“… and then there’s you. You’re a trooper with your disease. No one can tell that you’re sick, you handle it so well,” said my colleague in a random conversation.
When I started working at the company that I do now, I living with a condition that I didn’t know I had and it was slowly trying to kill me. I started my job in the middle of July and by early August, I was in full-on, vomiting, blurry vision, unquenchable thirst, exhausted, DKA. That was nearly five years ago.
Five years ago, I would say that I was sick. Really sick. Today, I don’t really consider myself sick, except for if I catch the occasional cold or flu. Once I got the diagnosis and treatment I needed, I stopped considering myself to be sick.
In my head, I simply live with a chronic and annoying health condition. In my head, I don’t think I’m ill, diseased or sick. I sometimes forget how dangerous life with type 1 diabetes is. I remember the dangers when I’m facing them directly: the times that my blood sugar plummets to 33 and I have to sit in the parking lot for 30 minutes while it slowly comes up so that I can drive home, when my insulin prescription gets denied by the pharmacy and I watch the level in my very last vial go down while I fight it, when I’m down to my last pod and my supply order is delayed by a holiday. In those moments, I still don’t consider myself sick, but I do fear the consequences, including complications, coma and even death.
The fear of sticking myself with a needle pales in comparison to that!
I do what I have to do to stay alive as a bare minimum. I engage with my own data and all of the technology available to me in order to do what I need to stay healthy.
In my head I’m healthy. On the outside, I look healthy. To those who know me fairly well though, I’m sick, but I hide it well.
Perhaps letting ourselves be perceived in this manner affords us the opportunity to advocate for better understanding, improved treatment options and ultimately a cure.