Bullying is an ongoing issue, even in today’s more emotionally understanding world. Kids can be cruel. I could never understand what benefit comes from maliciously picking on someone for being different. I guess I’m just not wired that way. What is really difficult to wrap my head around is making fun of someone for a difficult situation they are facing (why is that even a thing?). Upon my return from the hospital I knew I’d be different from the other kids. I expected questions and confusion, but I didn’t expect ridicule to be part of the equation.
As any new person with type 1 diabetes knows, your diet is strict to start off. Breakfast, lunch, dinner…and even snack time…are non-negotiable. You have to adhere and submit to the disease for a while. In fifth grade, no one was allowed to eat in class—except me. Like clockwork, 10 a.m. was snack time, and everyone let me know about it. While attempting to subtly eat my graham crackers without notice, I received snickers, angry glares, and the occasional pig snout face to inform me of my peers’ disapproval. But I had to stick with the meal plan; there wasn’t a choice.
What really hit me below the belt was when I was unable to go to science camp with the class. I was too new to the diabetes game to properly take care of myself—and cell phones weren’t around (say, WHAT?), so I couldn’t call home if I needed to. However, I got the week off (score), but was instantly informed how unfair my situation was from my peers. It was a tough time to say the least, but I silently accepted my situation (two wrongs don’t make a right…right?)
What I’ve realized is I’m just different from the norm. But I still face some grief today in form of, “If I eat this donut I’ll SURELY get diabetes, right Jess?” (wrong). Or, “Wow, did you used to be fat?” (no). Kids don’t understand what T1D is, nor should I have expected them to. But I find that adults don’t either. You wouldn’t say these things to a cancer patient, would you?
What I’ve learned is, you can’t control what other people do or say, but you can control your reaction to it. I’m not silent anymore. In fact, I take the time to educate these people on what T1D is, and how the comment is offensive. There’s no use getting mad because it’s really a misunderstanding underneath it all—but it’s still hurtful.
My T1D brothers and sisters, just know that you can still be strong in these situations although they can be tough. Be the bigger person, and use these situations as an opportunity rather than a setback. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without facing adversity and taking the high road.