Diabetes Victoria Blog
Join the discussion in our blog where a variety of writers from all walks of life take a stance on current diabetes issues.
12 July 2021
By Gabrielle, lives with type 1 diabetes
After being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was five years old, it was probably another 10 years before I felt a sense of stigma associated with this autoimmune disease. Initially attending primary school, I remember a few of my classmates telling me they wished they had diabetes when I would get to eat jelly beans in class if I was having a hypo. As such, I thought having diabetes was pretty unique and cool.
The social pressures and difficulties of being a teenager was definitely a turning point in regards to my attitude towards diabetes. On reflection, I realised it was during my teens that I started trying to minimise the observable impact diabetes had on my life, and limit the chances that people would see what I was doing. I would do my insulin injections through my clothes at school, and on numerous occasions finger pricks in the bathroom. I just wanted to ‘fit in’ and ‘feel normal’, however was aware that many people associate diabetes with obesity, lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet. I struggled with both my own individual judgement of myself, as well as stigma within the community.
After completing high school, I went on to study a Bachelor of Nursing/Midwifery at university. I thought finally I would be surrounded by individuals who were educated to properly understand what having diabetes meant. Unfortunately this was not my experience. I have had colleagues say to me “Oh, you’re a diabetic…you must have to really watch what you eat” or “Don’t you think you should eat something else?” in the tea room. In handover I have heard professionals say “She must be sneaking chocolate or something for her sugars to be that high” and “it can’t be that hard to manage if you eat well”. While at the time I have tried to educate individuals and help them better understand this condition, I also feel like it is an uphill battle.
I think studying healthcare, attending placements and now working in a health profession has opened my eyes to the fact that the stigma and judgement of having diabetes is so totally engrained in society. As sad as it sounds, I think to some degree you just have to learn to live with it.