Under the 2010 Equality Act, type 1 diabetes is defined as a disability in that it may have a 'substantial, long-term, negative impact on a person's ability to carry out normal, day-to-day activities'. Yes, I am entirely unable to make chit chat when I’m having a low, but I’m not ticking that disabled box on a job application form. In fact, I actually refuse to do so. I refuse to consider myself disabled simply because of diabetes. These are my reasons why.
With the Right Prep, There Doesn't Have to Be Any Limits
As annoying as it may be, I’ve never dwelled too much on having diabetes, because with the right prep and information, I thoroughly believe you can do whatever you want to do. Festivals, Student Life, Sun Holidays, Alcohol, Exercise, Fast-Food- with knowledge, preparation, insulin and sweets, there’s no need for restrictions. If you don’t believe me, just look at the many inspirational diabetics that are simply nailing it. For example, Emily Vuoung, who ran the New York City Marathon and Nick Jonas, the best Jonas. Also, there’s some really informative podcasts out there that emphasise the fact that although having type one diabetes is a hindrance, it does not have to be a limitation. I’d recommend The JuiceBox Podcast, Diabetics Doing Things, and The Insuleoin Podcast! It can be a little daunting if you don't know any other diabetics and have recently been diagnosed, so this helpful community acts as a nice little reminder that you'll be just fine.
Responsibility, Education, No Needle-Phobias
My diabetes has taught me a type of responsibility that I wouldn't have learned otherwise- the importance of looking after myself because nobody else will do it for me. Sure, I can skip insulin shots and ignore my sugar levels. My mum won’t know whether I bothered taking an injection with my meal. However, if I take that approach, I’ll immediately be thirsty, drained, and grumpy. We won’t go into what will happen if I continue down that path. Taking care of your sugar levels gives you a better understanding of your own body. It instantly improves mood and energy levels. It makes you aware of how essential it is to stay active, get a good night’s sleep and follow a healthy diet. I genuinely believe that type one diabetes has driven me towards a healthier lifestyle and I am quite grateful for that. Plus, there’s always that handy benefit of a needle phobia being briskly nipped in the bud.
Having said that, I do believe that injections will soon become a thing of the past. Although I myself am still on them, there’s so many other options today that will make diabetes even less of a hindrance in every-day life. Technology is coming along big time with CGMs (continuous glucose monitors) and pumps. There’s some great updates on the diabetes.co.uk website on the latest tech advancements, such as the artificial pancreas.
I’ve told this story in a previous post but I’ll tell it again. When I was growing up, my mum used to make me carry my violin into school every Wednesday for my fiddle classes afterwards. It mortified me. I would literally feel sick at the thought of being seen with this obvious, bulky instrument. Looking back, I can’t explain why it bothered me so much but the whole situation is a perfect example of the irrational self-consciousness that comes with being a pre-teen. Also includes being seen in public with your parents. Therefore, a pro of this ‘invisible illness’ is that, unlike my fiddle, it cannot be seen. Nobody will know until you tell them or whip out a needle and jab yourself in front of them (something I’m prone to do). At a glance, nobody knows that you may have two packets of skittles, an insulin injection and a glucose monitor in your bag. It doesn't have to define you which is a large reason why I’m so adamant that having diabetes is something I don’t feel the need to tick on a job application.
That concludes my reasoning behind blatantly ignoring the 'Do you have a disability' checkbox. Although learning to live with diabetes is undoubtedly a difficult transition, I don't think there's a need to attach any more stigma to it than there already is. If you don't want it to restrict you, it doesn't have to!