by MIRIAM ERYAN
“God forgot to give me flaws,” so later in life, last December in fact, I got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I make light of it like that all the time. “I was so sweet that even my own body couldn’t handle it,” I joke, and then you get those half sympathetic, half thankful you made a joke faces in reply.
It’s true, you never really know what to say when someone is sick and Diabetes is a tricky one. You never look ill, you can still exercise, you eat healthily (mostly because you want to, but other times because you have to). In a way it’s a great thing that nobody looks at you and instantly knows that something is wrong. In other ways, it’s devastating because as a fiercely independent young woman, when I’m breaking into a sweat and my bones feel like their rattling, when the room feels like it’s closing in on me and my sight begins to blur, I’m suddenly reliant on strangers to rescue me. I’m forced to admit that something is wrong and that can be the hardest thing to say.
I know it sounds cocky. It can seem proud, but appearance has always mattered to me… then I got diagnosed. I still do my hair and makeup everyday (maybe sometimes to compensate for what’s going on inside me) then that external beauty quickly diminishes when I have to pull out an insulin needle at breakfast, lunch or dinner with friends. I’m fortunate though. I have a great support network and most won’t even bat an eyelid as I’m doing it. I do catch other people’s uncomfortable glances though. To them I’d often like to tell them what seven needles pierced into your skin everyday feels like to me. It doesn’t always hurt, I don’t always mind it, but I never enjoy it and I don’t enjoy the uncomfortable looks but why don’t you try jabbing yourself with a needle right before you eat everyday, wherever you are? Don’t get me started on the anxiety of having to tell someone on a date, just in case illness is a deal breaker for them (and to be honest I’d understand that – no one likes excess baggage).
In many ways, I’m lucky – I got to spend 23 years without the pain and without the panic that accompanies a hypo (when your sugar drops and you might pass out). I could never say it was fair or fortunate for a four year old to have to deal with this. That’s the age that many young kids are diagnosed with this illness. I don’t know how a kid could cope with regular finger pricks and injections or constant attatchment to an insulin pump. I don’t know how their parents deal with the anxiety and fear that they’re child might die in their sleep if their sugar levels aren’t well managed or how they’d go to work, weighted with worry over how their child will cope with the next sugar drop and if that will send them to hospital. I’m lucky. I am. I know I’ll always manage.
I, like 122,300 other Australians (thank God I’m not alone in this) am affected by Diabetes. The disease usually arises in childhood but it lasts a lifetime because it destroys your pancreas’ ability to produce insulin, which is vital for life, vital for weight loss, vital for regular function of your entire body. There is no cure – yet and it is certain that going on a diet or cutting down on sugar doesn’t stop type 1 diabetes (so every insensitive sod I know who has asked me that, please STOP). It’s difficult enough to deal with.