Diabetes type 1 (young people)
Friends and relationships
Friends and close relationships are vitally important to most young people - diabetic or not. Those we talked to said they wanted to be thought of as just the same as other people, but they also realised that they might well need their friends to look out for them - particularly if they had a hypo. Overwhelmingly young people told us that they didn't want diabetes to be a barrier between them and their friends, and most said their friends were supportive.
His friends wanted to know about his diabetes when he was first diagnosed and he's always been...
People trying to understand what you're going through and understand exactly what you have to do. And like I've never really been one to shy away from the fact that I've got it and I want, I'm quite happy that people know about it and don't pussy foot around about the fact that I've got it because if there ever was something to happen and I haven't told people then it would be my mistake that you know and it would be my own fault if people are saying, 'Oh what's up with him, what's up with him is he alright, is he alright?' And I haven't told them, I just feel it's much better, especially close friends they're so supportive and so willing to help you in any way that they possibly can. You know, you know you say that you need some breakfast, you need a snack and they're willing to sort you out, you want a glass of coke they'll go and buy you one when you've got no money things like that. Just, I've just found my friends totally supportive and like amazing, amazingly, amazingly there for me all the time, just when I've needed them to be there. So I, I'd advise anyone to tell their friends. And anybody who is going to make an issue of it is not really the sort of friend that you want really.
He's never had any problems with his friends who have always supported him.
He has a friend whom he describes as a 'first aid freak' and she knows exactly what to do if he...
Yeah when I go out with my friends well yeah because you're, you're meeting new people and sometimes they, well, they won't know that you're diabetic and if you go out for a drink and you have one too many or something, not that it's ever happened to me of course. And you know, sometimes you're not in control. You know, you're in a car crash or something looking on the bright side of course then you know people have got to know got to know that you're diabetic.
Do your best friends know what to do in case you have a hypo?
Yes, yes some more than others. I mean I have this one friend that's kind of first aid kind of freak and she, she'd know exactly what to do. She'd push everyone out the way just to get a chance to do it. But yeah I think. You know it's, it's come up in conversations so they, they'd have known. If they didn't then just call 999 I guess that's the easiest way. But if I'm, if I'm shaking. If it, you know, if it's just normal symptoms I mean, not worse case scenario if I'm just going low then they might hand me a few sugar cubes or something.
Do you wear the'?
The diabetic pendant. Yes I do, not all the time. When I'm, when I'm going out with my friends and you know I'm, because most of the time, well almost all the time I have something with me. I've got glucose tablets on me at the moment, I always carry those around wherever I go. But yeah when you, when you're unsure whether you know. You, you're really tired and you want to go to sleep or something then you might go low during the night. And it's nice that the paramedics are going to, you know, they're going to know that you're diabetic when they find you're unconscious on the floor, yeah.
He says that everyone feels differently about how to tell their friends but from his experience...
Yes. When I got diabetes I told all the friends that I see and meet on a regular basis that I have diabetes. And actually a surprising number of people just know about diabetes from their own relatives or friends themselves which already have it. And it doesn't affect your relationships with people in any way. And everybody is totally, gets used to the fact that you have diabetes. It changes very very little. New people who you meet, like now that I've been diabetic for five years, people I met like recently eventually just pick it up. Because if you're going out to eat with a large number of people, you'll be injecting. And it will just become second nature to them. Because so many people know about diabetes now.
It depends from person to person, but some people want to talk about their diabetes with their friends more than others, and depending on the type of friends they are. Like I know, I've got a few very close friends and they know all about my diabetes from top to bottom. And they'll spot me if I'm having a hypo at school. Which is very very useful, because it's always nice to have the assurance that if something goes wrong there'll be somebody else who'll know exactly what to do. But you don't need all your friends to know that. And often many friends want to know how your diabetes is and how it works. And it's up to you to tell them if you want or not. Like don't feel embarrassed if somebody, if you don't want to show them or tell them things about diabetes. Just keep it very short and say, 'Oh, it just, I have to eat certain things and inject at certain times' and leave it at that. It shouldn't be an embarrassment to have diabetes.
Her friends don't understand much about diabetes and so didn't see the need for her to alter her...
So they'there is a need to promote public awareness?
Yeah, because I think people think I'm being a bit of a hypochondriac sometimes when I'm probably being the opposite [laughs].
She thinks that the bag that she used to carry her snacks and insulin kit got the attention of...
