Guest Post by Cara (Country Girl Diabetic)

On November 18, 2010 by Cherise Shockley

This month is Diabetes Awareness Month. When I was asked to write a post for the Diabetes Social Media site I had no idea what I was going to write about. But, over the past month, I’ve been reminded what and emotional disease diabetes can be. And my hope is to let people know how strongly that diabetes can affect one’s emotions. Diabetes doesn’t just wear and tear on your body. Diabetes plays a huge role in our emotional lives as well.

Around seven years ago I was barely out of college. I’d worked my first “real job” and my contract ended after that first year and I was unemployed. My diabetes care wasn’t the best in the world, but while I’d been working (i.e. had health insurance), I’d been making positive strides toward improving my diabetes care. And I’d gotten to the point that I was seriously considering an insulin pump when I’d lost my job and health insurance.

On top of that, I wasn’t handling unemployment very well at all. I was on the brink of losing my apartment (unemployment benefits in Tennessee aren’t the best in the world), and I was feeling useless and depressed. Not only was I trying to figure out a way to pay for my insulin, test strips, doctors, and such, I was trying to find a place to live and a new job.

Frustrations and depression were everywhere for me at that time. I had a friend who really put up with a lot from me during that time. I sat on her couch one night at about 11:30 and just cried. My diabetes burn out had gotten to me. I was frustrated with not having health insurance, not knowing how to take care of my health and not really having anyone to talk to about it.

This was quite a few years ago. There was not as much going on in the online community and to be honest, I’d yet to discover anything like a blog about diabetes. I didn’t have anything resembling the support system that I have now.

Diabetes is such an emotional disease. I felt alone. I felt different. I felt scared of the future and the things that diabetes could do to my body. My friend sat with me one night and let me cry. She encouraged me to talk to someone with diabetes. She supported me, even though she might not completely relate. And she was right.

I needed someone to talk to. Though it would be several more months before I got another job, and even a little longer than that before I stumbled onto the online community, I knew that I needed to find someone to whom I could relate.

When I was in college I did my student teaching with and eighth grade classroom. When I started my work at the school, I told my supervising teacher that I had diabetes. It’s my standard first day fare with it comes to starting any new job. When I told her, she lit up immediately. She told me of a student in the class (I’ll call him F) who had been diagnosed with diabetes a few years earlier but he didn’t want anyone to know. At his request, his parents asked to school to be sure that no one other than teachers were aware of his diabetes. Apparently, shortly after his diagnosis, he was made fun of by some fellow students and it had caused him to want to hid his diabetes ever since.

The supervising teacher asked that if I was given the chance, to bring up the fact that I had diabetes in class. She asked me not to call out F, but to talk about it so that he might know that it was okay and that people weren’t going to treat him differently. I agreed. Part of the way through my student teaching semester I was running late to school one morning. I’d brought my breakfast with me to school and happened to be giving an injection when the students started to come into class. When they asked, I told them about my diabetes. I didn’t talk much, but I did answer a few questions. F never asked a question and never changed his facial expressions. And after that morning, I never got the chance to bring it up with the class again.

A few years later I found out from a high school teacher friend of mine that F continued to hide his diabetes through high school. That made me sad. I wondered if his fear of being teased for being “different” made him hide his diabetes. Or if he didn’t want to be treated differently. I’m not sure. Either way, I felt bad for him. Sad that he felt he had to hide the “different” part of him. Although I can’t say for sure, as I never had the chance to talk with him, I assume he felt alone with his diabetes.

In light of all the recent suicides of young people, I’ve been thinking about being different. Maybe not different in the sense of these children and young people who were teased for being gay, but different nonetheless. Diabetes makes us different. Some people are strong and they can handle the differences. Sometimes it’s not easy.

Being isolated for any reason can make a person feel depressed. That is why I was so glad to find the D-OC. It has made me feel like I fit in somewhere. It’s like diabetes camp…only all year long! During the time that I sat on my friend’s couch and cried my eyes out over diabetes and frustrations and fears, I felt alone. I felt depressed. And while I’ll admit the depression wasn’t solely over the diabetes, it was a major part of the reason at the time.

So, while I guess this post is for everyone, I direct it specifically at teens and young adults. Don’t let diabetes (or anything for that matter) make you feel so isolated and different. Everyone has their quirks. Everyone has things that make them “weird.” And it helps to find people like you. Believe me, even when you think there’s no one in the world like you, I promise there is. Be glad there is the internet. If it’s diabetes that makes you feel alone, there’s the D-OC to help out. If it’s something else, I’ll almost bet that there are online communities for that “something else” just like there are for diabetes.

I hope that people of all difference will never feel so alone that they live in depression and hopelessness. Being different is NOT a bad thing. It is what makes you unique. For me, my diabetes is part of my uniqueness. So is my obsession with Broadway shows, and my unnatural ability to put a song with every situation. Do some people call me weird? Sure. Have I been made fun of for some of my crazy quirks? Pretty much on a daily basis (my co-workers get a kick out of me…).

My biggest piece of advice: talk to someone. If you are feeling depressed, find a friend with a couch, like I did. Or find a professional who can help you out. Because no matter what you may think, people care about you and you make the world a richer place.

Cara, Living with Type 1 Diabetes

You can read more about Cara on her blog-Country Girl Diabetic

You can follow her on twitter @cerichards21

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