I was only 2 years old when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1993. Being so young at the time of diagnosis meant I didn’t know anything different. In my teen years I became embarrassed by my diabetes and this was exacerbated when I got yelled at in front of the class for wearing a medical ID bracelet that wasn’t part of the dress code. I went to a private girl’s school where no jewellery was allowed, and after that I tried to hide my diabetes.
I’d often miss my lunchtime needle because I was embarrassed by the stigma and ashamed of taking insulin in front of people. People’s reactions when they found out I had diabetes were difficult as well: “is that because you eat too much sugar or you’re fat?” I was neither of those stereotypes so decided I wasn’t diabetic and started skipping doctor’s appointments and eating what I wanted.
In 2010 I went on a volunteer trip to Thailand, where I was determined to hide my diabetes. One night I accidentally took nearly four times my insulin dose. I told the girl I was staying with who kept an eye on me overnight and for the rest of the trip – she’s still a great friend today! And the following day I alerted our group leader who happened to know a lot about diabetes, in hindsight, I should have told her a lot sooner.
I’m not ashamed of having diabetes anymore. Instead I want to help people embrace their diabetes and understand the importance of looking after themselves.