The Support Network

For the past (almost) six years I’ve had type 1 diabetes. I’ve been the one experiencing it. With that comes this feeling of control and certainty because I know what my body is doing most of the time and I feel confident that I can manage it. I knew that my diabetes was hard for my parents, but I hadn’t imagined exactly what it was like to be in their shoes. I always thought that loving someone with it was infinitely better than having it yourself. I never knew how much my diabetes impacts those around me, with all the worry and concern they have because they don’t get that control.

I have a small taste of it now, because someone I love has been diagnosed too. Because I’ve had it myself for so long, I’d like nothing more than to take it away from this little girl and her family. I'd have it twice if I could. But I can’t feel her highs and I can’t feel her lows. I can’t take care of it for her. In some ways, not being able to do that is harder than having it myself. I love and appreciate my parents, but I had underestimated how much my diabetes affects them. I’m so used to just dealing with it myself, I basically demanded control of it when I was diagnosed as a young teen.

I didn’t think of how worried they were the night I lost track of time and wasn’t home when I said I would be. I couldn’t hear my phone ringing and my dad ended up ringing my friends to get me to pick up my phone. I was fine, but now I know why I had 20 missed calls and a usually easy-going dad, furious. It wasn’t because I had a curfew; it was because they were scared.

I applied for a rural scholarship without mentioning it the other day, because I thought it was no big deal. Whilst always supportive, my parents took a minute to process that I’d done it “You did WHAT? Uh-huh… ok then”. I could be going far away with less access to medical services. I would be alone. I know they’d rather I didn’t do it, but I also know that if I did they would support me.

My parents had to deal with a stubborn teenage daughter who wanted to deal with this enormous thing alone. Now they have a still stubborn, slightly more adventurous, independence seeking, adult-ish daughter to contend with. Being on the other side of the fence now, I have absolutely no clue how they handled me. I would fly off the handle if I was asked why my blood sugar was high, because sometimes it just was darn it! Don’t tell me what to do, I don’t have high sugars for fun!
But it came from a place of concern. They were trying to control something that simply can’t be controlled perfectly. They were trying to help me control something that they couldn’t experience.

So I guess this is an acknowledgement of the parents and family of type 1s. I’m sorry I underestimated how hard this was for you. I’m sorry I make rash decisions sometimes, or don’t answer my phone, or lose my medic alert bracelet, or don’t count my carbohydrates properly all the time. Everything you do is coming from a place of love and concern.

I read a quote recently about the ignorance around type 1. How no one really gets it until it turns up on their doorstep. That ignorance is a beautiful kind of ignorance, and I wish it never had to be shattered. To every family and friend of someone with type 1, you’re amazing, more than you know. We’re so lucky to have you. My parents still come in at 3am to make sure I’m up and checking my sugar. My mum still counts my carbs for new recipes, mostly because my mentality is “ah well it sort of looks like 20 grams, yeah?”. My friends tell me to check my level when I've had a few drinks. My friends start singing Low by Flo Rida to cheer me up when I’m low before a clinic session. My friends get up with me at 3 in the morning when I sleep over and demand I wake them up (even if they promptly fall asleep again... it’s the effort that counts right?). Everyone listens to me when I have a whinge and help me laugh about it later. Everyone takes care of me when I’m low or high, giving me lifts to uni, food, water, hugs and company when I get scared.

I really don’t do this by myself after all, none of us do.

This condition has an impact on everyone, and it's the big team effort that makes something scary into something that can be lived with and managed. Corny as it is, I have type 1 and because of everyone's support, it doesn't have me. Thank you for doing everything that you do.

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