Yes, yep, definitely because, you get bullying everywhere, I'll admit that, everybody'll admit that, but you know? [Exhales] you just deal with it, if you had the kind of attitude well okay I'm here, this is what I have, please ask a question, please, you know, you know, ask em, 'Why, why, why', why're they stood there laughing at you, or making rude comments? Blatantly go and say, 'Well, you wanna ask a question please do, I have as much information as you want'. Or, 'Please go on this website'. Or, 'Please go to the doctors'. Or, 'Ask, there's plenty of leaflets'. And, and you know, all sorts that, you know, there's so much information about diabetes or any other illness, or disability, or whatever out there, and if these people instead of stood there making fun at you did that then the world would be a much nicer place.
Was it because you were injecting in public or?
Because you happened to have diabetes and they didn't know what it was all about?
Yeah, really I think the most [exhales] the most of the problems came from the fact that I had this little leather handbag and I was carrying it around with me, 'cause we didn't have pockets in our uniforms, you know? And we weren't allowed to carry our rucksacks or, our, you know, big bags around with us all the time. And everyone knows you're gonna have something with you all the time because no-one knows when and where a hypo will strike. [Dog barking] so yeah, yeah, I think, mainly, yeah the problems came from that, my little leather handbag [laughs].
You were different?
In which way?
Absolutely yeah, no-one likes anyone that's different, so.
Let's talk a little bit about your experience in secondary school? Did you talk to your Mum around that time?
Yeah. I think well if I didn't have her or my dad, I wouldn't have got through it, you know, so, well sometimes it was very, very difficult and sometimes I was just, you know, [sighs] where do I go from here? And, okay so I've sounded quite positive, but, it wasn't easy, you know? To say, yeah to say that I was constantly ill, oh yeah it's fine, you know, bully me I don't care, to say that would be a lie. because it wasn't easy, at all, it really was not because it's not, you know, at the very end of the day, bullying, it's not right, everyone knows that, even the bullies know that, bullying know, you know bullies know that you shouldn't make people feel like that.
She became a more confident person once she started doing her own injections which in turn helped...
How were you feeling at that time?
Quite depressed really, because I used to come home at the end of the day and think all my friends had it easy in a way, because, you know, they had - they could do what they wanted. I was quite angry - really angry. I sometimes get angry now because I still think why me, but like my friends, they could have their dinner any time they wanted. They didn't have a tight control. They didn't have to have, like, injections, so I was quite down really, and that's what probably prompted me to say to the doctor even more that I wanted help, so I weren't really happy with how things were going and I just thought - I didn't really see my future, I just thought it would be - I didn't really look ahead because I didn't think that I'd be capable of doing stuff for myself. I just weren't happy at all, but now I'm just completely the opposite.
So you were lacking confidence?
Yeah, very much so, yeah.
She started doing her own injections when she was 8 or 9 which made it possible to stay the night...
So that was because it was so strict, but you had room for being spontaneous and do things'?
Yes, but I mean a couple of times I found I had to get my parents to drive over at the last minute with my insulin so that I could carry on staying longer at an activity or something like that that I hadn't anticipated before hand. But after that I found quite often if I was say going out in the afternoon with friends even if I wasn't planning on staying till dinnertime, I'd quite often just bring my insulin testing kit and things with me anyway, just have it in case as back up, which was quite useful.
She questions the attitude of people who feel diabetics should inject themselves privately.
And I was quite shocked actually that everybody else was sort of like, well okay then. I wasn't just me, or just me and my friend [name], from secondary school, we were alls, yeah they were all on my side, and you do find there's a lot of ignorance, a lot of ignorance in, you know, in the, in the world. For example I went to a supermarket caf' and it was fairly early but I was very, very hungry and I thought 'okay well if I'm not going to have something now', I think it was about ten o'clockish and I hadn't, had a lot of breakfast and I'd started feeling, okay well I'm going to have to go get myself something to eat. So I went and sat down in this caf' and okay admittedly, yeah I had a fairly big meal for that time of day, and I thought 'well okay, if I have this now I won't have to have any lunch until, you know, one, two o'clock'. And this woman looked over at me and she went, 'Hungry are we?'. And I thought, 'Well what's it got to do with you love?' [laughs], you know, so I went, 'Well yeah'. And she kept blatantly staring at me the whole time, so I sat down, and I thought 'Okay well what's your problem?' [laughs], you know she was really staring at me. And so I thought, 'Okay I got me insulin pen out, straight into my arm and she sat there with her mouth open, and thought 'well', you know, I looked at her and went, you know, openly sort of said okay then you want to ask a question please do so, and she just, you know her head went down and she wasn't looking at me any more, she actually sat there like this [laughs]. So I think, 'Well why?' I really don't understand why people have to have a problem, or why they have to blatantly stare at you and she didn't any more, she completely avoided looking at me. And I think 'well it's petty, it really is'. And I think if everybody else could have that kind of attitude as in well okay, you want to ask a question, you want to look at me, please do. And like I say, it's not everybody, yeah, not everybody can.
