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Confessions of a Teenage T1 Wallflower

shutterstock_120482014_guy_debating_food_300pxThe clock read 7:30 in the morning as I blearily looked out the window at the spring day from bed. I hadn’t slept much. I was up most of the night going to the toilet or drinking soda to compensate for the water loss. Pretty early on in the evening, I had come to regret eating all those biscuits. When my mom saw how much I was eating and drinking, she didn’t stop me. Instead she joked that I should get a job to pay for it all. It’s a good joke because who was going to hire a 13-year-old kid with barely controlled Type 1 diabetes?

I got up and did my injection of insulin. I wandered into the kitchen and had my breakfast cereal while daydreaming that one day I’d be able to drink my insulin; I would just mix it with a cup of tea and gulp it down. While I was finishing with the washing-up, my parents reminded me that it was the day of my friend’s birthday party and I needed to hurry up and purchase a birthday card. I could picture the sweets at the party, including the inevitable cake. I slunk down further in my chair.

As I was getting ready for the party, I got the standard diabetes talk from my parents. Every so often, people felt like it was their duty to remind me not to indulge in chocolates and sweets. You can lose a foot, they would say. Sometimes, I would shout back at my mom that if I did lose a foot, then I would finally have a use for all those odd socks. Diabetic scare stories always put me in a foul mood, and I liked to respond with sarcasm. On this day, though, I sat patiently until they were through.

That afternoon, I arrived at the party kitted out with my BG monitor, test strips, needles, and insulin. I felt like the only thing I was lacking was a tuxedo to be like some kind of diabetic James Bond. I pictured myself whipping out a test strip from a hidden compartment up my sleeve, testing my BG, and turning to the barkeep to say, “Insulin, shaken not stirred.”

I looked over at the far corner of the room and found the table full of food, sweets, and cake. I saw my friends stuffing their faces with chocolates. An immature voice in my head said it would be worth it to sacrifice both my feet for that delicious cake, but I quickly told myself that I needed to get serious about my condition. The memory of the night before was too fresh in my head to ignore. Resolved, I walked over to my friends. I felt unhappy, but mature.

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When I was right about to slip into their conversation I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was my friend’s mom, looking disapprovingly at me. She said I couldn’t eat any of that food and she held out an apple. My friends started to laugh; my ears burned. I wanted to tell her that I had already decided to not eat any sweets, but no one was going to believe me now. She said she was keeping an eye on me. I took the apple and fumed.

After that afternoon, I’ve gotten serious about diabetes. It wasn’t just my attitude that needed to change; I also wanted to change peoples’ perception of diabetes for all the future T1 teenagers coming after me. I’ve gotten serious about staying healthy and eating right, and I also have learned how to intelligently push back at well-meaning food cops who make it hard for teens with diabetes to grow up. From hard experience, I’ve learned that a teen has to own his or her T1 to stay healthy. We need guidance, to be sure, but we also need to feel empowered, and no amount of guarding the sweets table is going to make that happen.

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