Although this might seem like an innocent question, it is one that diabetics face every day: are you allowed to have sugar? When one thinks of the word “diabetes,” they often associate it with negative connotations of being overweight and abstaining from fast foods or sugary desserts, and fail to realize that there are actually two distinct types of this disease. Although Type 2 Diabetes may be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the cells of the pancreas stop responding and start attacking themselves. Due to this inactivity of the pancreas, a Type 1 Diabetic is unable to process their sugar and carbohydrate intake through the production of insulin.
Although I may appear to be a healthy individual on the outside, I have actually been living with Type 1 Diabetes since I was in fifth grade. The day I was diagnosed with this disease was probably one of the most terrifying and momentous days of my life, and the next few days in the hospital were filled with constant floods of tears and blood tests that I still go pale thinking about today. Behind all this pain, I was mostly confused. Although I had no idea what diabetes or the implications of this disease actually were, I knew my life would never be the same. Within a week, my family and I had to learn how to monitor my blood sugar levels and administer insulin injections before every meal. Returning to school, I lived with the fear that I would be judged or asked questions about why I had to leave class every day before lunch. However, although people might have been initially ignorant about the definition of diabetes, asking questions like “Are you allowed to have sugar?” I soon began to trust my teachers and peers around me with what felt like a burdening secret.
Sometimes, I wish my life was different and that I could go back to having a normal routine without the weight of a chronic illness. I constantly lament the peaceful nights robbed by low blood sugars and my inability to focus because of high blood sugar. Struggling to balance exercise and eating is a challenge I face every day, as well as having to count carbs and calculate the amount of insulin to give. It is terrifying to think that my life is often left in the hands of a juice box or a needle administering insulin.
However, even through the tears that have been shed and the nights I lie awake, I couldn’t imagine my life without Type 1 Diabetes. This disease has taught me how to be responsible for myself and allow others to help and support me. Every day of my life, I am faced with new challenges of high and low blood sugars that force me to think and manage the amount of food I consume. Although diabetes may be associated with negative and unhealthy images, I believe that this disease has truly allowed me to put my health first and overcome many hurdles and anxieties that may not be fully displayed outwardly for the world to see. The tiny holes on my fingers from checking my blood sugar and the bruises on my arms left over from thousands of insulin shots serve to remind me daily of the strength and perseverance Type 1 Diabetes has allowed me to gain.
Photo Credit: http://www.diabetes.co.uk