I’ve just finished Week 4 of uni. This means that I’ve spent the past 4 weeks awkwardly looking around whenever my pump goes off.
“What was that noise? Haha yeah who would still have a Nokia 3310?!”
(spoiler: that prehistoric beeping noise is me)
Owning up to that noise isn’t as simple as saying “Oh, don’t worry, it’s just my insulin pump”. In a perfect world, my tutorial would smile and nod in a knowledgable way, say “Oh! Ok!” and we’d get back down to business. However, because most of the world don’t know that pumps actually exist, it gets a bit more complicated.
I’ve tried owning up to it a few times, but it never went well. People ask what it is, I say that I have diabetes and it’s my insulin pump, someone asks what an insulin pump is…before we know it my tute is knee deep in discussing insulin requirements of a young adult and my tutor is steadily getting more pissed off because no one is paying attention to his slideshow on the conjugation of the present subjunctive. Sorry Maxime.
Additionally, the thing about my course is that I’m never with the same people each semester. My uni is one of the biggest in Australia, thousands of people do Arts, and it is very unlikely that I’ll see the same people again. I don’t mind telling someone that I’ve begun to be friends with, but that’s more a Week 8 or 9 thing, not when we’re all still sussing each other out! I can’t be bothered! One tutorial a subject, four subjects a semester, twelve weeks in each semester, three year course – that’s two hundred and eighty eight (I think? I dropped Year 10 maths) classes in which I may need to go through my diabetic introduction, and really, I’m there to learn! Honestly, I just don’t feel like telling people that I have diabetes unless a) I’m hypoing all over them and need help or b) someone makes a fat diabetes joke. You should see me breathe fire when b) occurs…
Don’t get me wrong, I love educating people! I love telling people about type 1 diabetes, how it’s different, why it requires a lot of work etc. However I only tell them when they ask. Unfortunately I can’t hide diabetes, it’s a visible ‘invisible illness’, if that makes sense. People are genuinely curious when I prick my finger, which I completely understand. It’s not that I’m ashamed of having it, or don’t like educating, it’s just that I meet a lot of people in my day-to-day life and that sometime I get tired of explaining why I’m beeping. It’s nice to feel a little normal sometime, you know?
I just don’t like going on and on about it in front of a lot of people in one room. In my experience, that always defines me as the ‘diabetic girl’, which I hate! Once people are aware that I’m diabetic, suddenly my sneaky BGL tests and priming in class are noticed. I suddenly feel judged for my food choices, whether people mean it maliciously or not. I find myself trying to eat my Tuesday morning blueberry muffin in short bursts, stuffing as much as I can in my face before someone turns around and says ‘Wait, aren’t you diabetic?’
Side-note: It’s weird, it doesn’t seem to matter that however many times I tell someone that my pancreas is just mechanical, and I can eat hot chips/ice cream/etc. if I want to, they still feel the need to comment.
But really, above all, I hate that being diabetic usually becomes my defining feature in my semester long relationship with the people in my classes. I don’t want that to be my defining feature. I haven’t owned up to the Animas beep in my Italian class yet, and last week signora Rossi said ‘Georgie, you’re always smiling! You read this role play out with me, I want to see if you can be grumpy. Va bene?”
That’s what I want my defining feature to be, a smile and a positive attitude, not my crummy pancreas.