lots of people. I have been lucky enough to have amazing family, friends and workmates. My diabetes is not the thing people remember me for but rather my love of floral dresses and bright colours, cheesy pop music and yummy food. Being a diabetic has made me stronger, more determined to succeed and made me appreciate the ‘smaller things’ in life. It also means that I am completely unfazed by hospitals or anything involving needles. Once you have spent hours waiting around for hospital appointments, any fear you may have is quickly replaced with boredom. I still don’t have my diabetes completely under control but I am trying and surely that’s the most important thing. My diabetes has shaped me but it doesn't define me and I wear my ‘salami sausage’ as a trophy, proof that things can get better and that it doesn't have to be the end of your plans. I graduated from university, I have a wonderful boyfriend, lovely family and amazing friends. I am also diabetic and living proof that there is no such thing as a lost cause. A lot of things have changed since 1997, and I for one, am glad. 

What has made you the person you are today? 

P.S. If you have any questions then I will be more than happy to answer them! 


Sophie said...

This post hit very close to home. My mum is type 1 diabetes and has been since the age of 21. She left behind her dream of travelling Australia as a result but then had me a few years later so can't be all too bad huh? ;)
She has it under control and thankfully feels the warning signs early before her sugars get too low. I only ever remember her having a hypo once at th age of 14 and it was the most terrifying moment of my life. As dramatic as it sounds I honestly though she was going to die - all I could think of was how I'd shouted at her earlier that day!
Diabetes is such a common illness yet people know so little about it. People should be taught the warning signs as it often looks like sufferers are drunk. My nan came across a 'drunk' man being banned from going in tescos and the security guard was having none of it. It turned out all he want was an energy drunk and luckily my nan recognised what was going on and managed to get him on.
Bit of an essay there!

Penny Dreadful Vintage said...

Oh Maria, I had no idea. You must have been through hell, but I'm so glad you took control of it and have such a positive frame of mind now. It certainly isn't anything I knew, along with others I think of flowery dresses and smiles when I think of your blog! Thank you for the post :)

Penny Dreadful Vintage

daisychain said...

You are such a wonderful example of how someone with Diabetes should embrace life, not missing out but still taking good care. I really want to print your posts out to give to some of our patients to show that Diabetes doesn't mean missing out. You are amazing.

As for me, in a strange, strange way...ten years (eek!) of eating disorders has finally got me to exactly where I want to be in my life (and finally ready to fully commit to recovering)...I guess it's only fair that something good should come of it! x

Nomad said...

I had no idea. You're very brave. I will personally keep thinking of you as the girl who likes flowery dresses. Keep smiling :) x