I have been a type 1 diabetic since 2004, diagnosed at the age of 5 years old. Being a type 1 diabetic means regular insulin shots and finger pricks to check my blood sugar. My parents have always tried to protect me from the world and people’s judgments of course while also encouraging me to not be embarrassed and confident about something I will have to deal with all my life. I am always grateful of course as they tried their best. But as I grew up, people grew meaner and more judgemental.
Juggling other people’s unwanted opinions, your own insecurities and dating was a whole new tsunami wave to overcome. If they can’t deal with blood or needles they would run for the hills meeting me who has to face that every day. When I started using the insulin pump, which is practically my electronic pancreas and a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), there were fewer needles and blood, but I’ve officially become a cyborg.
Image source: alamy.com
I can’t live and function without either one and attached to my body or it would shut down from high blood sugar. Any date will have me obsessively checking my blood sugars for spikes and drops with the clear plastic tubes hanging out by your pockets which of course doesn’t go unnoticed.
Dating or having any relationship with someone with a disability or chronic illness has its challenges. Making friends as a kid was difficult for both my parents and I as we have to keep explaining to people that diabetes wasn’t contagious. You’d have this rehearsed script in your head of what to say when they would eventually ask you what happened or what that is.
Some would look at you in awe and even confusion sometimes. Not to mention having to brace for any false assumptions they may have and having to educate them on it. With some people looking at you with pity, others looking at you like some kind of foreign specimen. So there’s little room for small talk and you’d have to be quite vulnerable even on that first date.
But I’m grateful that most people I know are willing to get tangled up with me and my cyborg tubes. If you ever meet anyone with a disability, here are some tips!
It’d be great to ask questions and empathise with them on their bad days. Don’t try to fix problems that are out of anyone’s control. Ask about what they need from you and what you can do for them. Don’t ever patronise them or look down at them with pity because they will and have managed without you. A good rule when you have a relationship, be it platonic or romantic, with anyone with a disability is to ask and remember their emergency protocol. Lastly, just love and accept them for who they are. The good days, the bad days and all their machines and extra features they come with.