Updated: Jul 2, 2020
| This is the 277th story of Our Life Logs |
I was born in 1995 in Agra, India, the city where millions come to see the immensely beautiful Taj Mahal. Our small, close-knit family was overflowing with love and happiness. I was a chubby little girl who loved packing her stomach with sweets, soda, desserts–anything that tasted good! My favorite snack of all was gulab jamun, an Indian delicacy of milky balls soaked in rich syrup. My mouth waters just thinking about it! So, you can see, I had a happy, carefree childhood full of sweetness…
This was until I turned 11. That’s when some symptoms came to the surface. At first, I didn’t think anything was wrong. I was actually losing weight despite being hungry all the time. I had to go to the bathroom a dozen times a day, but I thought that was normal since I was always thirsty and had to drink a lot of water. But, after I had an episode at school, I knew something had to be wrong. I was attending the morning assembly and listening to the speaker up front. Suddenly, white light dotted my vision. I could feel myself fading. Dizziness took over me, and within a fraction of a second, I collapsed.
I woke up in the school’s sick room disoriented with a dry mouth. My teacher gave me a glass of glucose water thinking that I just had a heat stroke. Taking note of the incident, my parents took me to my doctor.
The pediatrician recommended a blood sugar test. I took the test a few days later, and the following day, my father brought home the results. The average sugar reference range is 120 but mine was beyond 350! My father explained to my young innocent mind that the results said I had Type 1 Diabetes, meaning that my pancreas was incapable of producing any insulin needed to process food normally.
To me, diabetes meant I’d never be able to eat sweets again! To an 11-year-old, this news felt like the world was ending. I burst into tears and couldn’t stop. My father tried to calm me down.
“You don’t have to give up sweets forever. You just need to cut back.”
I heard the words, but they didn’t register. Cutting back still meant I couldn’t eat whatever and whenever I wanted. It’s strange to think something that a body is supposed to do naturally could choose to stop working. I couldn’t understand why my physiology was hindered. I couldn’t believe my life was going to change forever.
I had to miss a few months of school so that my glucose levels could be properly monitored and I was put on insulin. I went from eating piles of sweets a day to small snacks between meals. It felt like a huge part of myself was locked away, and I felt lost.
Later, I learned that Type 1 is a more severe case of diabetes than the other types. It means my body couldn’t produce insulin at all, and it could become life-threatening if it was not well managed. It was extremely difficult for me since diabetes had to be taken care of along with the changes happening on account of puberty. It wasn’t just changing my diet. Every two to three hours, I’d have to prick myself with insulin, eat something to keep my glucose levels steady, and do regular exercise. Failure to do one could send my body into shock and put me in the hospital. That’s not normal by any means.
I could feel the eyes of my peers on me every time I had to take out a snack in the middle of a class or an important session. It made me feel weak. Why couldn’t I be normal like the other kids? The feeling of inadequacy followed me like an invisible shadow, reminding me that everyone else was better than me. They could run around without getting tired, they could stay fit without exercising, and they could go hours without food and be fine—all things I had taken for granted before my diagnosis. And now, why couldn’t I?
I felt hopeless, but life had to move on. Fortunately, my family and my endocrinologist stood firm as my pillars of strength and they still are. They assured me that I could be just like everyone else if I learned how to manage my deficiency properly. With their support, I started to recuperate my confidence.
With the new confidence, I thrived in school and became Head Girl in the 12th standard. I pursued a Bachelor’s in Commerce from the Indira Gandhi National Open University in 2014, and meanwhile, started to take the Chartered Accountancy (CA) course. At this point in my life, I didn’t want my diabetes to hold me back and keep me at home, so I worked hard to find a job in New Delhi in 2016. I felt confident going out into the world on my own.
However, each day brought on new challenges. The hustle and bustle of working in an office can be hard for someone with diabetes. Some days, I’d have breakfast at 9 am, then go to a meeting until 3 pm. Maybe I’d get to eat a cookie in between, but not a meal. And on days like those, I’d endure hypoglycemia that brought nausea and throbbing headaches. Things became too heavy to be handled with the stress of the strenuous CA course on top of the job. I realized I had tried to endure too much at once, and decided to return home in Agra after about a year.
I was discouraged, wondering if I would ever be able to move out and live on my own like my friends did. I know what you are thinking. Diabetes sounds like a minor problem. You just have to prick yourself with insulin a couple of times a day. No big deal, right? But it turned out to be a big deal for me. Living with an inadequacy broke me down from time to time. At work, some people would brush off my restrictions like they were nothing, and that just made me feel even worse. It was like my problem was not acknowledged, and so was my whole existence.
Then, an article about public figures with diabetes completely changed my view. I went through the names…Phil Southerland, Nick Jonas, Crystal Bowersox. Wow, all these successful people with diabetes! The article sparked a fire in me to keep fighting. If these people could thrive despite their restrictions, then I could too! I was back to the drawing board to find out how to monitor my levels in tough situations for the future.
In 2017, I started working as a freelance translator while I continued the CA course. Meanwhile, in my free time, I joined a badminton club to increase my stamina and improve my fitness. I started testing my body. How far could I go? I started by researching the proper food portions and kept an eye on my glucose levels. Over time, I learned my limitations and became more aware of my body and how it worked. I became confident about myself and what I needed to do to handle whatever that came in my way.
I finished the CA course in January 2019. Of course, every day is a new story and brings on new challenges, but I’ve come to embrace it now. I no longer let the disease make me feel inferior. I know that I can still live a fulfilled life even with the restrictions. That’s something diabetes has been teaching me for the last 12 years.