Sometimes I think I am my own worst critic. In fact I know that I am. This can be a good thing, as it makes me question my actions and do my best. But it can also drive me crazy, make me spend countless hours worrying about what I said, or did not say and obsess about all sorts of things. I wonder sometimes if living life with a disease that requires precision and testing all the time has made this worse.
I used to spend hours when I was younger worrying about how I looked. Finding the right clothes. Getting the right haircut. Wearing the right makeup. Looking for a cool boyfriend. And pretending I did not have type 1 diabetes. Once I was diagnosed with diabetes I did anything I could to hide the fact that I had a broken pancreas. I thought that I was a freak. I did not feel like I fit in with the crowd and living in a small country town just made that worse. Kids can be so cruel and even something like diabetes can become a target for bullying.
We moved there when I was just 9 years old and with my parents not only being “hippies” but being teachers at my area school, I stood out. Being new in a small town is often not an easy ride. I was bullied. Teased. Picked on. To the point I would spend hours in the sick room with tummy aches and can remember telling my Mum I was never going back to school and they would have to home school me. Of course I kept going.
Not only was I a little overweight as a child, from a family that were “different” and a bit of a softie, but I was also very smart. This did not make for being high on the popularity stakes! But by the time I was in late primary school I had a good bunch of friends. Oh we were not the “cool” kids, but we were essentially happy.
Bring on the end of year 7 and WHAM along comes diabetes. I missed the first two weeks of high school. My caring parents went to the school and explained to all the teachers and my friends, about type 1 diabetes and what they needed to watch out for. Suffice to say I headed into year 8 feeling like a complete and utter outsider.
I still had my group of friends, but I was looking for more. At the end of year 8 my soon to be best friend came to the school. She was a fiesty, pretty and outspoken girl and I decided on the spot that I would make her my friend. And I did. We became inseparable. And we became the victims of more bullying, even our friendship was targetted but we remained strong together.
Gradually diabetes faded into the background of my life for me. I decided not to let it bother me. But in my 14 year old way this did not mean accepting it, it meant not looking after it, pretending it did not exist. I also delved into behaviours that were completely out of character in my attempt to “fit in”. But still I was not accepted as part of the “cool crowd”, no matter what I did and I did some things I was not proud of.
Looking back now as a wise old woman of nearly 45, with 33 years of diabetes, 3 children, numerous relationships, trips to other countries, learning, seeing, understanding and knowing – I realise that all that time – those people were not cool. Those people were not people I would want to be. Trying to please the bullies by trying to be what you think they admire does not work. And I sure as hell do not admire the behaviour of bullies.
And finally, I have realised that the way I behaved at the time was just a young woman crying out for acceptance – from someone, anyone, but mostly, from herself.
Growing up is hard. But growing up with something that makes you feel different when all you want is to fit in can be hell. I am glad I made it. I am glad that I also made it with all of the things I started out with before diabetes. I LIKE being a little bit different. I LIKE standing out from the crowd. And I LIKE that I can see right through a bully and realise they are just a little girl wanting to fit in too.
Being “cool” is not about being the same as the bullies – it is about knowing who you are and then standing by yourself and being proud of who you are.