Tuesday, August 2, 2016

So Your Character is Diabetic ... Featuring Ely @ Teas and Titles

I thankfully do not have diabetes, but I have known a few people who have had it, including a relative. Though, I wasn't close with any of this people, so I didn't know much about the disease. The only movie I'd ever seen it portrayed in was Steel Magnolias, hence the picture above. Admittedly, I did actually believe in some of the stereotypes Ely has mentioned, so this post has been very enlightening and this So Your Character Is ... post will in turn be immeasurably helpful for anyone writing a diabetic character.

So Your Character Is ... is an on going series where I interview or talk about myself about different people groups, countries, etc. for writing more accurate characters. I plan to start doing a few of these on Tuesdays, and this is the first of the Tuesday So Your Character is ... Yay! In this edition Ely is going to be talking about how it is to live with Type One Diabetes. If you haven't remembered, I also had her for the So Your Character is From Australia ... post. As with everyone whom I've had on the blog to talk about tough subjects like this, I commend her for her honesty and I'm very happy to have her today on the blog. 

Let's welcome Ely!

(Images aren't mine)

Hi, I’m Ely. I blog over at Tea & Titles. I’m from Melbourne, Australia and my hobbies are reading and writing. I was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes almost seven years ago. 

How does your diabetes physically feel? How do you think it compares to those who don’t have this diabetes?

A vast majority of the time, my diabetes makes me feel awful. I’m constantly feeling ill in some way—headaches, shakiness, irritability, lightheadedness—these are all symptoms. On top of that, studies show that diabetics quite often develop anxiety and depression as a result. It’s a lot of stress on your body and mind, and it’s almost impossible to distance yourself from that. I live in constant fear of my diabetes. There is so much that can go wrong—comas, loss of eyesight, loss of limbs, organ failure. We are constantly bombarded with this by our doctors, which doesn’t help at all.

How do you feel about your diabetes?
I wish I could be positive about this, but honestly, I hate it. The main reason for that is because people have such damaging preconceptions about it. I’m constantly told that I’m ‘not fat’, or asked whether I ‘ate too much sugar’ or I’m told by people ‘you can’t eat that’. I don’t want to be rude, but I know what I’m doing better than you do.

What challenges does your diabetes pose?

My diabetes controls my life. I’ve missed on a lot because of it. While most diabetics are allowed to drink, it personally affects my health too much to do so. As a 20 year old, that seriously takes away from my social life. I also have to have a certain amount of meals a day at pretty specific times too, which means I have to always think about food whenever I’m out. The health issues and stigma attached are also a huge challenge.
Is there anything you like about your diabetes?

Honestly, no. There isn’t really any upside to diabetes at all. I wish I could sugarcoat it for you all, but it’s pretty dull.

Do you think your day differs from others because of your diabetes?

Oh yeah. Diabetes is a 24/7 illness. There is no break from it. I have to test my blood sugars four times a day, as well as inject myself the same amount of times. I have to watch what I eat, drink, do and feel every second of the day. Diabetes is my life.

Do you have any cultural differences between others who also have your diabetes and those who do not?

Freedom is a huge one. Like I just mentioned, there is no escape from diabetes. I envy people who can eat something without counting the amount of carbs in it, or trying to guess why on earth my blood sugars are so high.

What are some stereotypes about your diabetes that irk you?

The ‘fat’ one is a big one. Type One Diabetes has nothing to do with weight, or sugar consumption. Another one that is quite popular is the ‘I could never do that’ line. I understand–the idea of injecting yourself is scary, but please think before you say it. We don’t get a choice whether we do this or not—it’s inject, or die.  

What media portrays your diabetes badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?

Almost everything I’ve ever seen. A lot of people aren’t aware of the difference between Type One and Type Two Diabetes. Type Two is about healthy eating, and exercise mostly, and while Type One involves that too—the insulin injections make up a big part. The two types often get lumped together as ‘diabetes’.

What media portrays your diabetes well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?

I’ve never read or seen anything with a realistic representation of diabetes. It’s not often included in fiction the way that things like cancer and depression are. While those are both important topics and issues, millions of people have diabetes to—we’re just as important. 

Who are your top three favorite characters who also have diabetes in books, movies, or shows?

As above.

Thank you again, Ely, for your transparency! This is such a wealth of information! Thanks for reading! Don't miss So Your Character is From Thailand ... later this month!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail.com.

Do you have any diabetic characters? Did this inspire you to write a character with diabetes? Do you have diabetes and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Ely? Be sure to thank her!

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