Diabetes is not just a physical disease; it’s also a mental and emotional one.
It’s a constant battle between highs and lows, and it can be exhausting. Diabetes can make you feel isolated, different from others, and it can be hard to manage the daily struggles of keeping your blood sugar levels in check.
I have also found that being open and honest about my diabetes has helped me to feel more empowered. When I’m open about my devices and my condition, it takes away the power that others may have had over me. I am no longer hiding a part of myself, and that feels really good.
This is not to say that things have been easy.
To understand and accept my condition as a seven-year-old was a struggle in itself; add to that the treatment I was subjected to by others around me—it was traumatic, to say the least.
When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I had to learn how to take insulin injections, measure my blood sugar levels, and adjust my diet and exercise routines. This was a huge adjustment for me, and it took me some time to get used to it.
A bigger challenge I have faced is dealing with the stigma associated with diabetes.
Bullying played a huge part in my journey. Interestingly, it helped in my acceptance of my diabetes. It has also made me who I am today. It has made me stronger and more confident as a person.
The bullying actually started well before I was diagnosed with diabetes. I was drinking a lot of water and peeing a lot. In fact, even when I was at the park for one or two hours, I would have to go to the bathroom at least five to six times. Once I even peed my pants. My friends made fun of me for the longest time, and I felt so bad about it—I felt disgusting. “I am so old…seven…why is this happening.” I felt stupid.
Then I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and came to know the reason, but they never let it go. As other people, my friends, and classmates got to know I had diabetes, somehow the bullying increased. I wasn’t treated as their equal but as though I was beneath them—either they would pity me or take advantage of my situation. I was excluded from friend groups and mocked. There were also several instances of physical bullying as I was vulnerable.
I changed schools in fifth grade, which was for the best. In my previous school, there was a person—I would still be scared of her if I were to face her now. She still brings nightmares. I still don’t understand why she did that. She stapled my fingers to the table and beat me up with a rod in fourth grade. It was a really hard time.
In fifth grade, it wasn’t as much physical bullying as emotional bullying. No one wanted to be friends with me, and it took me a long time to form friendships, but even they weren’t close. In seventh grade, just before the midterms, there was somebody who would show up every day to my class whenever I wasn’t there, cut up all my notebooks, take away all my pens, and splash water over my things. I was heartbroken that someone would do this.
Everyone used to stare at my devices. When I began on the Dexcom glucose monitoring device, it was a necessity for me to carry an iPhone. My peers were either jealous that I was allowed a phone in school or were dismissive. I was made fun of when the notifications would sound due to low or high sugars. Some kids also said how lucky I was, just because I had the phone. That felt cruel, not realizing it wasn’t a perk but a necessity.
Once, my device monitor was stolen from the park of our complex, and I was so scared as the devices were really expensive and thought my parents would be angry. I was scared to go back home, but when my mom got to know, she supported me and got me a new device that night itself.
Some of my teachers at school have chosen to ignore the seriousness of my condition, and I’ve been scolded for carrying the devices.
As my social circle was restrained because of diabetes, I did not go to many birthday parties; people didn’t invite me either. In the neighbourhood too, I was pushed aside—no one wanted to play with me. People even spread rumors that it was a communicable disease I got from school.
In eighth grade, a friend of mine who I had really treasured suddenly became distant, and one day shouted at me in front of the whole class, stating, “You ruined seventh grade for me; you’re a bad influence on me.” I asked her why but she didn’t say anything; I heard later that she thought I was worthless because I was diabetic. In high school, I liked a guy. He told me, “You’re pathetic, you’re diabetic, why would I date somebody like you?” That broke my heart even more.
Some close family members remarked to my parents that my brother and I would die soon (due to diabetes), so why worry about my future? Better to save up rather than invest in higher education and extracurricular development as I likely won’t have a future, married life, and so on.
The agony has been endless.
Then COVID-19 came along, and suddenly I wasn’t around all this negativity and people ignoring me all the time. Covid was a real step up for me. I was introduced to social media. I saw millions of people like me and I saw them embrace their condition. I wondered why I didn’t do that. So, I did. And I felt so much better—empowered—like a new me.
Instead of rejecting my diabetes, I learned to embrace it. It is a part of me; I am going to live with it. And I am happy. It makes me different from other people. It makes me, me.
To this day, I keep facing bullying. But as a stronger and more confident new me, I don’t care. I don’t care what people think and have to say about me behind my back or to my face.
Living with diabetes presents a unique set of challenges that can be difficult to overcome. However, with the right mindset and the support of family and friends, it is possible to live a fulfilling and healthy life with diabetes.
If you are living with diabetes, know that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out, to be open, and to ask for help when you need it.
As a 16-year-old girl living with diabetes, I have learned to be proactive and to advocate for myself. I hope that by sharing my experiences, I can help others who are facing similar challenges and raise awareness about the realities of living with diabetes.
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