11 Struggles Type 1 Diabetics Go Through
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Health and Wellness

'Yes, I Can Eat Sugar,' And 10 Other Struggles All Type 1 Diabetics Understand Too Well

This disease is far from glamorous.

'Yes, I Can Eat Sugar,' And 10 Other Struggles All Type 1 Diabetics Understand Too Well
Kai Parlett

Diabetes has become pretty common in America, and people have many misconceptions about the disease. Here are some of my favorite misconceptions, as well as some funny and relatable moments, that anyone with Type 1 Diabetes will read and say, "yes, that's me!"

1. YES, I can eat sugar. 

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me I shouldn't eat something because of the sugar content, it would probably be enough to cover my medical bills. Here's the deal: I can eat sugar. Technically, I can eat whatever I want to. I just have to be more conscious of what I am putting in my body and take enough insulin to compensate for the carbohydrates I eat.

More sugar equals more insulin, and sometimes, I get the ratio wrong and have to suffer the consequences later, but that by no means means that I can't eat sugar at all.

2. T1D is genetic. This is not my fault. 

People often confuse Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. While Type 2 Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar to the point where your body shuts down, Type 1 Diabetes is a genetic disease with unknown causes. People often tell me that I can't ever be annoyed about my diabetes because I did this to myself.

I did not cause this.

My doctors do not know why I am diabetic, they just know that it is a genetic disease. If in 10 years the research says there is something I or my parents should have done differently, then you can judge me, but for now, it's not my fault!

3. I know I don't look sick, but trust me, I am. 

Just because I appear to be perfectly healthy doesn't mean that I am. When well managed, Type 1 Diabetes poses very few limitations on day-to-day life. That doesn't mean that I suddenly don't have diabetes or I'm not always thinking about it and micromanaging my blood sugar levels. If not managed, diabetes is a life-threatening disease. So many people refuse to believe I am sick unless I fit their image of a stereotypical sick person.

4. You could give yourself shots too, if your life depended on it.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I give myself a shot of insulin in public and someone says, "OMG I could never do that!" Let me set the record straight — I do not enjoy stabbing a needle into my thigh every time I want a snack. Quite frankly, I feel like a human pin cushion. The thing is, if I don't give myself regular injections, my diabetes will kill me. So, yeah, I get it, you don't like needles, but trust me, if it was needles or die, you'd stab yourself faster than I could say, "Type 1 Diabetes!"

5. The bruises are not from abuse!

In the summer, I often catch people staring at my legs. I know they are looking at the small, circular bruises that pattern my thighs. People see them, and their minds immediately jump to abuse. Let me set the record straight. Every three days or so I insert a small tube into my body. That leaves a bruise each time, so I frequently look like a dalmatian with purple spots.

6. Could I have some juice, please? 

When I'm hanging out with my close friends, asking for a glass of juice to fend off a low blood sugar is no biggie, but when I'm at the house of someone I don't know as well or at work or something similar, it can be super awkward.

7. Insulin pump tubing and doorknobs are not friends. 

A few years ago, my friend dressed up as insulin pump tubing wrapped around a doorknob for Halloween saying that it was scarier than any other costume. I have never agreed with someone more. At least once a week, I rush into a room and catch the tubing of my pump around the doorknob. There's always a feeling of dread as I feel the cannula at the end of the tube rip out of my leg. Not only is it not the most comfortable feeling in the world, but those things are expensive!

8. It's insulin not drugs, I swear!

I do get how people could think that a small vial of insulin, which I inject myself from, could potentially look like drugs. But honestly, do y'all really think someone would shoot up in a restaurant?!

9. Coach, I need a sub. 

One of my soccer coaches had a great system where I would just wave at her like one normally would if I needed to sub out of the game because I was tired, but if my blood sugar was low, I would make an "L" on my forehead with my fingers. That way, she knew if she needed to sub me out immediately or if she could wait.

Other coaches have not been as understanding. I'm not sure if it is due to a lack of understanding about diabetes or just a lack of caring. They are simply unable to wrap their heads around the fact that if I continue to play sports when my blood sugar is low, I will more likely than not pass out. I mean…I'm happy to try, but subbing me out would be a much simpler option, don't you think?

10. Where do I put the pump? 

Have you ever tried to wedge a chunk of metal the size of your hand into a tight-fitting dress? It really doesn't work. I've gotten quite creative about where I can put my insulin pump, but there are some outfits (most notably, my prom dress) where there is simply nowhere for it to go. In these cases, I just resign myself to the fact that my blood sugar is going to go high, and I'll have to deal with it later.

11. I am not a perfect human, please don't expect me to be one. 

Perfectly managed diabetes is not a thing. A lot of my disease is trial and error. People who expect perfection are constantly let down. I have had more people than I can count tell me that I am mismanaging my diabetes because my blood sugar is not a flat line at my target sugar level all day every day. What they don't understand is that this is not possible. I am doing my best with what my body decides to give me each day, and that is all anyone can ask of me.

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