A little while back, I asked some of my friends with Type 1 diabetes what their favorite thing was about living with the condition, followed by their least favorite thing. I’ve decided to make a post out of those responses, in the hopes that those of you with Type 1 will be reminded that you’re not alone in this and that there is always someone else out there who gets what you’re going through!
The list of least favorite things ranged from minor things to pretty substantial issues. I’ll start with those little things that just really push our buttons: One of the first responses I got was, “I absolutely hate it when my tubing gets caught on doorknobs!” I can’t even begin to describe how many times this very thing has happened to me and how annoying it is! In my case, it usually ends up hurting more when my site stays in rather than the entire thing just getting pulled out. It is such a quick little nuisance, but when it happens it is so irritating!
Another response that I got quite a few times was “I hate it when people ask me if I’m allowed to eat certain things.” This is one thing that is of course annoying after it happens a million and one times, but it’s one of the things that annoys me the least. Whenever it does happen (and don’t get me wrong, it definitely bugs me), I just remind myself that this person doesn’t understand Type 1 diabetes. They hear “diabetes” and automatically assume it means no sugar because of the misperceptions and confusion between Type 1 and Type 2.
A little spin-off of this particular situation that really got to me about two weeks ago was when I had an episode of low blood sugar, and a friend of mine told me that I should take better care of myself and not let my blood sugar get to that point. I can’t think of anything I would rather hear less while experiencing low blood sugar. I know that she meant well, but it just came off as though it was some sort of inconvenience for her. I was really appalled at what she said, especially because no one has ever said something like that to me. But again, I really did my best to remember that she doesn’t know what it’s like to experience low blood sugar and probably just assumed that I had made some conscious mistake or intentionally neglected to monitor myself, thus leading to the low.
One response that I got that really hit home was “I hate that I never get a break from diabetes.” I consider myself lucky in that I don’t usually get bummed about having to deal with diabetes 24/7, because it’s become another part of my routine. At this point, I think it would be a HUGE adjustment if diabetes were suddenly cured. Where some people might think, “Oh! You could finally go back to normal,” the truth is that diabetes has become my normal. However, it is very true that dealing with highs and lows can be exhausting, especially on days when it feels like nothing is going right. Literally, you can never take a break. You can’t decide that one day of the week you’re not going to check or give insulin because you need a break. You simply can’t.
Now enough of the negatives, and on to the positives! In my personal experience, the reality of it is that the positives in dealing with Type 1 FAR outweigh the negatives. As with anything in life, it’s up to you to make the best of situations that are handed to you.
By far, the most common response I received regarding individuals’ favorite thing about living with Type 1 was, “I love that I get to meet people from all over the world dealing with the same thing as me!” There is something so special about meeting someone and having an instant connection with him or her from the first moment you interact. Regardless of whether you’re from the US, Italy, Australia, Colombia, or Russia (all places I know people from), you have a shared experience.
Diabetes doesn’t discriminate when it comes to what country you’re from, what age you are, or what language you speak. One of the most interesting things about meeting people with Type 1 from different countries is that you get to learn a lot about what differences there are between dealing with it here in the States versus abroad. While we all face similar experiences in how we personally deal with our diabetes, there are some major societal differences that can make the experience very different. For instance, in some countries having Type 1 is seen as taboo, and it isn’t something that is discussed outside of the family. In others, getting an insulin pump is ridiculously difficult in comparison to the relative ease with which you can get one here.
For many of us who attend the Children With Diabetes conferences (where we make these connections), diabetes serves as the medium by which we learn about different parts of the world. It becomes the thread that ties us to people from all different places, and opens up our minds to understanding not only diabetes across the world, but just how other people live, because suddenly you have real friends living in all of the countries I mentioned above and more. More often than not, people only have a few friends who live in different parts of the US, and many times knowing anyone at all in a different city or country is simply attributed to family members who have moved to various places.
Through having Type 1 and attending the CWD conferences, my network of friends is insane. I’m not kidding when I say that I know people who live in Italy, Colombia, Australia, Russia, Scotland, England, Denmark, and more, all because we all have Type 1 diabetes. (Don’t even ask me to list people from the States, because we’d be here forever)! It’s really incredible to meet people throughout life and hear where they’re from, and more often than not be able to say “Hey, I actually know someone from Wisconsin!” or, “Wait, my friend lives 25 minutes from that town in California!”
I only now just realized that essentially the only “pro” I wrote about is meeting people from all over the world, but the truth is that in itself is enough to beat out any of the “cons”… at least for me. I definitely have quite a few other positives, but think I’ll save them for later on, as this post is already getting quite lengthy! But I promise that in coming posts I’ll talk about more of the positives of living with Type 1, because they definitely exist!