If you have diabetes, you're basically a walking information leaflet. Especially when you have the pumps and sensors hanging from your body or when you have to inject yourself while travelling on the train, you can't escape the curious glances from those around you. I can imagine that it's interesting to other people, though. Diabetes technology is modern, innovative, and can even be downright trendy at times. These days, the insulin pens look more like beefed-up luxury fountain pens, and I'm convinced that it won't be long before pumps will also become a trendy ‘accessory’.
Yet, with the visibility and modernity of all these high-tech gadgets also come more comments and preconceived notions. A real classic that anyone with diabetes has been asked a thousand times is the ‘Are you allowed to eat that?’ question. I'll usually just reply with the standard explanation about carbohydrates and insulin while imagining myself shoving bars of chocolate into my mouth right in front of them. I also get so irritated when people get me those sugar-free pastries. Do you have any idea how disgusting those things are?
Another one of those comments that never fails to make an appearance is the, ‘Eek, is that the needle? I would never be able to inject myself!’ It always gets on my nerves a little. Injecting myself isn't exactly my favourite pastime either. I don't do it for fun but, unfortunately, if I don't I might just die. So, the ugly truth is that it's simply a fact of life for me. And no, it's not tragic either, because my life is still pretty great.
But because my life is so great, people tend to forget the seriousness of this life-long condition. They tend to think that it's just a case of injecting yourself every now and again and carrying around a pump and that that's it. As if! These pumps don't work automatically, and each injection takes a lot of preparation. It's a constant balancing act that lasts all day – and let me tell you, it's not fun. Constantly thinking about food, blood dripping from your fingertips, hypos and hypers and complications are not exactly a joyride.
But, despite all that, I feel that it's important to mention that living with diabetes has a positive side as well. The diabetes community is a network of great people through which I have made many new friends. Being ‘ill’ has been an experience that has also taught me not to be judgemental and to empathise with others. It might all sound a bit sentimental, but it does contain a grain of truth. Despite the needles, injections, thoughts about food and the devices connected to your body, you can still have a great life living with diabetes.
My name is Anne. I am 19 and study health sciences in the vibrant city of Maastricht in the Netherlands. In 2016 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and it's something that I started writing about right from that moment onwards. I am now the chairperson of the Stichting ééndiabetes, which is a foundation based in the Netherlands that inspires young people with type 1 diabetes to live full lives and to stay positive. I used insulin pens for over two years and started using the Kaleido insulin pump a few months ago. In addition to all my diabetes-related activities, I also like to play music and volleyball.