He explains at what point he tells new girlfriends about his diabetes.
In general, I mean either with friends or girlfriends, how do they react, how much do they know about diabetes?
They probably don't know a great deal other than they kind of assume that you can't eat anything sugary which I sometimes cheat a bit on anyway. I think everyone does probably. So they're sometimes surprised when I do cheat, which I try and keep to a minimum. And they kind of know that you have to inject and that kind of thing, which they, like pretty much a lot of people do, they probably assume that it's incredibly painful every single time and that kind of thing. So they probably kind of realise fairly quickly that it's, that I don't think it's a tremendously big deal and they probably shouldn't either. So, yes, it's never, I don't think it's come up as a problem with anyone, but probably because I've tended to know people for a while before they realise I suppose. So they kind of, by that point they realise that I'm still, you know, the same person.
When it comes to injecting in front of your friends or girlfriends?
I, well, with girlfriends, by the time you get to know them well enough then it's not really a big deal. But I try and, with friends I kind of never know when people are going to be incredibly squeamish about that kind of thing. So if I do kind of inject in front of them I'll try and do it in a not very obvious way, or kind of slip off round the corner somewhere quickly and get that sorted out without them, without kind of waving sharp, pointy objects in front of them and that kind of thing. But, yes, I think they probably, I mean they know that that's what I'm doing and that kind of thing. So it's not really a particularly big issue. But I try and, try and be discreet about it, but not let it kind of stop me from doing it.
And in your experience would you say that with your girlfriends, I mean sort of the first step perhaps is for them to know you, rather than sort of to know that you have diabetes?
Yes, yes. yes, I mean obviously if you go out for dinner with them then it depends how, how well you manage to be discreet about whether they notice. But if you're noticed then I don't think of it as a particularly big deal. And, yes, it's never a kind of big topic of conversation or anything. So, yes, I normally get the chance to kind of know them fairly well before it comes up. And to be honest, even if it did come up kind of straight away, I don't think that, if they did make a big thing about it they're probably not right for a girlfriend anyway, are they?
She used to go to the school toilets for her injections but now feels more comfortable about it...
So you feel comfortable doing it now, in public places?
Yeah. I think it's just - as long as you make people around you aware, and as long as you tell them, and they're not scared of needles, then you should be okay.
He says that girlfriends tend to nag once they know he's diabetic and that he makes sure he's...
They don't really mind I don't think. I mean they're, they're' girlfriends can be sort of like your parents, they, if you, once they know about it they'll, they'll nag you because they care as well. But it, it's no harder to get a girlfriend with diabetes than it is without. I mean obviously your sex life is still the same. I mean obviously you have to be more careful but everything is basically the same.
Why do you say 'be more careful'?
Well for instance you, all that exercise I mean like when your upstairs in your bedroom you have to make sure that you know when you're having a hypo for when you're obviously having sex and stuff like that. Obviously you're more prone to diseases and stuff like that so you have to make sure you use protection and just general stuff like that really.
They told me that if I didn't control my count that when I get older I could become impotent. And obviously not have the sex life I've got now which is quite scary because you know, every bloke likes to have a bit of love, do you know what I mean. And it was, it was frightening and it made me think, oh, you know. I don't want that to be out of order, you know. I, I'd better start controlling it. Do you know what I mean. I don't think my girlfriend would have been too happy at the time either. So you got, you got to think about it, you know. You've got to be sensible.
Ok so that message got to you loud and clear?
Yeah that got to me loud and clear, you know [laugh]. Straight away.
She feels that if she talks about her diabetes it will make it seem a bigger thing in her life...
Eventually. I can't remember how it came about really I probably did tell them straight away because it's not the sort of thing 'Hi I'm [name], I've got diabetes,' [laughs] you know I probably did tell you know a couple of friends or whatever after a time and probably you know but I can't really remember to be honest how it came about that I told them. But I remember when in the first year that I was at my new school one of my friends was going out with somebody who had diabetes so she kind of talked to me a bit about it then. But other than that I just, it wasn't really, it's not something that I really tend to talk about with my friends you know I suppose they know, although I think they quite often forget [laughs] you know I know I've told friends before and then you know I kind of bring it up for whatever reason and they're like 'What?' And I'm like 'You know I have told you,' and they're like 'No you didn't.' I'm like 'Yeah I did.' 'Oh I forgot.' So it's kind of, it's a background thing really it's not like a big deal that you know I sort of talk about all the time or anything, they know but it's not very important kind of thing.
She doesn't hide her diabetes from anyone and talks about it so much she thinks she's become a ...
Last reviewed December 2017.
Last updated April 2010.