The days I don’t want to get out of bed are the hardest. When sleep sticks to my eyelashes as they flutter in the morning light, but I know I need to get up and face the day, because if I stay in bed any longer my whole day will be ruined with nausea, dehydration, headaches and dizziness. Since the age of five my whole life has depended on routine.
According to the Department of Health, in Australia there are an estimated 1.2 million people aged 2 years and over with diagnosed Diabetes in Australia. I am one of them. In 2004 I was rushed to hospital with ketoacidosis, a result of my pancreas shutting down and ceasing the production of insulin. That night was a blur and the memories that remain are fragmented: the rush of doctors, feeling sick and being held down as an IV was inserted into each arm. I was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes that night and my life, as much as my five-year-old brain could comprehend, changed forever.
Fifteen years later, life is still a blur; one full of needles, food, routine, sickness and the constant pushing down of the feeling I am not like everyone else. When a child is first diagnosed that is one of the things the doctors drill in: that they are no longer like their friends, that they must look after themselves. Life and death decisions become a part of everyday life. Diets change, and routine controls everything, including when and what you eat. Do something wrong, and hospital nights filled with vomiting, dehydration and falling into a coma are closer than they seem.
The pressure of this is overwhelming at times, the constant need for control being crushed under life as it changes. I’m lucky, I have an insulin pump that allows me to do and eat what I want without the regime or the terrible consequences that occur when I break it. There are some who don’t have this gift, because they can’t afford the ten thousand dollars it costs to buy one or are lucky enough to receive one for free while they are under the age of 18.
In the last 15 years the experience has been a rollercoaster filled with body image and self esteem issues because there is something ‘wrong’ with me, dealing with the physical and mental problems that go along with my illness while living everyday life. Small scars and bruises are on my stomach and fingers if you look close enough and the insulin pump that saves me sticks out from my side like a retro phone, always attached to me. The days taken off from school were for one of two things, a bad day where I could barely move without being nauseous or for my own mental health because everything, even piercing my skin to get the tiniest drop of blood, was too much.
Type One Diabetes is an invisible illness, not marked by anything obvious. This makes recognition hard, it’s considered easy to control and maintain my diet and exercise, but it is the opposite, they are the factors that need to be controlled. Constant injections wear down the body and the mind, the small scars a constant reminder that something is wrong. There’s no cure, and the difficulty faced by the people diagnosed is monumental but is not discussed. I have been lucky in my 15 years, unlike other diabetics in my life I have not gone to hospital again for ketoacidosis, gone unconscious or struggled with my blood sugar level. But the scars are still there.
Love, Erin xx