Among the many ways that living with a chronic illness can impact your self esteem, one of my biggest insecurities as an adolescent was my type 1 diabetes. When I was diagnosed at age 10, I heard the doctors mention diabetes and thought, You mean the old person’s disease? I was so worried about my peers not understanding why I needed to inject myself with insulin, or stop to prick my finger that I constantly felt like the odd one out. Once I entered my teenage years and began to develop crushes on boys, I would either try to hide my diabetes completely, or communicate that it was no big deal in fear that my chronic illness would hinder my chance at love.
Now I realize this can seem a little silly because good people in the world will love you no matter what characteristics you have, but feeling different from people with a working pancreas can impact your confidence level immensely, especially in your younger years.
As the years went by and my personal diabetes advocacy had grown, dating seemed to get better. I was more up front about the ramifications of my disease, without being overly explanatory, understanding that my audience probably wasn’t aware of the ins and outs of this illness and that it wasn’t something that needed to take up too much oxygen on a first date. I also grew my self confidence since adolescence, which allowed me to see my diabetes more as a characteristic of my life, rather than a storyline. This disease may be a part of my life, but it doesn’t define who I am as a person or what I bring to the table in any relationship, job, or situation.
This is the approach I took when meeting my now husband for the first time. On our very first date, sitting down for sushi, I casually said to him, “By the way, I have type 1 diabetes”, while testing my blood sugar before we ate. I gave a quick synopsis of my disease and was pleased that he didn’t have any issues with being on a date with someone who had a medical concern. He also didn’t make any comments about a distant relative who had died from diabetes which is always a plus!
As our relationship grew, and Adam learned more about my chronic illness, he has shown great care, support, and never made me feel less than for having a lazy pancreas. He knows that some nights will involve less sleep than others, and that there will always be situations that require a little more care.
Diabetes certainly does add another layer to dating, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a negative one. There will always be someone out there that has the patience and understanding that taking care of yourself and your sugars will always be top of mind no matter what. If someone doesn’t have the patience to learn about your condition or suggests you risk your own health for their comfort, they are not worth your time.
At the end of the day, find someone who is always willing to fill you a cup of oj.
Writer’s note: Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system cells begin to attack and destroy the insulin-producing cells in the body, resulting in uncontrolled blood sugars that must be managed with with insulin. Type 1 Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar and there is currently no cure.