When people first notice me they see a charismatic, personable, studious, normal senior. Those who don’t know me would assume I am a completely healthy young individual, who acts just like every other teenager. Those who are close to me will know that I am not like everybody else; that I am not completely healthy. This is because at the end of my sophomore year I was diagnosed with type-one diabetes.
When I first meet people I never let them know right away that I am a diabetic, unless in a situation where my health is at risk. I lead off by telling people everything else about me. I let them know how I am an international high school student living in England, how I love to play rugby and lacrosse, how I am an active debater, or about my tastes in music or television. I’ll even talk about my Jewish faith before I tell them about diabetes. Eventually people will see me continually order diet sodas, or they will see me inject myself at the dinner table (although I try to do it discretely), and ask about what is going on. While I avoid talking about my condition unless someone else brings it up, I am not ashamed of my diabetes in any way. I will proudly tell people about what I have, and try to educate them about it if they ask, but I refuse to let that be my defining attribute.
I often understate the importance of my disease to my friends, because I don’t want it to be the only thing talked about, and I do not want to be defined as “that diabetic kid”. However, since my diagnosis, diabetes has been a massive part of my life. I have to deal with it during everything I do. I have to worry about what I eat, when and how I exercise, and what my blood sugar is at all times. It has been difficult for me to accept that diabetes is such a big part of my life. I have always viewed myself as someone who could not be hurt physically or emotionally. I have never had a major injury, what people say to me does not easily offend me; nothing can really phase me, except diabetes. It has also been tough to integrate this new image of myself as someone who could die without my medication into my former self-image as invincible and the pillar of health. The idea that I must carry around insulin, a blood sugar monitor, and emergency sugar everywhere I go, day or night, is frustrating. Although it has become routine now there are times when I resent what diabetes has done to me.
Diabetes is a huge part of my life, but it angers me when my diabetes becomes part of other people’s lives. When I was first diagnosed all of my friends and family had natural responses; they were very curious and very worried. Whenever I was with them my diabetes was all that they would talk about. I grew frustrated because I felt like this was my business, something that I have to deal with and that other people did not need to discuss. I realized that they were all just concerned but I didn’t care; I wanted my diabetes to be something in my life and not anybody else’s. I would much rather have people focus on my interests, studies, achievements, or opinions, rather than my health. Eventually I told all of my friends and family everything I know about diabetes, so their curiosity would be satisfied. I also told them to stop worrying, because there is nothing that they can do to monitor it. My parents still pester me about it but their worry is understandable. The rest of my friends and family have since ceased to focus on my diabetes when we talk, and sometimes even forget that it is a part of my life.
While I continue to hope for a cure for diabetes in my lifetime, diabetes will always be a part of me. While, I refuse to let diabetes define who I am or what I can do, I will never ignore or deny its importance in my life. I want it to be something that people know about and then forget, because that means that they see the real me, and not my chronic condition.
To read more about Michael, check out the post about his Teen Flaunt where he is featured on Scholastic Choice’s Magazine TeenBeing blog!