When I was diagnosed, I was the only person I knew with the disease. Not just within my family, but out of all the people we had ever known. At school, my teachers embraced it and I never felt weird or abnormal. My friends took delight in being the ones who knew about diabetes and knew how to recognise when I was getting a bit wonky.
As a teenager I admit that I felt alone sometimes, and extremely hard done by. Why me? Why not that woman, or that man (aimed at any stranger I walked past in the street)? Sometimes, just why?
As a teenager I never met any other diabetics until I started a part time job whilst studying at college. Funnily enough, we had worked together for weeks, without knowing. It was when we went to lunch together one day that of course it cropped up. Immediately I felt a sense of connection to this person. She was fun, friendly, great to work with, and all of a sudden, she knew better than anyone what it was like to be me, in part anyway.
For the next few years in my early twenties, I met one or two other diabetics, but none who seemed to struggle with the condition. By struggle I mean that I still hated 'it', but had come around to thinking that if I was gonna have this, I might as well make the most of it.
About 3 years ago, I went one step further. I embraced it. I started asking questions. I started reading more, making sense of it and putting the pieces of this muddled up illness together, to try and make a more pleasant picture. So much so that I used my diabetes to write my dissertation, which to this day, is the work I am most proud of having created.
About 8 months ago, I started thinking about the pump. This, as a child and youngster, had been my idea of hell.
"Having something attached to me all the time, I can't imagine diabetes controlling me more in any other way."
I still remember saying it, who I was with how out of control my sugars were at the time.
Two months ago, I started reading blogs. I started realising that I was not the exception to the rule. I was not alone and by no means was I struggling to maintain control any more than anyone else. I started realising that using the Internet was the key to reaching other diabetics from all over the world. People who in their own countries faced all sorts of challenges with their own treatment. In the US, you either pay or get insured, if you want any kind of treatment. In the UK, care is free at the point of contact, but not everything you want gets funded.
A week ago I joined the Diabetes UK website, and since then I have become a web-maniac! In fact, I feel like I am stalking the site, checking every couple of hours for more posts from people asking for help or advice, or checking in case someone has asked a question I have asked myself, just not out loud.
I have made new friends, I have written to people I feel more connected to than many people I have known fleetingly in my own time on this planet. I have talked about things which have infuriated me in the past, but never had the right ears to listen. My family and friends could not be any more supportive if they tried. I always tell my fiance that he has diabetes too, because he has to carb count, he has to get up in the night when I'm wondering around, too low to make sense of why I'm in the kitchen. He will have to help me through the future, because god knows, there will be many challenges to come. But when you read a post about someone being 25 mmol and feeling like they could sleep for a week, you know exactly how that feels. You don't need to know their hobbies, their friends, their taste in music, or even their name. You know how they feel.
I have never felt so connected, never felt so in touch with people, and probably most importantly, never felt like diabetes has brought me so much that is good.
It has put me in touch with people who truly understand what it's like to be high, low, frustrated, sometimes a little scared and often misunderstood.
It has made me realise - diabetes doesn't make you alone, it makes you part of something. Something which can bring people together, something which can make you connect with people all over the world, and something which up until now, I never thought would have a positive side
Anna - part of something for 23 years .....and counting.